by Melinda Gallo

Straddling life in two cities

I just returned from Paris last night where I worked for two weeks. I wonít be returning until January so that I can spend the holidays at home in Florence. This last trip was a time for me to reflect on this last year. Itís remarkable that how the year started and how it ended were so different and unexpected. Back in January, I wrote of learning to go with the flow. At the time, I was talking about the flow of Florence and how the city is always changing. Little did I know that only a few weeks later, I would be embarking on a change that now has me straddling my life between two cities.

At the beginning of the year, I was reveling in my beloved city. I had no desire to leave Florence, but I wasnít opposed to widening my horizons. When my old French company (where I had worked from 1990 to 1995) called me in mid-January to offer me a three-month contract, I accepted without hesitation. After a few months of working for them, they offered me a full-time job that allows me to work from home and in Paris.

That one opportunity changed my entire life and now I continue to live in Florence, but go to Paris for work on average two weeks a month. I have learned to pack light, settle into a new place (even my own home) quickly, and live in the moment. I try to enjoy wherever I am and not look back. I love being in both cities and try not to dwell on either one when Iím not there. My philosophy has now become: ďLove the one youíre with.Ē Or in my case, ďLove the city youíre in.Ē

I now rely on running as my main mode of grounding myself in both cities. Itís when Iím able to take in, appreciate, and enjoy my surroundings. I donít dwell on the differences, but instead try to embrace each city and its qualities. Leaving my home in Florence usually fills me with a twinge of sadness, but by the next morning when Iím walking in Paris, I realize that life is truly grand. The joy of a new day dissipates any homesickness I felt the night before.

I have realized that many facets of myself come out in Paris that donít have an outlet in Florence. I donít become another person, but I can feel the differences. In Paris, I am more anonymous, solitary, pensive, and easily seduced by food and luxury. In Florence, I am social, focused on my writing, and comfortable.

Paris is a city that is magical at night while Florence glows in the sunlight (especially at sunrise and sunset). Both cities have rich histories and filled with unsurmountable beauty; however, each one must be experienced differently. So, it isnít a surprise that life in each one would be different too. With fewer hours of sunlight in Paris in the winter, I only see Paris in the day on the weekends and during my lunch break.

Because I have to go to an office just outside of Paris and I stay in Paris, I commute every day to and from work. My days start early and at night Iím usually not motivated to go out much. I get up early so that I can write and run before going to work. My life is still more Florentine in that I try to get more done in the morning than the evening.

Iím eager to see what next year will bring me. The job in Paris was certainly a wonderful surprise and gift. For now, I am continuing my life as it is, living in Florence and working in Paris. My only one wish for next year is to create more time to write and work on my writing projects. Life is always a balancing act that continually needs to be refined in the moment. Iím happy for the curve balls that life has thrown my way because my life has only expanded because of them.

So from my post last year about going with the flow, I can honestly say that Iíve been trying my best to keep that fluidity alive. Iím happy about where I am right now in my life and eager for more.

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