I've dreamed of moving to France since the very first day we purchased La Maison Rose, our little house in France, over 12 years ago.
But dreaming and doing are very different. Life happens, and often I feel I've become a passenger on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, holding on with white knuckles and unsure what is around the next twist in the road.
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let's back up about 40 years. As a child born in Los Angeles and raised on a steady diet of sugary cereal, television, movies and theme parks, I think movies were as much a part of my DNA as the smog I breathed until my chest ached.
Hollywood does an excellent job of marketing itself, and nowhere better than in Southern California. The cliche is that everyone you meet in LA wants to be a director, a writer or an actor, but they most likely wait tables.
It takes a village to make a movie, but contrary to popular belief getting into the business isn't necessarily about who you know or sleep with. There is room in Hollywood for people who are passionate and work hard to find their place in the industry. Also contrary to popular belief, there is very little glamour involved in making a movie. The hours are long, egos are big, and the work can be physically and mentally demanding. But it can also be hugely rewarding.
I'm one of the lucky ones. I've been living the "Hollywood Dream" for the past 25 years, and it has brought me a lot of pleasure. I have a reasonable income, a modest home, and a loving family.
But following the Hollywood Dream comes with a Tiffany-sized price tag. Long hours, distant locations, and feast-or-famine freelance employment are not very well suited to a balanced family life.
Marriages in Tinsel Town don't last long, and you have lots of Facebook friends all pretending that life is grand when you know that they are actually bitter and miserable.
For the past five years there has been a steadily growing itch; a feeling that the life I've created for myself and my family, is just not living up to my expectations. It's that feeling you get in a hotel room when you are looking a photos of your kid's play that you couldn't attend and you think, "Really, is this all there is?"
Twelve years ago, on a crazy whim, we managed to scrape together a little money and we purchased a little house in France. It was meant to be our escape plan after the kids had left the nest. We rent it out, but unfortunately we rarely get to visit it ourselves. It turns out that France is a long way from Los Angeles (5,763 miles). Who knew?
Okay, now we are back to the present and my mid-life crisis. Perhaps men have middle-age crises for a reason. It's an annoying voice inside shouting, "Hey dummy, you don't have forever so don't screw this up."
The other day I started asking myself why I still live in southern California. Film has fled the state, the cost of living is ridiculously high, taxes some of the highest in the country, commuting is a nightmare, public education is terrible, and private schools are obscenely expensive.
The only real reason I could come up with was the weather. And sure, the beaches are nice but we never really go to them because parking is a hassle.
When I look out onto the Provencal countryside I am overcome with a sense of pure relaxation. It just feels "right." My brain somehow understands it. Returning to Los Angeles from a trip to France is like running out of hot water at the end of a nice soothing shower; shocking and very unpleasant.
I find myself trying to recreate the experience of living in France while I'm in LA. But it doesn't matter how much lavender and wine and sunflowers you surround yourself with, it never satisfies the longing for history, old stone walls, thousand year old churches and perched villages with winding cobbled roads.
And American Croissants are not the same. No matter how you dress it, LA is just not France.
So a few days ago a thought occurred to me: What if we moved up the escape plan a few years? Sure, our village house is small and the kids might have to share a room. But they're young, the scars will heal. It will mean downsizing, letting go of attachments to things, people and places we have grown familiar with. It will mean taking a risk.
But more than risk, it will mean taking a leap of faith that wherever we are, we can have a better life as long as we are together.
"Show me the plan."