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The Devil Wears Last Season.

 Illustration by Jennifer DeDonato

With all the information that has been thrown my way this month, absorbing all of it has been overwhelming, to say the very least. Last week, I received not one but three interesting, and eerily identical e-mails that I have let marinate for the past few days. These e-mails were from former New York colleagues and work contacts at top fashion houses dropping a note to say hello, as well as to inform me that they will resign from their positions to pursue a simpler life. 

This I was not expecting.

I was surprised to hear that not one, but three of them have made the decision to say goodbye to 70 hour work weeks, messy apartments with clothes everywhere (because we were never home!), and are on a quest to live life! Bravo! I never would have expected this from these three. These were painfully skinny, ambitious girls who lived and breathed their jobs, thrived off of their promotions and praise from our bosses, and had grown accustomed to their generous work perks like clothing allowance (Side note: I never had a clothing allowance, I worked in a sub-division of IT. No one cares about IT.). I thought they would be lifers in this corporate game, but I guess I thought wrong.

My first two years in Paris, I quietly broke off communication with former work contacts because I had nothing career-oriented to share. While I was doing things for myself, I wasn't doing anything that would be deemed impressive "on paper". In New York, I wasn't making nearly as much as them, as my position was much lower than theirs, but I had security. Security that I gave that up to live extremely modestly off of savings, and supporting myself with odd jobs that I was actually lucky to get in Paris. As risky as it seemed to others, I loved every minute of this journey. And while I believed in my move, I also knew that the New York corporate world would have trouble swallowing why in essence, I gave up my life to struggle in another country - France no less. 

One colleague, incidentally a native-Parisienne who thought I was insane to come here without a solid plan, has started consulting from home while she gets her yoga certification. I actually remember her musing about doing this during our many trips together out to the warehouse in Jersey. She has since downsized by giving up her one bedroom in the West Village for a large studio in Greenpoint. The other will be moving to San Francisco to be closer to her family, will manage the books at her friend's family vineyard (amazing!), and will be taking sculpture classes. As for the third, she is moving upstate to start a family with her boyfriend of ten years.

Perhaps pursuing yoga and sculpture, and stopping work to start a family seems like privileged choices that not everyone can afford to make. I get it. High rent, student loans, and bills exist, and are in fact a very real part of my life. But if you can follow your dreams by starting small and creating a five year plan to realize them, coming from someone who has done it alone, I say it's worth the risk. Before I moved to France, I was pinching every penny I had to cushion my savings, and living way below my means to make this happen. And no, I don't regret missing out on after work drinks at 60 Thompson, or brown-bagging my lunch everyday in order to save up for a life in Paris.

Saying all of this, I can't help but wonder: Did I have it right these past three years? Is living a frugal yet fuller life the way to go? Or is it that us fashion girls who came from The Devil Wears Prada generation searching for more in life than next season's it bag? Or is personal growth and exploration the new black?

Who knows. Thoughts?

Whichever it is, I have to say that it feels good to know that I'm not the only one from my previous life who has taken a leap of faith, in the pursuit of love and perhaps greater achievements.

My response to these ladies who are downgrading their salaries in order to pursue their passions on a tight budget:

Be prepared to learn how to cook, understand that wearing last season is so okay, and accept that gaining weight happens when you're not burning calories stressing about ready-to-wear and pre-collection. All of these sacrifices are in exchange of more sex (especially for the one starting the family!) and time than you had when working grueling hours in a cubicle. Welcome to living life! One last thing, do you like want to follow each other on Pinterest? Since we have the time and all..

I'm sure they were horrified...


What are your thoughts?
Have you ever made a huge life risk?
Have you ever regretted your decision to follow a dream?
Have you often wondered about your life that could have been had you stayed on the "straight and narrow"?


I'd also like to take this moment to share how happy I am to read the statuses on Facebook and Twitter trickling in from friends and family on the East Coast, and to hear that they are safe after the gruesome Hurricane Sandy.

I also want to thank some of you who have e-mailed me in regard to my mother. You'll be pleased to know that she is safe and sound in London, presumably torturing the English as well as the staff at the Kensington Waitrose.

I hope you and your families are inside, safe and toasty!

