Yesterday, I kissed another part of my American life goodbye. It was thrilling and terrifying at the same time. I've been here nearly a year but yesterday was the first time I really felt like I was giving something up that would make it difficult to go home and pick up where I left off (not that I have the least intention of doing so).
Yesterday, I exchanged my American drivers license for a French one.
This may sound like small change, but in the states, a drivers license is more than a permit for driving, it's the most recognized form of identification. I'd wager that the vast majority of Americans don't have a passport, and if they do, they certainly don't carry them around on a day to day basis. For the time being, national identification cards do not exist (though I understand some people would like to see that happen). Identification cards are available at the Department of Local Vehicles, and look exactly like drivers licenses, and are the preferred form of ID if one doesn't drive. Along with military ID's, these are often the only picture identification cards the majority of organizations accept.
So going to the Prefecture yesterday to get my new driving permit was more than applying for permission to drive here, it was crossing a bridge and not looking back.
Luckily, I come from a state that has an agreement with France, so it only involved about an hour of time, filling out a short form, making photocopies, and of course, turning in my old license. I walked out with a piece of paper giving me permission to drive until I can pick up my permanent license in a couple of weeks.
Last night, I drove in France for the first time since I moved here. After nearly a year of living here, I'm finally starting to feel like I'm home.