I missed an important anniversary last year – 2021 marked the ten year anniversary of my leaving Paris, France for a return to life in the US.
Essentially, I transitioned from being a “city mouse” to my current situation, “country mouse.”
As you might imagine, my 14 years in Paris were very, very different from my life now. Although there were many things I enjoyed about that life (and still miss), I have settled into a lifestyle that suits me better in so many ways.
I decided to sit down and think about the many ways my life has changed over the past 11 years and think about the positives.
Looking back at what I’ve learned and how I’ve changed was a surprise to me, and a much needed morale booster. At the moment I’m dealing with some pretty extreme food sensitivities that often leave me either hungry or in pain, depending on how much experimenting I’ve done to expand my diet. It’s a depressing situation, and I can use all the morale boosting I can get!
But I’m not sharing this here as an ego boost. Instead, I think it’s interesting to see the amount of change and development that can happen over a ten year period in anyone’s life. If it can happen for me, it can happen for you too, if change is what you’re looking for.
Here are ten things that, for me, changed for the better over the past ten or so years. Here goes:
1) I Developed a Yoga Practice
I found my yoga practice at the perfect time – when my relationship with my second husband was in crisis. There was too much stress for me at that period in my life and yoga helped me keep my sanity.
During my parisian years, I had always wanted to try yoga, but felt too intimidated to try.
Once I finally did start practicing yoga at a wonderful studio in Wilmington, NC, I immediately regretted not having tried it earlier.
Hot yoga in particular turned out to be my jam, with a slow, deep, yin practice being the ultimate form of yoga enjoyment for me.
I moved away from yoga studios when I moved to rural Utah, and I miss those moments, but enjoy my warm, home yoga routine too.
2) I Learned to Grow My Own Food
Before moving to Paris, I worked at a garden center in my hometown for several years, an experience that had a profound impact on me – I discovered I loved doing active work and being outdoors around plants.
So my time in the French capital, while pleasant in many ways, involved some deep frustration related to my desires to continue my work with plants.
A single attempt to grow cherry tomatoes on my apartment balcony didn’t bring much satisfaction – or many tomatoes.
Pretty much as soon as I returned stateside, I bought some seeds and let my gardening hobby blossom.
Looking back to those first attempts in comparison to now, I find it rather amazing.
On my own and with the partnership of my farm boy hubby, I have grown hundreds of pounds of food in the past 10 years, mostly from seed, including a wide variety of pumpkins, summer squash, melons, herbs, mustard greens, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, ground cherries, bok choy, tat soi, kale, lettuce, green beans, dry beans, cucumbers… and probably quite a few things I’m forgetting.
Ten years from now I have no doubt that I will be able to claim our food production is in the thousands of pounds over a ten year period.
3) I Learned to Compost
Part of my gardening journey included learning to compost.
My first attempts at composting in an enclosed tumbler would have been graded “F” for mega failure.
But thanks to free classes given at my local waste management department in North Carolina, I learned how to compost the right way.
And since then I have adapted my techniques to the arid climate of my new home, North Eastern Utah.
Even in the desert, compost can happen.
4) I Learned to Preserve Food
Just like composting is an excellent skill to partner with gardening, so is food preservation. And over the past several years I have learned to preserve food in a few different ways, via dehydrating, fermenting, and canning.
Though I’m still a somewhat nervous canner (botulism happens, people!) I am an extremely comfortable fermenter and have even been bold enough to try teaching a few fermentation classes here and there.
Fermentation is one of those skills that, now that I’ve gained it and understand the principles at work, I’ll never lose.
And when it comes to flavor, it’s like discovering a third dimension in a world where there were previously only two.
5) I Realized I Had Been Hanging Out with the Wrong People
In the first couple of years back in my hometown, I went to some meetups with a group of HSPs, Highly Sensitive People.
While I had always known I was sensitive, I’d felt there was something wrong with me for being that way. My introduction to the HSPs allowed me to understand this part of myself as well as to acknowledge and accept my introverted side.