36 comments:

  1. Ella, I am really happy to hear that your Mom and other friends and family is safe and sound.

    Oh my, this post...you know enough of my story, I think, to know how it would bring up a lot! My whole everyhting was my career in NYC, when I left it behind to come live in France with my honey, I had no back up plan and was utterly shocked to my bones by the shift in my life--because I had finally chosen to have one. It isn't necessarily as easy at it sounds, is it? I don't regret my commitment to my old career nor my move here but it is funny...I often dream about my old life at night...eleven years later. It takes courage to try, of that much I am sure!

    I can't remember if I wrote how happy I was that you had such a fun night out with Seb, just what the doctor ordered.

    Bisous from Arles,
    Former Goth Chick That Now Resembles a Soccer Mom

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    1. "Former Goth Chick That Now Resembles a Soccer Mom" AHAHAHAHA!!! I actually have a photo that you will SO get a kick out of. I'm 100% positive you'll crack up. Once it's scanned, I'll send it to you.

      Yes, dropping that corporate life to a quieter life is a hard shift to make at first. But I think the whole point is no regrets. Like you said, not regretting your commitment to your job and no regrets for leaving it.

      Each phase is a journey that we collect like seashells and I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason. Cliche but so true.

      You still dream about your old job!? Wow! It must have been INTENSE! I don't think I know the specifics..I'm going to lurk around on your blog to get some clues. : )

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  2. Glad to know your mom is Ok! When I saw the number of flights cancelled yesterday, I figured she had stayed on the ground. I was also wondering about her house... And your grandparents' house... I figured if something happened to it, they'd blame hurricane Ella!!:)

    I did opt for a simpler lifestyle to pursue my dreams... And I'm about to embark on a new career path where even more drastic changes are in the works... I have a feeling that ten years from now, my life will have nothing to do with my life now...

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    1. I would SO get blamed for the hurricane! Are you kidding? I'm sure they're already cooking up a reason why it was my fault! LOL! N'importe quoi.

      My mom is okay. She just got back from London yesterday. Her house is fine, my cat was sleeping as if nothing had happened, she has no power and of course her yard is a mess with many fallen trees. But no damage was done and I couldn't be happier or feel luckier. I know a lot of people are suffering right now and it just breaks my heart.

      That is such an interesting observation you made that your life in ten years will have nothing to do with your life now. I wasn't under the impression that you were going in a completely different direction than what you were doing in the Netherlands. I guess we'll have to save that for our date in Paris - that and your disappointment that I'm changing my last name!! : P

      Oh and THANK YOU for the comment you left on the Expat Blog Awards. I teared up...

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  3. I pretty much did the same thing as you. I was miserable with my life, with my job in retail. I had this strong urge to go back to France (I went in 2005). Four years later and after two failed attempts to get a job as a teaching asst, I decided i had enough money saved up so i quit my job and just took off. That was in Fall 2009. Even though I would have loved to stay there, at the end of my six months, I knew my life was going to continue back in the u.s. so I came home as planned. Though the last few years have been difficult (being unemployed and trying to figure out what comes next), I am happier now than when I was working full-time. I've learned to live on a tiny budget, as well and realized I don't need a lot to be happy. I would not trade that trip for anything. I don't think you can regret following a dream. You regret it when you don't. And I didn't want to be in that group.

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    1. We came to Paris around the same time! Fall 2009! What a magical autumn that was, and now I know that there is someone else who was sharing my same delight at the same moment. I find comfort in that. : )

      What's funny is that you live in Los Angeles, a city where many dreamers go as well. : )

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  4. Thank-you for sharing these storied Ella and explaining yours once again.

    My huge life change was moving to Grenoble, as you know, from big NYC to small G-town. I left my network in NYC that I gained from 5 amazing years in art school, my friends, my job... and as a fine artist with a BFA it's hard enough. A lot of institutions here are open only to Rhone-Alpes art-school graduates, so with being out of network here, not able to communicate that well, jobless and art supplies being 4x more expensive, it has had its set of challenges.

    But, I haven't regretted my decision at all. I've accomplished a big part of my personal goal which was to see the world and work on my personal growth -- I've visited dozens of new cities around Europe and Africa within a year. I've even gotten into some art shows. There's still a while until I'll be fully integrated ..

