Paris Birthday

Shakespeare & Co - my first year

Today is my Paris anniversary.

With two suitcases, little French, and no idea of what I was getting myself into, I flew into Charles de Gaulle airport on this day four years ago. I haven’t looked back yet.

It’s amazing how the time flies; it seems to have passed in mere seconds. But how much has happened in these precious years!

I’ve been getting more and more emails lately from people telling me how brave I was for taking the leap. I have to say, brave is not the word I would use. Yes, there were many unknowns. Yes, much could have gone wrong (and, of course, has!). But I did what I had to do.


It is always the second line of this Anais Nin quote that I remember, not the first:

“It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before, to test your limits, to break through barriers. And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight inside the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.

To me, it would have been more of a risk NOT to come. I did not want to wonder what if? for the rest of my life – and I knew I would if I didn’t get on that plane.

Most of you know that – unlike a lot of people – Paris was not a dream that I harbored for a long time. No. But life called and her name was Paris, as surprising as that seemed to me at the time. It became the dream. And when a dream grabs hold of you, there’s no choice but to follow it.

I call this blog (im)perfect because living is not the same as planning. Unexpected things happen, you roll with the punches, you find and create beauty. Life is imperfect. The imperfect can be beautiful.

Me on Pont des Arts (Photo by Dani Voirin)

In a nice bit of timing, my friend Lisa Lubin just posted an inspiring video to document her 3+ years of world travel. I met her in Paris a few years ago as she was traipsing the globe. A very different journey from mine, but the same impetus in the end: you must simply do it.

Many of the quotes she uses in the video explain how I ended up here:

“Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing” Helen Keller

“Some experiences simply do not translate. You simply have to GO to know” Kobi Yamada

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of” Ben Franklin

(You can catch me quickly at minute 1:57 caught in the act of laughing and with unbelievably long hair).

How did I celebrate today? I have a wonderful friend visiting right now (who I know from New York, but who now works for the AP in South Africa – another one living the dream!). We went out for lunch, ate cupcakes, walked the 11th, sat and gossiped at a sidewalk cafe, got gelato. (Yes, a bit indulgent, especially all within the space of 5 hours!)

And now I’m writing this blog post. Reflecting on my time so far. Feeling gratitude. Thinking about the future. Daring to dream new dreams.

Thanking you for sharing in my journey so far.

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38 Responses to “Paris Birthday”

  1. 1 Lindsey September 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    4 years for me too – how quickly they pass! You’ve made it past the hardest parts and are finally starting to appreciate the flaws and (serious) imperfections in this city. I hope you stay!


    • 2 paris (im)perfect September 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm

      Hello fellow four-year veteran! Does go by quickly, non? I think I’ve seen the flaws and imperfections as you call them from the beginning, but also the beauty. The evolution has come from viewing the city through the lens of a wide-eyed (fumbling) visitor to now someone who calls Paris home. I have no plans to leave. (Though remember what I said about plans!) Life is always changing. What a journey!


  2. 3 Michal September 16, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Happy Anniversary dear friend! Miss you!


  3. 5 Erica September 16, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    Happy Paris Birthday to you! I hope the next year will be filled with love and fun and good friends!! xo Erica


  4. 7 Sarah September 16, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Mazel tov on your milestone and welcome back from Italia.


  5. 9 Marielle September 17, 2010 at 5:45 am

    Hi Sion, I am a new follower of yours and loving your posts. I completely appreciate your “living is not the same as planning” sentiment. So often the unplanned is what makes life so wondrous. SantΓ© to you and to following your instincts!

    Joyeux anniversaire Parisienne, madame!



  6. 11 Buffy September 17, 2010 at 5:54 am

    I think it is great you are living your dream in Paris. It doesn’t matter when that dream comes to you as long as you live it. Life is short. I plan to make the most of my dreams. For now they are on hold until my kids are on their own. After that, the world is mine. I already lived part of my dream this summer, with a trip to Europe. Maybe one day…when I retire, I can live there as well.

    Happy Birthday!!



  7. 13 Buffy September 17, 2010 at 5:56 am

    I mean Happy Anniversary….Sorry, worked too much this week; too tired to be writing! Goodnight


  8. 15 Nat September 17, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Happy birthday, ma chΓ©rie !


  9. 17 Aidan Larson September 17, 2010 at 11:19 am

    The Anais Nin quote is fabulous. It’s going on my board.
    Why think any other way?
    Happy 4 years!


  10. 19 Paris Paul P September 17, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Congratulations, and never stop blossoming.


  11. 21 Sweet Freak September 18, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Bonne anniversaire, mon amie! Four years… woah. That is crazy. It is certainly not perfect, but life in Paris is pretty dreamy. Keep your spirit alight – I’ll look forward to reading more of your adventures and reflections! xo


    • 22 paris (im)perfect September 18, 2010 at 3:53 pm

      Thanks, Amy! Yes, it does strike me as crazy, too πŸ™‚ Yes, Paris is a lot of things. Dreamy is a good adjective for it, too. And thanks for that image. Yes, I try to keep my spirit alight in the City of Light! See you soon! πŸ™‚


  12. 23 Deux ou trois choses September 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

    Happy anniversary! I had my 3 year one just recently. Sounds like a nice way to celebrate! I reckon it’s the expats that come to France without Francophilia who probably flourish the most because they don’t necessarily go through the removal of the rose coloured glasses shock and the expectations are so different.

