Above all other things, I think, I want to be a teacher. I want to be someone who has lived so deeply that she can help others see the lessons hidden in their own lives. I want to be someone who has known the world and knows themselves, and can help others find their paths.
Intrinsically connected with being a teacher is being a learner. I want to learn everything there is to know, so I can pass it on to others. The idea is that being a conduit for wisdom, being able to transform an individual life, is all the impact that’s really necessary. Yes, I want to transform political and economic systems and have an impact on the policy level, but the real change I want to work in this world isn’t about getting the right laws or rules in place. Not even as grand as civil rights or gay rights or environmental protection. The real change I want to make in the world is the way people think, and feel. I think this is both more profound and more immediate, but also more subtle.
When I thought about my choice before me, I realized that having both degrees would make it easier to become a teacher in the end. To teach at the university level- what subject, I still don’t know. The people I truly admire are all teachers- my finance professor, German lit professor, advisor from undergrad, French professor, econ professor- this is what I want to be, where I feel the most resonance. The whole reason I want to get experience in business is so I can have some practical insight for people. I don’t want to write books on technical subjects no one reads or cares about. I want to give people knowledge grounded in the real world out there, and make my recommendations for what should be based on my own personal experience. Not grounded only in theory and erudition used as a refuge or denial of how things are. Truly, I love the world.
I imagine my ideal future, if I could just write and be famous, or just learn what I felt like or give enormous sums of money to causes of my deepest desire. Even if I could work totally on my own schedule on things of infinite interest to me, no matter what infinite recompense I might get, it would be meaningless if I didn’t pass it on in some way. Whether through a blog or writing a book, ideally giving lectures and interacting with people. In order to change what people do, you have to change how they think.
Education is the most powerful weapon that’s ever been created, and more than anything I want to conquer ignorance, intolerance, irrationality (to an extent), sloppy thinking, cynicism, ideologues. I care about the process, not just the result. Though a benevolent dictator might do a better job at creating the conditions for happiness than a democracy, I want people to be free and also enlightened, unless the people should choose technocratic benevolent dictators. Would I be a technocrat? Maybe, but I know that what I really want to do is explore, discuss, discover, imagine, create. Not govern, not execute. Yes, I might and intend to take a practical, hands on job and learn all I can from it. My role model is Clayton Christensen, who wrote the book “How will you measure your life?” a professor at Harvard Business School who realized people needed moral guidance as well as strategic training. If business is about how to get things done, and managers have the power to decide how things are done, it’s important for life, can be transcendent as well as practical. That’s what attracted me to business anyway- I thought it was both interesting and useful. I want to know how the world works, and the private sector (usually about 70% of the economy) is a big part of that.
Finding a profession is very hard because if almost anything is practiced well and for the right reasons, it can be done nobly. Well-compensated or not. If you are not consciously doing harm, and the lobbyists for tobacco manufacturers who play the devil’s advocate, there are ways of doing good in society. I think the more important question is the good you personally can’t live/leave undone.
Part of this is consistently and rigorously exposing yourself to new ways of thinking and doing things. This is one reason why I’m so passionate about exposure to other cultures. What sticks after you’ve tried a lot of things is your real self, I believe, in part, or at least the part the world is needing you to be at the time. Sure, we are partially created by our circumstances, but we also shape, create, and choose our circumstances. At least partially by our thoughts, which makes grooming them so important. You can’t parent the whole world, but you can be a surrogate parent to some by being a teacher. You can’t teach anyone everything, but if you live well and truly yourself you can be an example.
Being a teacher should also mean you can be honest and search for truth, in yourself and in others. You shouldn’t settle for the conclusion you want, you should probe to what’s really there. You should be honest about what you want and your motivations. Then you can probe others.
If I stay in Paris now because I am happy in the current moment and I’m afraid of leaving, afraid of neer wanting to stay anywhere again, afraid of losing my nerve to come back and go through the administrative hurdles and all the hardships of finding a job in France if I see how easy it would be elsewhere or I get the wanderlust again. My greatest fear is never being able to settle enough to build real relationships or craft something of value.