    Everytime I think about having stayed in NYC I think of how much regret my heart would be filled with having not explored the world, and how less open and knowledgable I'd be, how the love and connection I've gained from the people and places I've met and experienced up to this point-- and I think, "thank goodness I'm here!".

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    1. Hi D! Thanks for your comment and sharing with us your story and what you had to give up for a life in France!

      Trying to break into the art scene in France, no less and small town, is quite a brave assignment you have taken on! Would things have been easier in NY with all of your contacts? Absolutely! But are you so much richer for this experience? Yes! And hey, not everyone can say that their work has been in two art shows in Europe. I see many, many more...soon in Paris! ; )

      I can't wait to see what you cook up next!

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  5. Hello!!!

    First of all, before I stupidly forget, I'm very happy your mum and family are well. I have seen picture of New York after the hurricane, they are sad.

    Then...I am one of those people who did some changements, and until now I have no regret whatsoever.

    I am Italian and almost 6 years ago I left Italy to start again somewhere else. The Italian situation was really bad (but still better compared to the current one!), no jobs, no security, then I decided it was time to move. My heart was telling me 'go to Paris, go to Paris!' which is a town I always loved, but I followed my head and moved to UK. I needed to learn English and I heard that there was not so difficult to find a job, as long as I was a hardworker.

    So...I have lived there for more than 5 years, I learnt English and this was a big achievement for me, considering I never studied it before! Since I moved there I always had a job and I did not regret leaving beautiful Tuscany for rainy London. I missed my family very much, and my friends as well. There have been very difficult moments, but luckily I was surrounded by people who loved me and made things a bit less difficult.

    From time to time I kept thinking about Paris, how I felt every time I went there, how in some way I felt I could belong to that place. It was not a regret, but a wish, firm and powerful.

    In September I decided was time to listen to my heart. I had listen to the head once, but it was time for something different. I thought that if I did not get the chance now, what was a wish could become a regret. So...I moved to Paris, a little bit more than a month ago.
    I came here alone, whilst half of my loved ones are in Italy, half still in UK. I needed to try, by myself, on my own, to understand if what I feel for this town is real love, if I could truly live here, if I could have the possibility to find a job and be happy.

    My French, which at first was actually a Franglish, is improving. Surely it is still quite awful, but well, let's not be negative!!!
    Sometimes it is hard; I see things I like and others that leave me quite shocked (my Italianity helps, but after leaving 5 years in the UK some things could be stunning, in a bad way I mean), but every day it is a surprise. I am really alone here and there are times when nostalgia hits, but I knew, I was prepared, and the happiness I feel just walking around the streets of Paris makes me think that it worths trying.

    Several people told me I am brave, which I suspect it is just a nice way, an English understatement, to say fool!!!

    But I wanted to try, and I am happy to be here. Maybe in a few months I will change my mind, maybe I will go back to UK, maybe I will understand to be in love with Paris, but unable to live here for some reason…or maybe not, and I will be living here happily ever after. Either way, I will be proud of having tried and followed my little capricious heart, because I wake up every day with a big smile on my face, and nothing is better than this.

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    1. Hi Francesca!

      I'm sure you know this but your English is incredible! You must have worked really hard to master it to such perfection! Yes, living in the UK helps, but you must have worked very hard to get it to this level. Bravo!

      With your knack of picking up languages, you'll be speaking fluent French in no time tops!

      Congratulations for following your heart to this fantastic city! Paris really is magical...maybe there's something in the water that turns us into such dreamers!

      Thank you for your comment, and also your well wishes in regard to my mom. She's in NY now and she's safe. : )

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  6. Oh my word. This post speaks to me.. First, glad that your family is good. It was ugly out here yesterday. Over 50 homes in Queens have burned down and the flooding in Downtown is something you had to see to believe! Schools are closed for the remainder of the week as they pump out water from the subways. Unbelievable!

