As I walked down the street a couple of months ago, I was struck
by how easily I could forget about a past situation and even a past life.
As if I fell in place with my new routine, my new life and thus completely erased the past from my memory. I am not saying I am not traumatised by it all – because I am. I truly am. I’m just saying that in order to cope and heal, I forgot about it altogether.
Almost five years ago I moved on my own in Paris after just breaking up with my boyfriend of eight years. That was painful but it was necessary for me to grow as a person. I easily found this little place in the north of Paris and I was ready to conquer the world (or part of it) on my own and do it all. I was 25 years old, happy, and thriving.
For the first time in my life, I was alone. I truly enjoyed it, it changed me and I got to love myself for who I was. I was no longer a pale copy of my boyfriend’s personality. I got to love what I wanted to love, to do what I wanted to do, to eat what I wanted to eat, to travel alone to Copenhagen – something I wanted to do for a very long time. I was happier, lost 22 lbs, lived my best life. I took myself on the dates I had deserved all these years ago but never got.
The first year as you can recall was a time of self-discovery and adventures. It was quite exciting as I said to experience new things, dare myself to try new things and fall in love with life all over again.
But things have gotten worse.
I was living in a non-safe environment in the north of Paris. I was grabbed, insulted and even assaulted more times than I can recall. At some point, I forgot what it was to go home without being frightened. I didn’t invite friends over to my place, I was scared for their safety as I was for mine. I was scared of even going out just to buy bread for lunch. I dreaded going home after work. One afternoon, I witnessed someone getting stabbed. I never felt more insecure in my life. And that is saying something, since I already had survived being attacked by an armed man.
I was living in constant fear. I lived in a pretty crowded street where the men ruled. A few articles about that street/neighbourhood have been published in French newspapers. There were dozens of men doing pretty much nothing but standing in the street, waiting for girls to pass by and then either insulting or harassing them.
At some point, I thought I was going to break : intruders were starting to get into the building and they were dealing drugs right outside my building.
I could no longer bear it.
I was hunting for a new place, but looking for a place to rent in
Paris on your own is pretty hard when you don’t make a lot of money. I was out of patience. I cried about it more times than I care to admit.
But one day, I got lucky. A coworker of mine was buying an apartment and was leaving his rental that I knew was pretty good and not that expensive. Five (long) months later, I moved into a new apartment in Montmartre. My parents helped me move (with the aid of professional movers to be honest), we took a little stroll in my new neighbourhood and I think they were even more relieved than me to see that I was now living in a safe place. I felt like I was finally free.
It was like a dream, I couldn’t believe this new life was mine. When they left in the evening, I started crying. I still don’t know if it was fatigue, joy, or the fact that I was out of the nightmare that was my former life.
It’s been almost a year since I moved, and not a day has gone by with me not feeling grateful. I feel thankful every day that my life is now brighter and safer. I love my flat more than any place I’ve ever been to. It’s not just where I live, it’s my home. I’m lucky to have a place where I feel safe and happy to live in. I’m safe home.