In the past few months, I have realized taht one of the best parts of my life so far was also one of the most hmble, as well as one of the hardest.
When I was an English teacher in rural France and suffering from real isolation, not having very much money, my first time really away from home and school where I had to deal with all my crap and learn to cook, I had a really simple, mostly peaceful life. It was only the drama within that marred it, and the feelings of loneliness. But because of that time period, I have become such a take no shit, no holds barred, do whatever the fuck I want kind of person? Go to Rome by myself? Why not? And how about Krakow and Madrid too…
Just before that big adventure, I got the news that I got into a good business school, which more or less meant that I could have a stable, middle class life and respectable job. How I envied the 17 year old hostellers and the gap year kids, even a little bit the long term nomads, when I was about to start a boring, predictable, stable, financially secure life. Although the school was in France, so I was really not exactly getting tamed by any means.
but the thig is, myself and so many people in my life always thought of me as pre-domesticated and “likely to succeed.” I was the conscientious student, athlete, club officer, instrument player, etc in high school. My curiousity and ambition knew no bounds. I just assumed if I could only get into the right college, life would be simple for me. I’d marry my high school boyfriend, have a great career, and a couple of kids. Probably on the young side.
Well the high school boyfriend became history- he should have gone a long time before when it turned out his happy go luckyness andbeing laid backwas more like a total lack of motivation and lifeskills, not to mention that when someone asked me how I felt about him, I really couldn’t say. The final straw, the thing that puled the trigger, was meeting a philosophizing neuroscience major who loved French movies.
I made up a French screen name to chat with him on Aim.
As it turned out, this almost relationship was built on illusions, and self delusion from the start. He wasn’t everything I cracked him up to be and way more complex of a person tthan I could really handle. He was my obsession, always wondering if he’d ever cared for me to. I was obsesed with the question, and when we finally got togethe, I still never felt scure. When the moment finally came that he was mine, the thrill wore off fast but I couldn’t imagine letting him go after all our shared history and all my precious illusions. Finally, the very first time we really went out to a restaurant together and he paid, it was quite clear we had nothing to talk about. By that time, there wasn’t even much of a physical entoxication either. But the saga still went on…
Until I told him I’d be going to Washington for the summer. And he failed to appreciate anything I did on that date, including making sure he had a little something for his birthday and a bit of brownie. He felt uncomfortable with it all. And it was clear that we should break up, and I was finally at the point where I let him do it. The triger? When I put my ice cream cone on a public restaurant in between bites, proving that I am a filthy person and a germaphobe such as him could never stand to be with me.
Loss aversion is a funny thing. I feel like our date continued after that, maybe, not sure. I remember finally telling him somethings that had finally been on my mind for a while, and ultimately letting him go. I know he sounds all bad in this description but he really wasn’t. He gave me back the birthday present, worried about me spending money on it. I let him keep it (it was like $15 from tjmaxx and thankfully it wasn’t a huge deal for me).Eventually I cut all ties with him, though it took a long time for the drama to be over.
At one point he sent me a text that let me know just how much he thought he could manipulate me, rying to make a booty call. I cursed him out and told him I wouldn’t be controlled anymore, and he responded something along the ilines of, well you must feel really proud of yourself now huh?
Funny how I don’t easily remember, partially because I have blocked it out a bit and partially because it doesn’t matter any more.
He continued to try to get in touch with me, at year long intervals, long after I had put it behind me. At one point he wanted me to go back to college and visit his old professor with him.
I should mention that this guy’s life really unraveled in the time I knew him. He eventually cut himself off/got cut off by his parents entirely. He stopped wanting to be a doctor after I asked him why- guess he did’t want to be one that muh anyway except probably to please his parents and have money- and he went from being a fine student to having to barter with a teacher in his major to give him a c so he could graduate. He became obsessed with wanting to be in media and eventually found his way in. I think he’s a freelancer/unemployed now but not sure. He had done a lot of good stuff along the way and moving frm science to something softer was a bg transition for him. Highly symbolic you might say.
