I've been meaning to move to Paris for years, in pretty much the same way I've been meaning to visit my aunt more often, have piano lessons, read more books, use my gym subscription and eat more fruit (or any fruit, for that matter). By Christmas 2011 I'd yet to achieve a single one of these additional (and really rather modest) ideals. So it surprised me when, slumped in an armchair on Christmas Day focusing only on the challenge of finding a way to breathe around all the food I'd eaten, I realised that some time between arriving home on Christmas Eve and reaching digestive capacity, I'd decided to do the one thing on the list that was the most unlikely. I mean, rationally speaking, if a person can't make themselves walk through the doors of a gym they have to pass to get home, while carrying their gym bag, having already changed into their gym gear - what hope does that same person have of moving to France? But there you have it - it wasn't a case of wondering about it, worrying about it; the decision had somehow already been made. I was moving to Paris. The matter was not, apparently, up for discussion.
Two weeks later I'd digested the final roast potato and could breathe normally enough to inform my flatmate, Kate, of the plan. And yes, perhaps the word 'plan' is a bit optimistic. But consider this. Kate's leaving her job to move onto a canal boat with her boyfriend with whom she will traverse the country at a rate of 4mph singing reggae versions of "Delilah" for her supper in canal-side pubs. You see? Suddenly moving to Paris sans French seems positively mundane doesn't it? Am I not rendered wholly and unquestionably sane by that comparison? So you could say (and I will say, should it all go horribly wrong) that this whole hair-brained scheme is entirely Kate's fault. Had she not been so determinedly Why Not about her life and where it was headed, had she just stood still and settled into some kind of mediocrity, had she not spent two and a half years educating me thoroughly in the subtle art of belief, this never would've happened. I would've been off the hook.
For that I am already more grateful than I could ever say.
So. The conversation went something like this, amidst the packing boxes and the chaos that called time on our technicolour life in Manchester:
"I'm going to move to Paris, afterall."
A squeal, first, and then "Mate! Finally! When?"
"Spring?" Full of conviction, as ever.
"Amazing! Where are you going to live until then?"
"Where are you going to live when you get there?"
"Right. So the plan needs a bit of work yet."
The relief I felt at having made the decision, or at least finding that by some miracle the decision had been made, after months of dissatisfaction and indecision in a job I didn't enjoy and a city I was growing somehow so tired of, was like releasing a breath I hadn't known I was holding. Much as you wonder about doing the drastic thing - quitting work, moving away, travelling, whatever it may be - it is only when the decision becomes unquestionable, indissolvable, indisputable, that you realise there's no other possible course to take. There are no options left. You do it because suddenly it isn't doing something that seems impossible, it's doing nothing. I had been meaning to move to Paris for years. But this year? This year, on 12 April, I am moving to Paris.