Don’t Quit Your Corporate Job And Move To Paris

But it sounds so glamorous, right? Like the kind of thing you dream about when you’re sitting in your gray, windowless cubicle pounding on your crappy keyboard and the highlight of your day is the burrito you’re going to eat for lunch.

I was one of those people for a couple years. I worked in the public relations department of a Fortune 500 company  right out of college and quickly learned office politics and personal development and syncing Outlook to my iPhone and checking my work email on Saturday mornings and “downloading” people on missed meetings and “following up” and “action items” and all that other bullshit that takes over your life and is never taught in college.

I think most middle class kids who graduate from college these days have an unjustified sense of entitlement and an all too starry-eyed vision of their future (or at least I did). In school we are told the world is our oyster and that if we work hard enough, we will get the editorial assistant job at The New Yorker or the junior copywriter job at sexy ad agencies like Weiden + Kennedy. And some of us do happen to meet the right people at the right time and live these so-called glamorous lives. But most of us don’t. We have to take the first job that pays us enough money to get out of our parent’s house and we take our seat at a glowing box every morning and wait for the glorious future of success and money to come and it never does.

So after two years of spending my weekends traveling for work with married colleagues and missing friend’s birthdays, I walked into my boss’s office, laid down a letter of resignation, and promptly burst into tears. In hindsight, it was probably one of the best jobs I would ever get and one of the most understanding managers I’d ever report to.

But unfortunately, I believed that I was a free spirit and needed to be sipping un café in a cafe somewhere on the Left Bank looking like a much sexier version of Gertrude Stein. A friend of a friend of a friend recommended I take over her au pair position in a month–so off to Paris I went.  What could be hard about taking care of two adorable little French children, living in the maid’s quarters, cooking delicious cassoulets and ratatouille every night, and basically being a really badass Mary Poppins? A lot, actually. A lot could be hard.

Frankly, I was too old to be an au pair. Most of the other American girls I met doing the same thing were 18, fresh off the farm in Iowa, and experiencing their first time away from parental restrictions and sexual inhibitions. They looked at Paris with clear, un-jaded eyes and embraced the dirty streets, the expensive macaroons, even the men leering in the streets. When you’re 18 and in Europe for the first time, everything is romantic, even the man masturbating outside your apartment on a Friday night. (Yup, that happened my second night in the city of lights.)

I was a terrible au pair. I had barely babysat in my youth, and the kids were bratty and uncontrollable. I would lose myself in books while they threw sand in each other’s eyes on the playground, and would desperately watch the clock for when the parents would come home and relieve me of this hell.

Sometimes I would catch myself in a self-pity Cinderella sob while I was sweeping their floors after dinner. “What am I doing with my life?” I would wonder as I threw their poopy underwear in the washing machine. I had a college degree! Two months ago I was traveling to conferences and giving presentations on Twitter! I used to make car payments and go out to nice dinners! Goddammit, I used to be somebody!

And now…I was a second-class citizen. I vowed when I made it back to America, I would look every nanny and housekeeper and janitor in the eye and give them the respect I never had before. Living in a foreign country and working as “the help” was deeply humbling. My French family would lock their kitchen when they went out of town–I guess to ensure that I wouldn’t eat their stale Camembert or guzzle their Lillet Blanc. (And, let’s be honest, I was so poor I probably would have.)

After five months I quit and caught a plane back to the United States. I came back dejected, embarrassed, and broke. My biggest fear was that people would laugh at me. I had tried to do the romantic Lost Generation thing and failed–miserably. There was no novel out of this experience, no French lovers, no Julie Delpy best friend–just an extra twenty pounds around my fat American waist because I ate my feelings in croissants every morning.

It took months of living at home and hating myself and applying for menial jobs to realize that there is no magic answer for your twenties. Envying your successful friends in New York or aspiring to be your noble friend in the Peace Corps or lusting after the attractive vice president at your company gets you nowhere. The quickest way to feel like shit is to compare yourself to others.