    Keep blogging, I really enjoy your posts and the humour and honesty that comes with them!

    Great quotes, very inspirational, especially the one from Anais Nin.


    • 24 paris (im)perfect September 18, 2010 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you! Yes, I totally agree. I think it *did* help that I wasn’t a huge Francophile before. I had no expectations – I just threw myself into the experience. Can’t be too disappointed when you’re just seeing what you see! Congratulations on your 3 years and thank you for the encouragement. I have simply adored all of the positive feedback and comments I get from writing this blog. Makes me feel so good! Definitely a big part of my Paris life now. Thank you for being part of it!


  13. 25 Cassady September 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

    Happy Paris birthday to you! I know I’m a few days late but I am amazed by how long it’s been since your goodbye party in DUMBO, Brooklyn. I am moved by what you have to say about having the courage to take risks and live life to its fullest. You are an inspiration πŸ™‚ Miss you. xo


  14. 27 Tara Lynne September 19, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Sion, Pam Taylor in your MFA program passed along your blog to me as I am fascinated by everything Parisian! Your writing is very inspiring and I live by just about all of the quotes sprinkled throughout your posting. I read two memoirs this year by women with journeys similar to yours, I’m sure you may have heard of them, but if not they are Almost French and Lunch in Paris. Looking forward to more of your work!


    • 28 paris (im)perfect September 19, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Hi Tara Lynne! Oh, I feel so honored that Pam passed along my post – and that you came to visit! Thank you! I do know both of those books quite well – and even know Elizabeth Bard in person! I see from your website we have a fair bit of crossover. You make me miss the Triangle! Both North Carolina and New York are my homes – Paris is the newest place to earn that title, but I’m pretty sure she’s now got a permanent place on the list. Thanks for stopping by – hope to see you again!


      • 29 Delana September 19, 2010 at 3:11 pm

        Sion, a lovely post and Happy Anniversary. I couldn’t have said it better. Keep rolling with the punches, girl. Seeing the perfection in imperfection…there lies the most wonderful gift of all.

        Your friend’s video is great. Thanks for sharing it with us.

        It was so great to meet you in Paris. Thank you for taking the time out from your day!


  15. 30 Adam September 19, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Congratulations. I can’t remember exactly when I first moved here, but I know that it is now 15 years – yikes! I even lie about how long I’ve been here because my French accent doesn’t get any better!


    • 31 paris (im)perfect September 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

      That’s funny, Adam. Yeah, I don’t think my accent is ever going away. For some reason, I’ve been getting a lot of people calling it “charming” of late. Wow! That never happened before. Guess if I stick around long enough…


  16. 32 lilian September 23, 2010 at 2:29 am

    how wonderful! congratulations and keep writing!


  17. 33 paris (im)perfect September 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    Thanks Delana and Lilian, too! Delana, it was great meeting you in Paris!


  18. 34 pariskarin September 29, 2010 at 7:26 am

    Hi chica!

    I just got caught up reading the past month+ on your blog here (and it is not even 7:30 am yet!) and chose this one on which to write a comment because it was so inspiring.

    As I have another week of “What the F am I *doing* here?” moments, you have reminded me. I have seized the day, and here is where it seized up. Or something like that, lol. It really is what is in that AnaΓ―s Nin quote that brought me here, though, and I needed the reminder that this is the case for, as you so aptly put it, sometimes the results feel so imperfect after the bold leap, that we question having done so. Still, I would not have it any other way, and I *know* this. Thanks for the reminder.

    I really enjoyed your friend’s video, too. What great music and images to sum up what it means to make choices that lead to a life well-lived.

    Take care, and good luck with the deadlines facing you. πŸ™‚


  19. 35 pariskarin September 29, 2010 at 7:29 am

    P.S. And it was implicit in my head & comment, but I also meant to say “Happy Franciversary” to you, Sion. May you have as many more years here as you desire. πŸ™‚


    • 36 paris (im)perfect September 29, 2010 at 9:53 pm

      Thanks, Karin! I’m so glad I could help you feel better during one of those “What the F am I doing here” weeks. Those certainly do happen! We’re creating stories, though, living rich lives. That’s what we’re doing! I love the “Franciversary” idea, too! Good word! Take care, Karin! πŸ™‚


  20. 37 maryrichardson October 1, 2010 at 6:13 am

    I loved this post with all its sentiments about life and experiences!

    best wishes to you for going where life led you, even if you didn’t plan it out, and hope that you have great years in paris (or anywhere in the world) ahead of you!

    I’m a romantic when it comes to picking up and moving oneself to another country, so I’m enamored by stories likes yours!


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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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