My feelings for Paris are real, but I don’t want to spend my whole life there. At least, I can’t say that with confidence now. I want to have the option to come back to the US, or go elsewhere in the world if the right opportunity comes. Just because things haven’t become clear about exactly what I want to do or where I want to be doesnt’t mean they never will. I have an immediate goal- working in France- that can be pursued during my time here and after. I don’t want to make a decision in the heat of the moment based off fear. Yes, I do want to see how the story would go if I stay. I have a lot of curiosity about that, especially in terms of finding a job, what the research assistantship would lead me to, and also, to be honest, the guy. I think I would be happy here, and I’m not sure about Philly in that regard. Although It would only be 6 months and then Asia, which would enable me to reach my traveling goals.
The program I am currently enrolled in is being discontinued after this year. It truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I believe this is an educational experience that will provide versatility and value for the rest of my life. The French degree, not so much out of a European or Francophone context. Maybe this is the place I’m meant to be after I finish my degree, but I will be closing some doors if I stay, and I’m not sure that the five months the degree guarantees me here are worth all I’d be giving up if I lost the program I’m in now. But at least I know that I was wanted, and I had the choice and I affirmed it. Ultimately I want to have the choice of where to work, and I’m much more likely to find the time to pursue my real interests that might lead to something and have the ability to find work easily if I stay with my current scholarship with 2 degrees. If I stay here and I’m super busy doing work in my apartment all the time, not sure if it’s worth staying. Not sure how I’ll find the time to go to the museums or see the dude, who I don’t actually know that well anyway.
What it comes down to is having these upcoming months in France could make or break my life in unforeseen ways, but foregoing the dual degree will close doors I would rather keep open. Maybe I’ll never really get over France, but if I truly want to find a way I will. This opportunity to stay at ENPC and leave my program is one way, but it’s not the way I want to take. There are things that matter more to me than location, like financial stability and liking my job. I could have continued as an English teaching assistant otherwise, or work in a hotel as a maid or something. What’s most important to me is that I get to use a good fraction of my skills and abilities and brain. I’ll find a way back if it’s meant to be, somehow.
If I stay, I’ll be just like every other person who tried to hang on to a good experience of their youth and didn’t seek new and uncomfortable horizons afterward. It’s just that my place will be Paris. Paris is great, but it’s not the whole world. If I can give up Paris for a few months, I can have the world. I’m not enough in love with Paris to give that up. I do know at least that there’s one place in this world where I can see myself staying and continuing to learn and grow and thrive and prosper. I found a way to stay once, and I can do it again. If not, it’s not meant to be. Who knows if the situation would be different if the scholarship offer were different, but staying here under those conditions is not really what I want. Now when the opportunity cost is so apparently high.
It seems that I am trading present happiness for future opportunities, and I guess that’s true. I do think present happiness is based in part on feeling like you are happy with the future opportunities you are working towards, and I honestly think that part of happiness will suffer if I stay. I need to find a way to line up both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, because I personally have some material and intellectual needs I would like to be met by my work life I may not be able to find in Paris, even if I stay here and pound the pavement for an extra few months. Paris isn’t going anywhere, but I will never be able to do this program again. I will also not get much sacred idleness to enjoy Paris if I stay, it will be all about the degree and finding a job to help make the most of my decision to stay. I’m honestly not okay with being an eternal stagiare (intern) and the worst case scenarios of staying in Paris, I do have certain other goals in life besides staying in Paris, and the switching costs are absurdly high. It would really make my life more complicated and difficult and close off opportunity.
The truth is I lose and gain in either scenario, but I can live with staying in my program. I will find a way back to Paris if that’s where I am meant to be. If love is true, it returns, right? I’m not ready to get married to Paris though, especially since her job market is a fickle fickle mistress.
Lesson of the day: Putting yourself through hoops like this helps you figure out what you really want. Without asking to stay, I wouldn’t have been choosing between real possibilities. Without choosing between real possibilities, I would be less sure of my path because it would based on a hypothetical. And without knowing what I’m afraid to lose and what I hope to gain, I’d be lost in either direction.
Love hurts, especially when you are young. I can’t settle down just yet, not when I’ve been chosen for this adventure.
Thank God for falling in love though, and wanting to stay.
I love you.