Despite my true happiness during the times I’ve interned in DC, there has been a nagging voice asking, “Is this all there is?” I remeber the end of my first summer, when I’d just got done doing a job I was gaily doing for free, so confident in my ability to make it in the city and succeed profesionally. I wondered, “Wouldn’t it be awesome to do the same thing in ten other cities, and pick the best? There’s gotta be so much more out there.”
And there was.
I was dissauded from my initial yen for France as a site of study abroad in favor of Morocco, which was much more strategic and audacious a choice. So much world to explore, and how better to distinguish myself rather than being just another girl at a small liberal arts school enjoying Paris for a semester?
I ended up graduating a year early, after literally stumbling on to opportunities to go to Russia and Madagascar. Without ever having sought it, I was hooked on travel, adventure, exploration. The world always just over the horizon.
Maybe that’s why it was so hard for me to just settle down and take a secretarial job to get my foot in the door in DC. Maybe I was just looking at a bad time. Maybe I just wasn’t sure of my convictions just yet. But I applied to a teaching English program in France, got waitlisted, and then accepted. Just after winning a paid summer position at the internship program that I’d completed early. Wow.
And I fell in love with the city again. And I even fell in love with somebody, the closest person to a soulmate that I’ve ever known. He’s just a dude, but he shared my interests and vision like no one I’d met before, and he’s really cute. I felt like I could read him. He felt so comfortable to be with. I could see a huge future written in his eyes. But he lived far away, still working on school, and I was going to France, where he had ironically done a short course just prior to meeting me. A dude that loves France is not something you see everyday. He was a keeper I did all I could to hold on to, though I knew it wasn’t the right time, and life got in the way. Or maybe it just set me free.
So I spent a year in France, going wilder and having adventures like I haven’t since. Isolated, lonely, but so free. Independent, proving myself an ocean away from my loving and sometimes overbearing family, doing all those adult tasks that come with living away from home- but in French. And along the way, there was Rome, Madrid, Krakow, and some lovely little places in the southwest of France. Mon dieu, my greatest shame of not finding a job became my greatest treasure. I was so bored, and looking for the next challenge in the midst of the greatest I’d encountered so far. The existential depression that plagued me just after college when I was working retail came back here and there, but for the most part, I was stress free besides the loneliness, more than capable of doing the job, and simply weightless.
So I applied to business school, wanting to jump start my career past the administrative stage. I founda program based in France, a bargain based off American tuition, and a one year MBA that included a French degree and study in Paris. So I wasn’t entirely willing to break the tie yet, and France had always been the country of my dreams. Living there was truly a fairy tale, in the best and worst sense.
So I left my simple, quiet, unambitious, peaceful life in the French countryside for another internship in DC-this one even better than the last experience- and loved DC again. There were times in France I had missed DC, reminded of DC by the charming French cities it was modeled on. It was probably the best professional experience so far of my life.
And then I started B school, and went to Paris. I fell in love. With the city and my international classmates there. I spoke French more than I ever had the chance to as an English teacher. I got to go back to grocery shopping a la francaise, which I had been homesick for in DC. I had a charming little studette, walked to class everyday, and warmed again to France. The bustling city offered much more than my sleeping town, and as much as I knew I’d never really belong there in a way, not being French, there was a part of me that found home. It was everything I thought I wanted at the time. I vowed to find a job and start over there, knowing America would be there and feeling the clock was ticking short for international experiences. I didnt think I’d really want to have a family there, but deep in me I feel a certain Europeanness in my soul. I appreciate the history, cutlure, and refinement. There’s just so much to explore in a rich and old city like Paris, and you are so close to other cultural wonders like Prague, Vienna, Venice, even Turkey, relativ eto the US. And you have the vacation time to enjoy it, and food is wonderful.
And I fell in love. With a stranger I met walking to the metro one night. Nothing like what I expected but wonderful in his own way. For the first time in about five years, I had a boyfriend, much as our relaitonship sort of had an expiration date from the start. I knew I was leaving to go back to finish the program in America.
But I thought about staying. I could have, at a significant additional cost, and a lot of risk to myself. France’s economy is not as dynammic as America’s, particularly the employment market. My boyfriend was not necessarily the love of my life, and to stay for a fleeting atmosphere, where most of the students would go back to their own country, seemed silly. Besides, by staying in the program, I’d get to go to Asia.
