It occurred to me that I haven't yet explained why I decided to move to Paris. This is a question that many people have asked me, but also one that I've had the most difficult time explaining.
The truth is, I never actually went through a decision-making process in which I reasoned the pros and cons of moving. I woke up one morning and literally just decided that I wanted to move. It sounds a bit crazy, but it's how I have made complicated decisions my entire life. Let me explain.
Generally speaking, I believe in my instincts. And with some exceptional exceptions, I do act on them. In the field of psychology, academics have researched these so called "gut feelings". It is that first tug in your heart, before any logical reasoning has yet formed, that pushes you in the pursuit of something. Research has shown that spontaneous decisions/instincts can actually be surprisingly accurate. That's because our brains are able to work very quickly and automatically from little amounts of information. For example - the fight-or-flight response is actually considered a physiological reaction that is automatic and subconscious. It is an incredible example of how we do not actually need to consciously process anything in order to detect danger and flee from a situation. In this way, our minds (and hearts) can actually be surprisingly good at telling us what we really want and need.
This concept of instinct and subconscious thinking is also explained in Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking. Gladwell refers to this phenomenon as thin-slicing or snap judgments, such as the ability to perceive someone's emotions without actually knowing what we saw (e.g. how we just know when a friend is upset but can't quite put our finger on what exactly about their behavior led us to that conclusion). We make quick and spontaneous judgments like these everyday, but they are often clouded by rational thinking (reasoning based on reality and often times influenced by culture and society). This is not to say that logical thinking is bad or inaccurate. Logical thinking is incredibly important in making predictions about the future. This is especially true when outcomes are directly derived from causal variables. However, in ambiguous and difficult situations (such as dating, moving abroad, etc.), there are so many variables and consequences that there can hardly be an all right or wrong answer. Here is where those gut instincts come into play.
I said earlier that I just woke up one morning and decided I wanted to move to Paris. This is not entirely true. Of course, there were many events that happened before and around this time that influenced my decision.
I don't think that one should move to Paris on a whim. One should never move to Paris on a whim, just to be clear. But I do think that sometimes, our feelings of what feels right, can actually be based on many substantial facts that our brain has somehow managed to collect and sort through.
Something like five months after moving to New York (after all the intense excitement of a huge, incredible city), I began thinking very seriously about the future and where I wanted to be. I suppose with my boyfriend in Paris, a job that I felt wasn't the best fit for me, the discovery that I needed to very positively (and substantially) impact society, and the desire for adventure as a typical 22-year-old, my brain somehow managed to figure out that the best scenario for me was to apply to graduate school in Paris.
It sort of makes sense now when you think about all those things in retrospect, but it didn't then. I decided to follow my instincts, and told myself that whatever happens, I'll make it work.
And writing this here reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln - "the best way to predict the future is to create it [yourself]". Moving abroad is not a passive decision to see where life will take you, but rather an active one that gives you endless opportunities to directly impact your future.