This understanding helped me understand that during my parisian days, I was often hanging out with the wrong people – those whose common ground was “partying” rather than any other deeply defining interests.
Being with the wrong people made me socially anxious, which led me to want to drink in those situations.
But once I started cultivating social interactions with people with like-minded interests, permaculture, gardening, food – and suddenly I no longer felt the need to drink during social interactions.
I no longer hang out with the wrong people (wrong for me, that is), my social anxiety has decreased dramatically, and I no longer feel the need to drink in social situations!
6) I Found a Soul Mate
Part of understanding myself better allowed me to have a better vision of the type of person I wanted to spend my life with.
Someone with common interests and values, a sense of humor, an enjoyment of life, and his own deep sensitivity.
I sure found him!
7) I Became a Permaculturist
One of the things that has guided my gardening endeavors is permaculture.
While growing my first backyard gardens ten years ago, I would go to my local library and check out every book I could about organic gardening and permaculture. I soaked up a lot of good info that way.
Then finally in 2017 I decided to make my permaculture practice official. I enrolled in an online permaculture certificate program and completed the program in early 2018.
Permaculture continues to guide not only the way I garden but many other aspects of my life.
8) I Became a Native Plant Nut
I’ve always found botanical gardens a place of solace, and after moving back to my home town I learned that my local botanical gardens offered classes that could be applied to a Certificate in Native Plant Studies.
I started taking their classes in my free time – weekends, or evenings, enjoying learning about botany, ecology, insects, birds, and plant propagation.
When I moved to Utah, my certificate was incomplete. I had learned much from the classes so it certainly wasn’t time wasted, but the unfinished aspect of the certificate bothered me just a bit.
Thanks to the pandemic, the university began offering some of their classes online, and – with much excitement – I was finally able to finish my certificate.
Check out the inventory of native plants on our farm that I’m creating!
9) I Started Working as a Freelance Writer
Since I was a preteen I have loved writing, a natural extension of my even earlier love of reading. Getting work as a writer has always been one of my secret goals, and I started blogging as a hobby in about 2009.
While my previous work in the stock photo and video industry allowed me to flex my writing skills in very specific ways, it wasn’t until I started working as a freelance writer specializing in gardening that I started to really feel at home in my work.
I love the writing process – to me it feels like sculpting thoughts into words, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to make a living with my writing.
10) I Learned to Feel at Ease Outside in the Dark
Living in Paris meant that I was never in the dark – my path was always illuminated by street lights.
So it was very strange for me when I first moved to our farm in Utah and saw how pitch black it was at night.
Little by little I have learned to feel comfortable outside in the dark in many places, such as on our farm or in some of the places we hike. I’m not as carefree as Chad on that latter point, but I think I’ve made a lot of progress from where I started.
And I now get to enjoy the frequent show of an incredibly star-dense night sky.
That’s it! Those are ten major achievements I’ve accomplished over the past decade. All of these things are extremely important to me and certainly define what my purpose is with Hearthwilde.
I was motivated and inspired to make these changes because of the work and efforts of others before me. In some cases my friends inspired me, in others, other bloggers, writers, and photographers gave me glimpses of what was possible. I’m now living a life I only dreamt of a decade ago.
This life isn’t perfect, life never is, but it is deeply satisfying.
Wherever you’re at in your own life journey, I hope this reminds you that change is something you can create too, if that’s what you are looking for.
While we’re on a contemplative note, here are a couple of other tidbits:
Death and Life – A Walk in the Desert
Chayotes and Contemplating the Nature of the Self
Hey friend, thanks for reading! Please leave me a comment below, click like, and share this article with someone who might need it too.
And you can help me keep Hearthwilde as an advertisement-free space by leaving me a small tip at ko-fi.
Thanks! I really appreciate it!
2 thoughts on “A Look Back at the Last Decade – From Paris to Utah”
I’ve enjoyed reading your blog and learning from your experiences. Just thought I’d drop a note and let you know.
Hi Helen! Thanks so much for your kind comment, it’s so nice to hear from you!