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February 2021. It’s my half-birthday. As is customary, I take a moment to reflect on the year so far and begin to plan for what my célébration d’anniversaire might look like later this year. Like many the previous year, in 2020, my annual birthday shenanigans were pretty low-key. For 2021, I knew I wanted it to be epic.
Phone a friend, my quarantine crew captain, Cindy Bravo, fellow Leo, with whom I have celebrated many of birthdays since the beginning of our friendship more than 15 years ago. Hers is the day before mine. Over all this time together, we’ve had awesome times celebrating each other, like Leos do. We immediately agree: it’s gotta be Paris.
I am convinced I’ll be able to take 2 weeks off this year. She proposes: “Car, what if we spent the whole month of August in Paris?” Et pourquoi pas? After all, we can technically work from everywhere… Unsure how I’ll exactly pull this off, I commit: I am in!
March 2021. As soon as I can, I get vaccinated. I am often a one issue chooser and I don’t even question it: I know it’s the only way I’ll be able cross international borders to travel “freely” again. My fear of missing out on travel is greater than anything else.
May 2021. We find an Airbnb with a generous cancelation policy (we are gambling afterall) in our preferred neighborhood: Le Marais, Paris 3e. The borders aren’t open yet, but we keep up with news from the EU and France especially. Cautiously optimistic.
June 2021. France announces that it is opening its borders to Americans and others. Our planning really starts to take shape: we book our flights and get familiar with international travel, testing and documentation procedures. The excitement is building by-the-day. We frantically bookmark things we want to do, check the weather incessantly for what to pack, contribute our thoughts to a Google doc. And dream.
Sidebar. It wasn’t exactly part of this plan that I would leave Slalom and join Capgemini Invent in this timeframe. In a journey to a new job that also began in March, throughout all of the discussions, interviews and follow ups, I chose to let go: if it’s mean to be, it will be. It’s around the same time France opens its borders that I get offer from Invent I would say yes to (they gave me everything I wanted, how could I not?!). One stipulation of employment that would have existed no matter what: I can work from everywhere. I communicate to my new team that I’ll leave Slalom on a Friday and start at Cap on the Monday – something that surprises many as I would never normally go from one job to the other without a break – and take 2 weeks off later in August.
Bonus. Capgemini is a French company, so working from its HQ city of Paris is absolutely not a problem.
Birthday 2021. We plan 2 weeks off around “The Weekend”. Saturday is Cindy’s day. We are up early to hit the flea market we enjoyed so much during our previous trip here in 2017, right as it opens. She is off for a massage – I get a manicure. She takes us to a fabulous rooftop lunch at Perruche. We visit the YSL Museum and complete the day à l’Étoile. Sunday is my day. We sleep in a bit, head to le Musée des Arts Décoratifs, have a fancy lunch in the sun at Le Café Marly and prepare for my main event: a picnic at la tour Eiffel. In its simplicity, it is the most significant moment of this whole trip. And a vision, accomplished.
August 2021. Probably one of the most important periods of my life so far. Everything I experienced here in Paris this month became a reality because 2 crazy girls dreamed of having an epic birthday celebration in la ville lumière.
As the vacation comes to an end, I take a moment of gratitude to recognize how lucky I am. Sure, I work hard, and I deserve it, but I know I am blessed. And I appreciate it.