    Back to the post. I'm venturing off of the well beaten path and people have been sure to vocalize their opinions about it. I actually turned down a promotion at my current job just as I was struggling to decide whether or not to attend school to pursue my Bachelor's in Fine Arts. Just as I made the decision to do so, I was offered the position, mind you, I've been applying for this position for about a year. The timing was off and I offended a lot of people by not taking it. Needless to say, I kinda go against the grain. But my decision to move to Paris next year is the biggest and scariest decision I've made yet. But it's something that I now HAVE to do. I won't rest until I can say that I tried it. Will the move be a successful one? Who knows! Will I end up hating Paris and come back running into the arm of NYC? Maybe. These are all questions I would never know the answer to unless I actually give this a shot. I'm ready for that. I would never be able to live my life if I don't do it. But God is the prospect scary!

    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-gHUtHlKUgec/UIyN10vBQgI/AAAAAAAAVzU/eCnl9llrT4U/s1600/msshitless.jpg

    That image was on PostSecret this past Sunday. How convenient!



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  7. good one, I kept hearing Carrie Bradshaw (for better or worse) in my head as I read it.

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    1. I agree! Good one and very CB! : )

      The Carrie Bradshaw of Paris! Well done!

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    2. Thank you both! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

      Actually, today I'm very CB (Season One)...my hair is total frizz!

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  8. As a 53 yr old woman who's never done anything daring, I tell you all younger ladies to go for it and follow your heart and dreams.

    I haven't had a very typical life, I've always been very attached to my family and all my plans were always made in order to be near them. They moved from country to country and I followed leaving behind school, friends, jobs etc
    In a way I don't regret it because I lost both my parents too soon in just a matter of months and I'm thankful that I was able to be so close to them while I had them, but I also realize that this kept me from doing anything outside my comfort level and away from that security and protected life I had being with them.

    I now find myself in my 50's wanting to do so many things, and I don't know where to start.

    Although my mom was born in Niece and raised in Paris, and I was born in Barcelona, I didn't get to Paris until 7 years ago.
    I don't know what is it with that city that so many of us feel that we belong there. To me, it's become a need to go and live in Paris for a while, but every time I decide to do it, something seems to happen to make me think twice. To be honest, I think I'm scared.

    So those of you who have the opportunity to do it, again I tell you, go for it!
    Time goes by way too fast and the only regrets we should have at the end should be for not following our dreams while we can.

    And now I feel like an old fart giving advice to the young. Hahaha

    But I swear that one day I'll be in Paris, even if at fifty something, I also have to stay in a Chambre de Bonne like a twenty something girl. I don't care.






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    1. Hi Sylvia,

      I'm not sure exactly where you're currently located (my apologies if you have mentioned it in a previous comment) or what your ties are that would stop you from coming here. But I'll tell you one thing, you have an advantage over a lot of us expats here with your French citizenship, thanks to your mother!

      There's something to be said about living in a chambre de bonne, all for the love of experiencing Paris. I know a girl who did it at 30 and things turned around quite nicely for her. I hear she's still in Paris. ; )

      Time really does go by fast, doesn't it? It's scary.

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    2. I've been living in Miami since 1995.
      My ties are a few, starting with money and some health conditions. I had 50 years of immaculate health and as I turned the big 5-0 my body started to act funny. I'm now paying for all the excesses of my youth I guess :-)
      My move would be temporary because I couldn't stand being away from my loved ones for too long, especially two little angels that are now in my life, my niece and nephew from a younger sister.
      I need to put some crap in order and then I'll take the jump.
      I do have a European Union passport because I was born in Spain, but I've never claimed French citizenship and don't think I would really need it to stay a couple months.
      I agree about the chambre, I think it would be so romantic, and yes, you have done wonderfully after all the challenges you were dealt with.
      You deserve every bit of it girl!

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  9. My husband and I did the same. We saved up, sold the house and cars, and packed all our belongings in 5 suitcases. Now on our 2nd country, we have not regretted leaving the rat race one minute. Even if we should move back to the states, we already know we do not want to live up to the Jones' anymore. Simplify your life and your dreams become bigger!

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    1. Good for you!

      Keeping up with the Jones'! Oh did you say it! I have newlywed friends in the States, breaking their back to buy a house right after their 100k wedding because "that's what you do". This to me is insane if you can't afford it.

      Thanks for sharing your story! I love the "Simplify your life and your dreams become bigger!" So true. So true.

