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Paris Was Calling! 5 Ways I Disrupted My Life

It’s never too late to create the life you want. Unless you’re okay with dismissing happiness. I wasn’t


Carla Coulson

Paris, where I was meant to be — part time!

Paris was the one place in the world where I felt totally happy. Maybe it was being away from the expectations of my New York life, but when I was in Paris, I felt freed from all the limitations I’d imposed on myself. I was drawn back again and again, taking bi-annual trips. Eventually, I’d create another life across the ocean, investing myself in my Paris life.

In 2012, I did something wildly impulsive and real: I flew New York to Paris for one day, saw six apartments, and plunked my savings on a tiny, 258-foot studio in Paris’s Right Bank. 

But it wasn’t my growing love for Paris that drove me to throw caution to the wind; it was losing my mother to breast cancer.

I’d put my mother in the center of my world, and when she died, I was completely lost. I had been putting off my dreams for later, as if I had all the time in the world. Meanwhile, I was putting off my life, too, and by now I was halfway through it! My mother had died with regrets; I didn’t want that to be me. Exactly what was I waiting for?

The apartment in Paris was just the beginning. It was the boldest move I’d ever made. It kicked off a series of other bold moves, including leaving a safe corporate job. Why waste another day living halfway? If not now, when?


1. Know Thyself

Changing my life’s script meant facing empty pages. My friends and family words could have filled them up: “I see you on TV.” “I love your writing.” It was all there in front of me, but I was blinded by fear. Most of us know what we’re meant for by the time we’re 10 years old, then spend the rest of our lives ignoring this as a childish whim. Your innate talents are your guide.

2. Decide to Do It!

You can never be perfectly ready to take a life-changing leap, so you might as well jump. I knew my career in magazine publishing was no longer growing, but I sat paralyzed for two years. Resisting change takes more out of you than bringing it about. Think of the alternative. Can you live another day wishing and wanting? Tick-tock.

There were times I thought someone would tap me on the shoulder and call me a fraud, or shame me for being reckless.

3. Say It Out Loud

When I confessed to a Parisian friend I was looking at apartments online, he took me to a real estate agent, turning the daydream into reality. You’ll need someone rooting for you — and once you speak your dream out loud to someone, that accountability is a powerful motivator that will force you to make a move.

4. Don’t Ask for Permission

A major life change often comes with a dose of self-doubt, even guilt. There were times I thought someone would tap me on the shoulder and call me a fraud, or shame me for being reckless. Family responsibilities, lack of know-how — these are all excuses we put in our way. Once you’re on the path, don’t let anyone stop you. Especially you.

5. Embrace the Fear Pangs

Change brings expansion; it will feel uncomfortable. I’m incredibly risk-averse, but I’ve learned that the fear pangs in my gut are telling me I’m on the right path. Feeling uncomfortable will be your new normal.

As I linger at a café on Rue de la Paix writing this, I know this was the life I was meant to forage. It takes raging courage to disrupt your life. But once you do it, you will never look back. Go find your ‘Paris!’ It truly is never too late.

Lisa Anselmo is a writer and creative director living in New York and Paris. Her new book, My (Part-Time) Paris Life: How Running Away Brought Me Home (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press) chronicles her journey to find purpose in Paris after a life-shattering loss. She also has a blog and travel video series with the same title.