I’ve spent the last few months on a crusade to French-ify myself. This I accomplished—if indeed I did accomplish it, which is a questionable claim at best—mostly by way of revamping my wardrobe in attempt to crack the impregnable secret to the effortlessness of French style, watching French YouTubers, and reading the occasional Le Monde article. Perhaps my most extreme French-mania-induced action was my choice to spend a month working at a hostel in Montréal this summer. Although I have no regrets about the experience, it did little to improve my speaking skills; I made it my goal to keep my American status a secret as often as possible and thus ended up doing a lot of smiling and vigorous nodding when addressed in French and very little speaking (an innately flawed strategy which I realize will have to actively work to correct in Lyon). Hey, at least I learned a good deal of Quebecois slang which is bound to come in useful in France when I want to flaunt the fact that not only I am I an American but one who’s picked up expressions from the barbarians across the Atlantic (to clarify: this is entirely in jest—I love my Canadian friends!).
In the weeks since my return from Canada, my “progress” has come to a screeching halt and I’ve backtracked head over heels towards my American roots. This was not, at first, a conscious decision, although once I realized what I was doing I decided to give up the fight and actively embrace the direction of my present tendencies. Method one: In some ways (for instance, by eating food in large quantities at random times of the day), I’ve reverted to my high school self, albeit a version who spends much more time with her family. Method two: despite considering myself a city girl at heart, I’ve taken some time to engage in some very Appalachian activities, mostly centered around my dad’s small farm in the hills. In addition, my sister and I spent a week looking after my grandmother’s house and even smaller farm a short jaunt down the dead-end road from my dad’s house where we took daily hikes with her overactive pup, Tyler.
The “crowning achievement” of my weeks of intentioned American living was the night I invited friends over to to share a meal comprised of, if not necessarily the most overtly American foods I could think of, at least the least French (based on circumstantial evidence/assumptions) including: Taco Bell, Wendy’s, KFC, Sonic (specifically, a Reese’s sonic blast because, again circumstantially, I’ve gathered that peanut butter is not really a thing in France), and assorted heavily processed snacks purchased at Wal-Mart. My health conscious guests were less than enthused about the offerings and thus I ended up taking on the lion’s share of the work of eating this massive(-ly heart attack-inducing) spread.
If there is a moral to these this post, it might be something along the lines of “culture cannot always, or at least should not always, be forced.” As thrilling as it might be to justify one’s choice to eat an entire 8 pack of Rice Krispies in a single evening, I think I’ve accepted that there is no good or right way to say goodbye and that stuffing myself with an excess of American calories won’t help me retain my American-ness. It’s nearly time to start my adventure in Lyon. That means it’s also time to stop obsessing, stop guessing, and live the study abroad life for real.