Me, My Heart, and I

by Melinda Gallo

Me, My Heart, and I :: Paris: from sorrow to hope

When I went to my company's office just outside Paris on Monday, everybody brought up Friday’s tragic events. One colleague recounted anecdotes of friends who were at the Bataclan and miraculously escaped while another colleague told us that he often ate at one of the restaurants that was targeted. I suddenly felt as if the world was incredibly small. Almost too small for my comfort. I don’t personally know anyone who was affected, but in the end we were all affected no matter where we were. The attacks hurt us all. Some people were physically hurt, but the rest of us were emotionally and psychologically hurt.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Paris: City of Light, City of Peace

Along with millions all over the world, I looked at the photos from Friday night’s horrific attacks in Paris and was stunned. In my mind, it was inconceivable to have such a thing happen in a city that I not only live in, but also know and love. Because I had been away from Paris for two months, I made plans with my beau to enjoy a day in Paris. I never imagined that it might not happen. When I was on the plane just a few days ago, I had visions of me traipsing all over town and going to all my favorite spots. Unfortunately, Friday night’s events in Paris shook us to our core and our plans to visit Paris didn’t sound reasonable.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: An expat is both a foreigner and a local

I’ve been an expat for over 20 years. The word “expat” is not a word I use to describe myself; it’s a word I use to succinctly explain my life in Florence and Paris. Being an expat for some people means living overseas and returning “home” every year. For me, being an expat means being a foreigner and a local all at once in a place that is your “home.” Living overseas is a big part of my life and is at the heart of who I am. It explains so much about me: not just how I live my life, but also how I interact with others and how I see the world around me.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Achieving balance in Florence

When I began this blog, I initially imagined that I would write about what I love in my two cities and share the magic of each one. I had been happily going back and forth between Florence and Paris for a year and a half before I claimed Paris as my second home almost three years ago. The decision to make Paris my home was precipitated by my divorce and my decision to move in with my beau. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that my life was out of balance and I needed to do something to get it back into balance.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Diving back into my local life

When I arrived in Florence, I dropped my bag off in my apartment and rushed outside to embrace my beloved city. I walked briskly along the Arno with no destination in mind. I headed toward the Ponte Vecchio and let my inspiration guide me to where to go next. People were strolling along the narrow lungarno in both directions. It was impossible to stay on the sidewalk so I stepped onto the street when I heard that there weren’t any cars coming.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Savoring the moment

One thing I love about living in both Florence and Paris is that I have the luxury of time. Whether I plan an excursion around town or if I happen to be out to meet a friend or to run an errand, I get to take a moment or two to enjoy my cities. I often take a detour just so I can admire one of my favorite churches, admire the view of the Arno from different angles, or stroll along backstreets. I do my best to breathe in my cities and enjoy them whenever I get a chance.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Simultaneously fitting in and sticking out

My upbringing has probably made my being an expat a little less challenging than for others. My parents were of two different (and opposing) races: my mother was Chinese and my father was Italian. As a result, I have never felt as if I really fit in anywhere and have always felt like the odd-one-out. I was brought up in my Chinese family so I was used to being “different” and never felt as if I fully belonged even though I did.

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Me, My Heart, and I :: Indulging in Paris before taking off for Florence

I am a city girl. I have known that ever since I lived in Lyon, France for my junior year abroad. When I returned to California, I dreamt of going to live in another city and was fortunate enough to land in Paris. I am extremely fortunate to call two cities my home. In Florence, I live in the heart of the city, but in France my beau and I live just outside of Paris. It’s incredibly close and it only takes me 20 minutes on the métro to get to the center of town. But for me there is something about going to sleep in the city and waking up to it that I truly miss.

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As I settle into 2015, I have finally made room for some changes to occur in my life. After being an expat for so many years, I have realized that I can’t force change to happen, but I can make room for it to occur. I can’t keep pushing against the current; I have to just let go and allow the current to take me. For my first experience as an expat, I had to separate from my family and friends, my daily routine, my lifestyle, and my way of being in the world. It was challenging at first because I didn’t know who I was without all that had defined me up to that point. Eventually, after letting go of just about everything and feeling as if I were lost, things suddenly got easier.

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