So I went back to Philly and pined for France, for my by then x boyfriend, for what felt like youth lost. All of the existential worries came back and worse than before. I finished my program but with none of my usual gusto, and I suspeted I wasn’t necessarily cut out for business. It was like playing with my weaker hand. Or maybe just in the wrong game entirely. I was worried. And my original plan of going back to DC, which still made so much sense, just seemed to pale in comparison to what I’d “lost” by being reasonable, coming back home to the US, and getting the dual degree. You could say I was living for the final Asia portion.
Asia was wonderful, mind blowing, different, magical. Not a palce I’d really like to live, definitely not as a single lady without a strong relationship safety net. I regretted not staying in paris. Paris was still my love, even after seeing the whole world. I’d bought a plane ticket and planned to figure it out, one way or the other.
In Asia, I met some perpetual expat people. They were awesome, adventuresome, open, curious- just like me. They had built lives abroad- so that coming back to their home country would be really like leaving home. I was pretty sure I didn’t want that, much as the allure of living forever in an exotic, exciting place didn’t fail to thrill me secretly. It was my family, tugging at me. The kind of family most people dream of, maybe. So much to be thankful for, already waiting for me. And truly, I didn’t want to be like the one drunk I met on a train, who said that some people will give anything for the next adventure.
September 18 and the plane have come and gone. A talk with an old friend, who assured me I could continue my life of adventure from anywhere, and that happiness was not a place, and that I could feel that same belonging if I was centered in myself and kept the right people around me, convinced me to stay. The job I had hoped for as an English teacher had fallen through and despite months of trying as best I knew how to find a connection, I reealized it would be exceptionally difficult to find the kind of work I wanted to do in paris. Fortune favors the bold, but my reasons for boldness maybe were not the right ones. I was goign crazy prior to making the decision to stay in the US, at least until I could find a job.
As for my lover there, we had kept in touch, but I wasn’t comfortable enough to ask him to stay at his place for an extended period of time.
I saw him pbriefly during a networking stopover I’d made and things just weren’t quite the same, either because he’d had a rough time at work lately and other concerns or he just isn’t that kindred spirit you can pick up with exactly where you left off. He didn’t kiss me. But I loved him though.
So here I am, pretty much exactly back where I started. Looking for a job, but this time with my whole heart. Knowing that if I land in DC, and stay there for the rest of my life, I think I could live with that. Even if I don’t make it to Prague, I will still lead a full life, hopefully in the beautiful city of Washington. Like Jefferson, I will always love France and leave a piece of my heart there. It is good to know it is waiting for me, just out of site. Even if that dream never comes true , it was a beaitufl dream and gave me wonderful memories.
The cliche of finding yourself in Europe turned out to be true. I went against everything, even my own freely chosen long term ambitions of a public policy career in DC, to try to find a place there. And right now, I don’t think that’s the place for me. I’m sure God has his reasons, and maybe my reaosns for being there were ultimately not so compelling to me as the ones for stayig here. I do want to build my career, that is as true of a dream as Prague. And honestly, I thnk I will be less alone in DC. Because there, I have roots as well as wings.
As it turns out, the guy I met in DC is back there now, working. He is currently attached but we are still in touch. For real, like I feel like I can tell him anything (and often go a little redonkulous with that). I could build a life in DC, and find someone to live it with.
So is this the end of my grand adventure? Will life sweep me to Tokyo or Rome or Prague or London or NYC or California? Maybe. That’s not really what I want though. I want to go walk on the Mall for the thousandth time and not take it for granted. I want to plaster my apartment with travel pictures and drink wine and eat cheese and olives in the National Sculpture garden and have friends over for a tasting. I want to go to happy hours for liberal, conservatives, and libertarians and laugh and joke at the ridiculousness of this crazy world. I want to go see my favorite statue of the greco-roman buddha and lose myself in thought at the loggia in the freer-sackler galleries. I want to look into his blue, blue eyes again. I want to jam to my Ipod, wearing flip flops and a business suit, commuting to work with a smile on my face, knowing that this is not all there is, but thank God, this is mine.
Unless He has other plans.
I don’t want to lose myself in novelty and give up everything for the thrill of the cahse. I want to be presen in my life, a soul already on a journey, and know that no two days will ever be the same.
I want to look at a picture of Prague with a sigh, but look around me knowing I’ve already found my treasure.
