It has been a week of goodbyes and au revoirs. After two years in Paris – albeit with regular weekend darts back to London – I left the City of Light. My departure was more involved than just saying adieu to a beautiful city. As I was also resigning from my job, my firm and my profession, there have been farewells on many levels.
Leaving the law has involved a lengthy goodbye. For months I mulled over options and dreams, priorities and interests and very slowly I divested myself intellectually and emotionally from my profession. Although I experienced a strange sense of finality when I sent out my last contract, the goodbye was not as painful as I had feared. I realised that I am only walking away from the label “lawyer”. I am not turning my back on the negotiator, project manager, risk allocator, facilitator, mentor, wordsmith… in me.
Saying goodbye to Paris itself was also less emotional than expected. I had visited this architecturally spectacular city many times before my two-year sojourn there, usually to see friends, visit an exhibition or hear a concert. With so many friends in the city, my habit of popping over to Paris will not change. If anything, my return visits may become more frequent. So as the Eurostar drew out of Gare du Nord, it only felt like a temporary au revoir.
Farewells to friends and colleagues were of course more poignant, but also offered me an amusing perspective on attitudes to change.
First and foremost there were the farewells amongst my dear friends. The inspiring, generous, funny men and women I have worked, cried and laughed with in the past two years, and whose insights and observations have fuelled the clandestine journey of (re)discovery that prompted my change of direction. The last lunches and petits verres in local cafés acknowledged the parting but lacked a finality. We all knew that I would be back. And as our chatter was always more than grumblings about the job that brought us together, we knew there would be more lunches and evenings like this.
Then there were the goodbyes to other colleagues with whom I had worked closely. Here I detected two distinct flavours.
Some farewells and best wishes, mostly from Americans and Australians, resonated with a mix of encouragement and vicarious pleasure. An unspoken acknowledgement lingered between us: I was embracing the uncertainty of change and they were entertaining what they might have been if the tables had been turned.
The other goodbyes, often between me and French colleagues, involved a mischievous excitement. In a country where career changes are less common than in the UK or North America, the final embrassements and au revoirs involved a hint of an impish smile. I sensed that although my change of direction was going against all local social rules and norms, it sounded like great fun to them. Like the playful antics and explorations of a curious child! And in some ways, in the glint of their eyes that is exactly what I saw reflected back at me. A slightly eccentric, independently minded child ready to wander off on another adventure!