I don’t regret quitting my job. I was burned out and I needed to leave before I started setting things on fire. I don’t regret going to Paris. It took away the gauzy veil of Europe’s romanticism and made me realize I’m far more American (and Texan) than I thought I was. But I do regret taking people and stability and love for granted during that time in my life. And cashing in my 401(k) in a moment of panicky fuck-it attitude. That was pretty stupid.

But as I begin to rebuild my life back in my hometown, I try to focus my energy on being a good daughter, a good friend, a good coworker, and (hopefully one day) a good girlfriend. You don’t have to have everything figured out by the time you’re 25. Or 35. Or 45. You just need to appreciate the hour that you’re living and figure out what you really love and then find or create a job doing that and then somehow not fall into the self-pity trap that so many of us create. Get off the Internet. Go for a walk. Read a book. Watch the world news and realize how stupid lucky you are. You don’t have to go to Paris to find yourself. Or maybe you do. But seriously, don’t cash in that 401(k). That’s just dumb. TC mark


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  • Alex Thayer

    is it ok to never have a corporate job and move to paris?

    • Michael Koh

      you don’t speak french bro

      • Alex Thayer

        i didn’t speak spanish when i moved to spain


      • Aimee Vondrak


  • Michael Koh

    I thought Americans would learn not to go to Paris after Henry Miller, but people call me stupid all the time for that. 

  • Kennyetta Dillon

    I like this. It made me feel better about life. 

  • Kennyetta Dillon

    I like this. It made me feel better about life. 

  • Giancarlo Di Rezze

    I really enjoyed this. I’ve been struggling for so long with what I want to do with myself and have been realizing more and more that moving away isn’t necessarily going to fix my problems.

    I like how you came to realize that you are more an American and Texan. Sometimes I feel that way about my hometown too… I feel like I was meant to live where I live.

  • Amber

    Couldn’t you have gotten a real job in Paris with your corporate experience? Anyway really liked this article , definitely more well written than most articles on TG these days. 

    • Canon

      Stuff on TG just sucks don’t it, thank Jebus we have TC.

      • Amber

        Thanks for the typo catch!

    • dchan

      it’s hard to get a “real” job in paris as an american because to get a visa (other than an au pair or student visa) you basically have to prove that you are doing a job a french person couldn’t do.  such as teaching english.  but getting a work visa is a crazy catch-22 process with lots of red tape.  a french company won’t/cannot legally hire you if you don’t have a visa already and the prefecture won’t give you a visa if you don’t already have an “embauchement” (proof of employment).

  • Mr Shankly

    Take away the overused cliche inspirational soundbites, or just the last paragraph in its entirety, and this is a pretty okay piece. I’m glad that spending less than half a year in somewhere other than your hometown gave you such invaluable life experience that you felt it necessary to preach the secrets of happiness to all us naive unworldly readers. Still, if it’s made you happy then I’m happy.

    Oh, and I’m glad you noticed me masturbating outside your apartment. You should come back to Paris some time, doll.

  • Mr Shankly

    Take away the overused cliche inspirational soundbites, or just the last paragraph in its entirety, and this is a pretty okay piece. I’m glad that spending less than half a year in somewhere other than your hometown gave you such invaluable life experience that you felt it necessary to preach the secrets of happiness to all us naive unworldly readers. Still, if it’s made you happy then I’m happy.

    Oh, and I’m glad you noticed me masturbating outside your apartment. You should come back to Paris some time, doll.

    • Calla

      Ok, what a dick. Calm down.

      • Mr Shankly

        I wasn’t trying to be mean about it, it just seemed unnecessary.

      • Kyle Angeletti

        I agree. 

      • benice

        You reading it is unnecessary. Cut a girl some slack for trying to find her way in life and having the courage or the good humor to write about it.  She’s young.  I’m sure her writing and her experiences will grow with time.  Everyone has to start somewhere, and she seems like she’s off to a pretty good start to me.  

      • Mr Shankly

        I wasn’t trying to be mean about it, it just seemed unnecessary.