I want to draw, paint, or maybe just write poetry and play the paino again, and know that creativity is not something that ends in America and I can be an intellectual in this center just as well.
I don’t want to long for a romantic, storied past. I want to live in today’s Mecca, the capital city of the free world, as some will say, I want to make my difference in the world annd enjoy my life. Enjoy the passing of the seasons.
One day, I do hope and pray and BELIEVE that I will run into that Lover to end all others. I will kiss the last lips I will ever kiss, I will gaze into that last pair of eyes, I will giggle and smile and flirt, maybe even knowing it is the last time I’ll go on this particular kind of adventure. I will love someone believing that it is without end again, knowing my heart will break into a million pieces if I am wrong. And someday, maybe unexpetedly, it will be Him, and he will love me so much, and I will wonder why I ever worried about finding him.
And I’ll be so happy to have found that last pair of eyes and lips, and the only hand that can ever really fit mine this way. One journey will end, and so many others will begin.
I will not always be young. I will have commitments. All the plentipotentially of existence will still be there inside me, but my life will be less and less of a blank canvas. I will have to make a more and more intricate design, amidst the already existing smiles and heartbreaks, the loves lost and found, the poetry and the food and the friends, those talks that left a lasting impresion on me, those sights that made my life to see, my mother’s smile, the only mother I will ever know, and my father’s laugh, still the funniest man I’ve ever met. There will be more and more fixed and solid to me. Though I will always be free and my wings, though folded, can never be lost, the paradise I build on the ground will make me slightly less wont to use them. I will be happy, I will be content, I will stop searching.
An era will end. I will get married, a baby will be born. i hope to have the privilege of growing old. And everything that seems to me like a giant ending, like I own’t even be the same person any more and things will be blah and boring and repetitive will actually be even more colorful and strange and exciting than this almost formless section of my life, and every now and then something will be shaken up, shaken not stirred, and there will be a tremendous renewal again. My soul will not let my life decay- it will just keep renewing itself like a spring, steady in its flow but trul y never the same stream twice. Fluid, yet constant, steady, torrential, formless, endless.
The career that is the biggest constant, the biggest arena of change and renewal and bpossibility, that will solidify a bit. Especially with this job. The main colors of the canvas will be chosen, and the random elements will seem more and more out of place. Though I’ll be able to keep improvising, and transforming, I will become something, somebody, more and more. I won’t be able to hide from my true self. It will be harder and harder to take a great leap, and I won’t want to. Things will seem more and more similar but I’ll go into greater and greater depth. Hopefully I will always stay a bit of a beginning, but I’ll also become a virtuouso, an expert. Instead of searching for latent talents, I’ll be practicing, day after day. I will be known for something. I will be more than the listener in the orchestra, wondering which instrument she’d like to play. I will be the virtuouso on stage, and the maestro of the whole orchestra of everything I’ve been. But I’ll still be the wondrous kid in the audience too.
I’m afraid to get older sometimes because I’m afraid of lose the freshness and vitality of youth, the dynamism of all I have been, and the neverending horizon of who I could become. And I’m petrified of makign the wrong turn, of getting away from myself. But more and more, courage replaces fear, and I realize that somewhere deep and side, I am still five years old, and I still want to be an artist. And I am, even if not in the way I originally thought.
And these days, I’m a littles less scared. I will be a good grown up. And even if I don’t still play with Barbies, or go in the pool even when it’s cold, or boogie board, I will be a kid. Even if I’m not living in France, I’ll be an explorer. And you know what? Sometimes you just have to let go.
I really don’t know what’s coming for me. More and more, life has caused me to admit not so much my powerlessness, but that there is a much higher Power than me involved.
I am genuinely sad Paris didn’t work out. But I am relieved too, to know that I will have solid roots here before I go. And that I won’t sacrifice everything to get there. I found that there were things that I valued more than that particular adventure. And that’s ok.
Is it a dream? Yes? A dream deffered? Maybe?
But more than anything, it was lovely. And it will come back to me someday, I’m sure.
I will figure it out.
with the help of God of course.
I’m gettig somewhere.
Maybe there won’t be this giant life altering course change I expected. There are a lot of things I still love, maybe more than I expected to, and there are still more things out there to discover. I pray God for the grace of discernment. And for love. And to find and be love in all things.