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I was thinking about how I like to fill in “Ms” because my status does not depend on a man, and thinking what it would be like to explain this to a certain non-anglophone loverboy of mine, I realized that in a way, that would be a lie. If I did get married, I would not be the same person as I was before I was married. True, the outward act of getting married would happen in a ceremony and flurry of paperwork and would hopefully be predated by an ongoing, deepening commitment, but I would not be the same person as when I was single. but phew, not married or even close to it yet, and that is just fine by me for the moment.

One of the things that freaks me out these days is pregnant ladies. The ratio of belly to woman can be insane! I feel uncomfortable just looking at them, and maybe it’s because I’m getting to that age where I can reasonably envision myself knocked up in a few years (after the Mrs degree).  While I’ve honestly never felt more certain of wanting to have kids eventually and babies fill me with ridiculous joy and wanting to cuddle, I have never been more clear that the right time for me is NOT NOW! There’s too much to do, too much to see, before I irrevocably yoke my life to the fulfillment of another till the end of my days. I guess it must be rewarding, but still, sooo far from wanting to be a parent just yet.

It’s been an arduous journey just getting to this more than halfway mark through my MBA degree. Boy, have I sweated this one, and wondered if it was all for naught, or for worse than naught, to my detriment. I have had some amazing experiences, and learned great stuff sometimes. I’ve also had a lot of low moments, questioned the meaning of my life a lot, and really put myself through the wringer. My best hasn’t always been what the old me would have ever accepted as good enough. I’ve learned a lot about myself and what I value. And hey, I write a blog now. But recently I’ve realized, talking to other people about grad school and careers, jeez I really have gotten a lot out of this! Today, I am really glad I did this! Which is a big change from how I felt a few weeks ago, to be sure, and there’s plenty of trials left to come. No, I am not the same person, and there are days I feel the worse for wear, but wow, look at me. I know what a P/E ratio and all kinds of gobbledy like that is. I am not the same person, and look how I’ve grown.

I happened to have met somebody along the way, who is not a serious boyfriend and I really don’t have any good sense of what will happen between us in the long term. I met him totally by chance and for the most part, I think he’s better than the kind of guy I would have picked out by choice, or rather, the things I thought were important didn’t matter at all. Sure, he’s annoying, I go for day sworrying if he loves me or loves me not, and he’s definitely not what I pictured. When I think about things like an Mrs and babies, it’s far from a given. But what loving-yes, loving- another human being has taught me some stuff. By accepting the fact I like him, I’ve ben forced to accept a lot of things about myself, like the fact I don’t fit into neat categories, I’m ridiculously openminded, and I worry too much and need to just let go and let God. I’m happy to find I could feel this way about him, that even if it’s not him, I am capable of being close to someone and am growing more capable of loving a real, actual, flawed human being instead of just pining for the man of my dreams. Though absence makes the heart grow fonder and it’s just really at the cusp of things with this dude, I’m just happy to see that I can actually be satisfied with real-life and things don’t have to go how I planned to be wonderful in their way.

And then, there’s Paris.  I can’t wait to go back. It’s just a city like many other cities, really nothing special, except for the fact that I honestly feel at home there. Sure, I’m not French or Parisian, but it’s a global, cosmopolitan, European, French-speaking city full of people who appreciate beauty, art, and culture. Sadly, it’s also a divided city where people of different backgrounds and cultures don’t always mesh as well as they might, probably worse than in the US (but at least they get nearly free college!). I don’t necessarily plan on staying in Paris forever- though when I first arrived I had no presentiment of wanting to stay and look what’s happened- but it is quite surely a part of me now.  Whatever it holds or doesn’t for me in the future, it has already given me a lot. Even the journey I’m planning back will teach me a lot, and anyway, I hope to stay there for a few years. Polish up that French of mine, maybe kiss a few more frogs (jk) or not, and use it as a travel base for Europe. Sure, I may not have quite the same ease of finding a job and maybe not the same level of salary, but jeez, it will be so much cheaper to travel at least!  And I have to go back, I left my heart there.

Somehow, I love my family even more, the longer I am apart from them. I’m closer to my mother and my sisters, more demonstrative in my affections, a better overall relative than I was before. I appreciate family so much, even though I seem to be so individualistic and travel oriented. I am, but there are other things in my life too. Being closer to my real self, whoever that is, has only helped me be a more loving person to them.

So strangely, forever altered, I feel closer to my real self than ever before. Realizing that time is only going to change me more, the more cities and babies and eventually a man I fall in love with. I won’t be the same person in a month when I get back to Paris, or in a few months time when I hope to return for real, inshallah. I feel less afraid fo commitment, though happier than ever about my options and so joyful in my freedom to do so (or not). I am overjoyed to find out that I really can be satisfied, that in this world of so many wonders, I don’t have to see them all to choose and choosing is not a burden, it is a pleasure, an act of love. I hope someday soon I feel that about my career, or at least the first career of my life. Hopefully this sense of knowing who I am will help me figure out what to do, and help me not to confuse those two things.

I don’t need to know how things are going to end to know they will turn out okay. I don’t need to know I’ll be loved back in order to offer the world my love. I don’t need to be some version of perfect in order to love and accept myself. The less i try to define myself by some pre-designed bucket, the more I fit in. The less I try to figure out who I’m supposed to be, the bettter of a person I am. And sometimes, it seems that, in spite of myself and all my very human efforts not to change, I really like the (new) me.