  • gazeclear

    this is so poignant and relevant, everyone thinks about this, sometimes every day (at least I do), why are we wasting our youth away at a desk, at a job we don’t really care about? we get crazy ideas, that may or may not make sense in the real world.
    thank you for writing this, at this particular moment, when we’re not young enough to be completely carefree but not old enough to settle and not try new things.
    you tried, you learned, you’re grateful, not bitter

  • Anonymous

    I too work a corporate job all day and have dreamt of Paris (or anywhere). I really liked this and felt it was relevant to my life. Maybe it’s better to keep the corporate job and vacation in Paris instead…

  • Duke Holland of Gishmale

    Ahah! This is awesome! I usually find myself dreaming of quitting my engineering job, selling my beach-side town house, cashing in my 401k and moving to Sydney, Australia to become a bike courier. Thank you for experience! And awesomely written. 

  • Aja

    I’m happy you wrote this.  I probably needed to hear it.  My dreams have been carrying my away lately.  

  • Shana Ramandi

    As a recent college graduate working at my third internship and currently seeking full-time employment, THIS ARTICLE IS THE STORY OF MY LIFE! I could not agree with this post more! Love reading and relating to other! :-)

  • Thesharedself

    Man, I so needed to read that this morning (as I sit at my desk job, discontent). Thank you.

    • NoSexCity


  • Jordan

    Phew, considering the bunch who contribute to TC I thought this would be a humblebrag of sorts, telling readers YOU shouldn’t leave the US for Paris but look what *I* did and how hard (awesome) it was.  A pleasant surprise!

    I liked the realism and message in this.  I think Emerson wrote that people shouldn’t travel in order to find themselves, your happiness isn’t necessarily across an ocean or in a bigger city, it should be within you.

    I still want to have a vacation in Paris though, romanticism isn’t lost on me!  I just won’t move there.

  • Anonymous

    Just to be clear….. the “Paris” in this article is Paris, Texas…. right? 

  • beth

    oh my god this was really good

  • Meganegibson

    I am definitely one of those disillusioned college graduates…and I am 28 years old. I don’t know what it is-or was about my generation, and I am not blaming the way my parents brought me up, but I definitely didn’t even consider that my future would be anything as disappointing as it is. I relate to this article 100%. 

  • John Cortes

    Glad you have learned from this experience and could give some insight on being an au pair in Paris, but as soon as I read “au pair,” I felt you were doing it wrong.

  • Sal

    An extremely enjoyable read this was.

  • Michael Lynch

    Being a recent graduate having made the move to an agency as a web developer, I can definitely relate to this. It’s inspiring to hear about someone who, fed up with the office environment much like myself, had the balls to escape it.

    Of course, it’s also interesting to hear how that panned out, although my idea of Paris is London, ON doing a masters in philosophy (reading and writing all day on my own time just sounds so great) so I’m not quite sure how my experience would compare.

    Alas, I suppose the grass will always be greener on the other side. Maybe one day I will find out for myself.

    • Kyle Angeletti

      Your idea of Paris is London, ON? 

      Being from London, ON – get on a plane and live your life, bro.

      • Michael Lynch

        I’ve been to Paris a few times and I lived in London for five years. I much preferred London.

      • Kyle Angeletti

        Different strokes I guess. It was probably the people you met and had in your life in London. London is full of great people. 

  • STaugustine

    You just picked the wrong city! It can be done.

  • Random

    The reasons for moving away always make me wary of Americans who choose to live abroad for no particular reason besides they haven’t grown up yet.

    • Guesty

      What’s a better reason?

    • Megan Adams

      having the balls to uproot and move to the other side of the world takes a lot of courage.  it’s a huge decision.  a grown up decision.  

  • Isabel Ramirez

    Wow… this is just me allover! Why is this happening to our generation? Bunch of 26’s-28’s years old just lost…

    Thank you for this, I need it.

  • NoSexCity

    The only time I’ve ever debated cashing out my 401k was to get the hell out of the big city & go to Africa to feed starving children. Because they’d be a lot more well-behaved than those bratty little Frenchies, right?

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