So I have just got back from vacation with an American friend. It was very different from what I’d consider travelling or backpacking, not a lot of doing and a lot of eating and sleeping and shopping, but it was fun. We went on a cruise in the Greek isles and did touristic stuff and despite my backpacker mentality, it was fun.
The cruise, while not all that expensiv considering it covered decent food and a room for each day, did nickel and dime for many things, not least of which was internet- an hour cost 30 dollars, while an unlimited package was about 180 for the week.
I forewent the internet and got a massage instead. Not to mention plenty of other splurges.
Going without internet for that period of time, especially at that particular moment in my life, was one of the best things I”ve done for myself in a long, long time.
I was happy to come home and not just for the internet, I was really happy to come back to my everyday routine, which is really not so bad. It ripped the band aid off of
Living with out internet, ripped off some bandaids and helped things come to lightsome thighns I obsess about but rarely actually think about: I miss my family and friends, I am lonely sometimes. and I would like to be in a romantic relationship.
I had a lot to think about, not least of which is my future in france. It’s possible for me to stay, although there doesn’t seem to be much room for improvement in salary or title, and I probably don’t have a long term future at my company. That is to say, I think that if I was doing what I’m doing now a year from now, I would be bored. And while I have thought that maybe if my social and romantic life was going awesome and I was enjoying the proximity of the wonders of the Western world and travelling often, that might be enough, in fact, I don’t think it is.
In some ways, my social and emotional life here feels somewhat stagnant. I tis not easy to meet people. At this point, I have yet to meet a French guy who really shares my mentality, and I know in my heart I don’t want to be with the average French guy who couldn’t really live outside of France. I still adore my old friend Captain America, who continues to be my close friend, love me from afar, and in a brief moment, recently said it all in just one word.
It’s not the fact that maybe we would be together that makes me think I would perhaps have better romantic luck outside of France, not to mention I’d be swimming in a sea of more similar fishes and maybe it would be raining grade A all-American beefcake kind of men, it’s the fact that after all this time and effort into living in France, I still don’t necessarily see myself staying here.
And that’s ok.
I don’t really love it any less.
Things are good here, and they won’t necessarily be “better” elsewhere, there are no guarantees.
But what I do know is that I want some room to grow. I know that if I tried, I could find it here, but the truth is that I don’t want to. I want to move back to America in my heart of hearts. Not because it’s too hard to live here, or because I couldn’t get everything I wanted here, or even because France is in decline or at least, not as strong economically. I know that I could carve out a niche here, though it would probably take a lot of extra work.
The truth is, this isn’t my dream.
I have many dreams, and simpler things like falling in love and having my own family one day are part of them. I do’nt have a very specific career dream at this point, but I do want to keep learning and growing and advancing.
Sometimes by staying in the same place, you are not just treading water but actually learning to be. Sometimes just being is enough.
This is not one of those times.
What I actually want, besides great love and a baby, I am not sure. It’s not just that I want to win and continually do “better,” by some benchmark of money and career. I know that that alone won’t fulfill me.
But what I do know is, I want to be a good leader. And this is a clear connecting thread from herding interns in DC to speaking up at a town meeting as a child to substitute teaching to running my projects at work now. And in order to lead, you have to learn, and be willing to do the right thing and be uncomfortable. It can be a lonely road when you are going for excellence. You can’t just stay at a comfortable plateau like the vast majority of people do – and honestly, there is nothing wrong in doing that, as long as you plan for the future and don’t expect it to last forever.
My american friend told me that by living in France, I was postponing my adult life and a b school profesor told me the same thing as well. I told her that I was facing many challenges of adult life in a very difficult place and my life here was anything but easy as a reasult, and I told my professor that maybe life is not all about advancing. However, the words stung, because they were partially true.
The truth is that I have tried to hide from things I find painful, at home and abroad and within myself: feeling like I don’t really fit within my family or among people I am supposed to be similar to, afraid to form new solid relationships for fear they will end and fear of rejection, and afraid to choose the wrong path. I also am afraid of missing out- on the pyramids, Barcelona as a single lady, 1000 places to see before you die, etc.
All normal things. It’s clear to me that living in France has been like Odyseus’ journey home to Penelope, and I am so enriched by the experience that ultimately, it won’t matter if I make a giant circle. Living is a giant circle. And there’s no reason to skip to the end.
So when I ask myself, why not stay another year while I can? The answer is no, because I don’t think I’ll ahve the room to grow which I need to put down roots. And though I find myself Frenchier and Frenchier, in reality, I don’t think I want to become French and though I hesitate to pass judgement as my feelings and thoughts continue to evolve, at this point their values are not my valus. I admire their culture and their beauty and their food and their language, but ultimatley, I do not want to become French.
Or rather, I do like being a little bit French but that is enough.
I don’t love it any less.
In fact, I love it more posibly. I am living in the city of my dreams, and my dreams have become a reality, and yet, I am not going to cling to it. It seems my dreams and relaity are going elsewhere.
All I can say, is, Thank you for he journey, for the memories.
For the time I walked out of an emergency room, had nobody to call, rejoiced in having enough money to pay for a cab and so happy to have found a good job with good insurance, and hauled myself up six winding flights of stairs with a sore, painful, twisted ankle.
Thank you for the time that those pesky neighbors tried to get us thrown out for being too loud and appealed directly to the headmistress instead of just asking us to keep it down.
Thank you for my boss who has taught me what it means to work with people and take institutions as they are, and still get stuff done with a smile on your face.
Thank you for enforcing certain standards of beauty and culture even down to the level of school and cafeteria lunches, and for your commitment to proper language and keeping it beautiful.
Thank you for correcting my grammar and being honest with me that I should eat less.
Thank you for teaching me that life doesn’t need a purpose, it is a purpose in itself.
Thank you for teaching me not to revel in past glories or make the mistkae of thinking my way is the only way.
Thank you for showing me that there’s always an incredibly typical asshole- and at least 3 people who come to my aid when the need arises, ever so kind when it is most needed.
Thank you for being a little chilly at first because you don’t fake friendship and you know it takes time to grow.
Thank you for teaching me that freedom and choices aren’t exactly the key to happiness.
Thank you for proving to me that the easy and comfortable way is usually not the best path.
Thank you for showing me that even though everything may not be possible at all times, there is always a path available and it’s your attitude as much as the choice taken that matters.
Thank you for teaching me to slow down, and showed me the perils of being sad for no reason instead of happy for no reason.
And thank you for helping me to find- and create- myself.