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THE BREAK UP THAT MADE CAMILLE CHARRIERE

And the lessons she learnt from heartbreak

04.02.2021

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“You can’t move to a city for a boy,” said absolutely everyone, when I confessed that I was turning down a coveted training contract at a top city law firm in Paris. I was 24 and had been plotting to hop across the pond to join my long term boyfriend, an Oxford grad. The plan was far from foolproof. We’d only just got back together after a two month break he’d imposed — he needed to be completely free to enjoy his last summer before entering the workforce. What could go wrong? My game plan to get myself to the UK involved a bold move that has, alas, become my default crisis mode setting; one that I’ve since spent years trying to unlearn, which is to bury my head in the sand for as long as possible. In this case, to avoid dealing with the grief my well-meaning parents would inevitably give me when they eventually found out.

And that they did. The night before I was meant to start this ultra-competitive internship. They were furious. My dissertation had just been published and my prospects as a future lawyer were  – forgive me for tooting my own horn – really good. Why was I throwing it all away? And how on earth was I going to afford living in one of the most expensive cities in the world? “You love Law,” they clamoured (I did). “You don’t know a single soul in London,” they continued in unison (I didn’t). “Well,” they concluded when it was clear I wasn’t going to budge, “if you’re going to be so reckless with your future, there will be no financial support from our end.” The next day, I was penniless on the Eurostar.

There isn’t time here to go into how things ended between us. All you need to know is that two years on, as everyone had “told you so”, said boy broke my trust in a way that was unforgivable. For months — years even — I let this breakup define who I was. My heartache became a way of bonding with strangers, and I was too raw to care that I had no filter. His cruelty become a regular conversation starter as I let our failed love story become the most interesting thing about me. But he's not who this story is about. Almost ten years later, in spite of Brexit, a pandemic, and a nasty foot injury that had my family begging me to come home, I’m still here. The city has seen me through a sea of break-ups, several courageous career moves, too many ups and downs to count. It remains my one true love. “I moved to London for a boy,” I now say, “but I stayed because this place gave me wings.” There is no shame in acknowledging the butterfly effect of how you got to where you are. But there is also no right or wrong way to get through life. In fact every setback, however big or small, is just part of the ride.

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