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  10. Happy to hear your mom is doing well, Ella. NYC was brought to its knees with this storm.

    Anyway, I completely agree with you that sometimes you just have to put caution to the wind and just do it. Although it's not as intense as moving to a different country, I followed my heart and am much happier now.

    I went to grad school while working so once i was all done, i was considered pretty lucky as i had a stable job (in my field), great apt, etc but wasnt happy and i knew it wasn't enough so a few months after graduation I quit (while we were still in the height of the recession) and moved back home to NYC. I did temp work for a few months until I found the job of my dreams and I couldn't be happier. I know it was a different for me because I moved back home so i had a sort of safety net but at the time i felt like a jerk for leaving something so certain for the unknown in NYC.

    Now next step is Paris and while I'm scared, nervous and have my "wtf omg am i really doing this moments" I am excited for this journey and looking forward to what it has to offer.

    I just keep reminding myself of that awesome quote, "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream."

    It says everything.

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    1. I love that quote!! It's so true!!! Who ever regrets learning another language, traveling and experiencing life through risks?

      I actually had the same situation as you. I got a steady job at a top fashion house and was MISERABLE. I left after three months to temp (for way less money) at a fashion house downtown that was more "me" and ending up getting hired and stayed for 5 years. It's because of this job that I learned French, was introduced to the hip down French scene and had a great run. There really is something to be said about temping that helps you get to that next phase. I'm wondering what agency you were working with.... ; )

      Thanks for sharing your story! I'm glad to know that your journey is continuing, and that there is life after NYC corporate for other gals too!

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  11. Glad to hear your mum is safe....and all the other blogfans who post here.

    Great food for though and to read the quote again by Sue, really made me think.

    You are so lucky to come to the realisation so young that ambition, money, fashion and acquiring "things is not necessarily the key to happiness. The trick is finding what is REALLY important to you and sticking with it.

    Yes I have made huge life risks, not necessarily by moving away, as I never had the urge to do this until recently. I ended a marriage that was making me unhappy, causing hurt to the ones I loved in the process. I turned down promotion in my job, realising that extra hours and responsibility would interfere with my living my life. I took early retirement and a reduced pension in order to enjoy my life whilst I could. There were other risks too, too numerous to mention, some of them were bad decisions, but I don't regret any of them because I would always have wondered... and the bad decisions made me wiser.

    Dreams do not stay the same. They change as you go through life. I achieved my dreams by the time I was 30, but then sadly discovered they did not continue to bring the contentment I thought. So I got a new dream and pursued that too. Some dreams brought the promised happiness some did not.

    Late in life I discovered travel, I would love to travel to all parts of the world. just take off with a backpack, I would also love to move to Paris and have the means to do it..... but now I have responsibility for a dearly loved husband who may not live long and children and grandchildren who are now the most precious thing in my life. I really do not want to leave them behind. So I have made a concious decision to stay where I am, ( for now) to compromise and just travel as much as I can. Maybe that is as much risk as moving away and maybe I will regret that decision later.

    I would encourage everybody to consider what really makes them happy, and is it worth the sacrifices you have to make to keep it and remember indeed that happiness is not a permanent state, it fluctuates throughout your life. and we learn from the bad times as well as the good.

    Love Denise

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    1. Wow, Denise. Thank you so much for this well thought out comment and sharing your experiences regarding the subject with us all.

      I love the part where you say that your dreams change with time. It's so true. I thought I was flaky because my dreams had changed so drastically over the past ten years, but I realize now in my 30s, they're all coming together in a way. And that there was a reason for each phase of my adult life that I've learned from, as well as acquired skills from.

      I've learned two things on this journey: Follow your bliss (which is actually a quote I stole from Bjork) and never underestimate the power of being a good person. It really does go a long way...

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  12. Congratulations! I just found out you're up for an Expat Blogger Award!

    http://www.expatsblog.com/blogs/780/tales-from-the-chambre-de-bonne

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    1. Yes! Thank you for your comment! I'm glad that you appreciate that I interact with all of you! It's my way of thanking you for taking them time to leave a comment. : )

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  13. Ella, your blog often makes me think. Your comment, "never underestimate the power of being a good person" is so wise. I will try to remember that......and grit my teeth when I feel impatient or a sarcastic remark coming on..

    Love Denise

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    1. Thank you. It's so true and it's something that I try to live by. :)

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  14. Well, most of my friends all have their secure jobs and a 401k and their house with a white picket fence and a dog and what have you. I have... none of those things (unless you count the dogs at my mom's that I call mine even though they're really not). Having a Bachelor's in Business, I could easily have a lot of those things, but I made the decision to come to France and flounce around for more than a few years. There are some days I ask myself "What if...?" But you know what, I'm happy with my life. I don't regret my decisions. I think that's the most important thing. And now, with being with J, I don't want to think about what it would be like never having met him.

    I'm glad to hear your mother is safe! And the rest of your family?

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    1. Everyone in my family is fine, and luckily no damage done to anyone's homes. They're without electricity, but they're fine. I consider myself lucky. Extremely...

      That's so funny that you still call the dogs who are at your mom's "your" dogs! I do the same with my cat! She is clearly my mom's cat but I insist that she's mine!

      Wow, you have Bachelor's in Business! That, I didn't know about you! You could have totally done a million things with it - like worked in NY! I love that you've chosen a different (and I'd say more interesting) life where you met someone and are living your dream. That's worth a fancy shmancy salary in my book. : )

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  15. Oh yes, that weight gain sure does pack on when we're not burning the candles at both end anymore. In my old life, I never had time to eat (except on weekends) and now, and especially since I live in France I'm sure, eating is all I seem to do. I need to strap myself to a treadmill.
    And you know what... we've made the decisions that were right for us :) x

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    1. Like me, I'm sure your life revolves around eating! Last night before we went to sleep, I was talking about what we were going to have for dinner. Seb thinks I'm obsessed...and I may just be!

      Stress really does burn calories but it was doing on number on my skin. I was broken out through most of my corporate career. Not pretty.

      We totes made the right decision...even if I'm no longer a size 0. ; )

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    2. My skin was SO bad in my old life! I would go for facials about every six weeks and my esthetician was always telling me that my skin was a result of stress. It was awful! Happy to report that while I may be plentiful in the booty department, my skin is spot free :)

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  16. I agree - a more frugal yet fuller life is the way to go. Seems like when you're in a place you love, the little things in life are so much more beautiful and that makes up for having to wear last season (haha). I'd pick toughing it out in Paris over busting my ass for 70 hours a week in the States any day! Corporate success is overrated, I think. Plus, for those hard days, the wine's cheaper in France, right?

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    1. The horror of having to wear "off the rack" AND last season!!! How do us broke girls do it? How do we sleep at night? LOL!

      I agree, corporate success is overrated. The CEO of one of my old jobs was coldly fired after 10 years! He was set up by the VP who wanted his old job and it worked! It was a scandal...but I was here in Paris and only heard about it through the grapevine. That's what corporate gets you - getting stabbed in the back and a decade of work. Awesome.

      I'll take teaching kids English and cheap French wine any day!

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  17. Dear Ella, this post and ensuing comments have made me tear up. I left a job/ accepted redundancy in "la-di-da" magazine publishing and moved from Sydney to Paris fall 2009 (too!!, well, we call it autumn) to pursue a simpler and more charmed life. And while I've loved this enriching yet rigorously-frugal three-year-long learning curve I've watched the friends at home become more successful, have babies, buy houses, and have just lately have started to think that I made a huge mistake.
    Your post and the comments of all your lovely readers have put me back on track of thinking otherwise, that we are truly very lucky to call one of the greatest cities on Earth my home and that it is a fortune not offered to many - despite the mould-ridden apartment and latest "NouNou" CV entry. So thank you so very, very much.
    (Also, I've just come across your blog and loving your posts.) Lou xx

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  18. I stumbled across your blog not long ago and have really enjoyed reading your posts! This one in particular resonates with me. I will finish grad school in June, and it's the first time in my life I don't have a plan. Of course, I could easily go and get a job and find a place to live and put down roots, but I have too many whims to follow to settle into that pattern right away. =) Among the possibilities I've entertained, I've been thinking about moving to Paris, for no reason in particular. We'll see what happens...but it was affirming to read this post and the comments. Thank you!

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