I often forget about him and just brush it off as a crazy thing that happened in the wake of my breakup with ex boyfriend, who had given me diamond jewelry, split christmas between my family and his (I loved his family- they were all really well educated adn smart and open-minded. His gransparents are the first people I knew who traveled). and by the way, ex boyfriend had a bit of mental problems triggered by the break up. He was in a psych ward when I called him a few weeks later to see how things were going, since he was really my best friend, and continued to struggle with getting through college and stuff. Last I heard he has joined the navy. His family connected with me on linkedin and his grandpa wished me well on the day that happened to be my graduation from my mba.
So ifinally I got in touch again with D the french film lovign “semi-rebound” “toxic relationship” guy to make nice and kind of clear the air as well as assert that I’d been hurt.. He eventually came around and apologized. Which was huge for him, even if I didn’t think I needed it anymore. It felt good, like a chapter had ended.
So anyway the summer after the final breakup with D after a go around of about 3 years I was in DC and I met C. Who I adored up until I don’t know, a week or two ago. He was everything I thought I wanted and thought I should want, with a bit of wounde hero to him (seems to be a bit of a thing for me- the best thing about D was always his moralistic intransigence. And he always had a hard time receiving my love) he was open-minded, conservative, religious, feminist, and adorably in touch with his feminine side in a hyper masculine former Marine body. And an economist to boot. How the angels sang. And I felt this weird empathetic connection with him which I didnt’ consider remarkable really until later. At the time I was used to teacher and being around students and being able to “hear “their thoughts and emotions but I don’t think I’ve found an adult since who I felt as keenly as him. I never doubted that he had feelings for me, and I still don’t doubt it, evne though he has cut me off and purposefully not included me in his Facebook once he reactivated it, but, he did the best possible thing for me by letting me go. I deleted all our emails and google hangouts and the one picture I had of him, and it felt like the right thing to do. I do feel like we will se each other again or at least that I will hear from him again eventaully. Just today I began to feel compassion for him rather than wishing to hurt him as he hurt me. I do hope that loop closes someday as it did with D. But looking at him honestly now, he was never quite right and I knew it. It wasn’t just the timing. The version of me that could have been with him was never brought to the light, and never could have been. The thing that made the connection so real, and so longlasting, is that it could never be. Though there was always a possibility. In seeking for an absolute, believing he was “the one,” I effectively created a situation where he couldn’t be the one, because I wouldn’t take no for an answer and pursued him to the point where he had to cut himself off entirely from me. And i’m sure he still had some residual feelings, and being a romantic, probably didn’t want to entirely let it go. And we were friends and were intimate. A tangled, beautiful, futile, and deceptive mess.
But looking at this newly discovered facebook, no he doesn’t have to be the one, and the fact that I was looking for someone like him probably says a lot more about the person I thought I should be and should want to be with and the idea that I should at some point come home, that without coming home I couldn’t find love or money or stabilityy or grow up and be real, than it does about the kind of peson I absolutely have to be with . And as much as I do at some point enjoy the dark and mysterious and he was really for the most part a well-adjusted person, even under the best circumstances a relationship between us would have been tough. But it was tough to let him go, and the innocent, pre-France, still perfectionistic and ambitious Megan go with him. It can be hard to admit how much you’ve changed. Despite beig a somewhat well traveled guy, and having a good job, I have certainly outtraveled him and have more of a worldly perspective. Doesn’t mean i’m better or worse, just that we are different. And what it takes to connect with me now, I’m not even sure.
And then now there’s a guy I don’t even want to write about because I don’t want to create another drama. But I do desire him and have a little crush even on him, at least lust, and I enjoy talking with him and having fun with him. He’s on his own dark and mysterious path as a yoga doing spiritual seeking enlightenment kind of guy. He’s not effeminate, but he’s not a Marine either, and he pronably wears about half what I do. But we can be masculine and feminine together, and I’ve got a lot in common with him. He’s French and speaks English well, and also has lived abroad, so it is not hard to express myself with him, and he’s blunt as well. At the moment, travel and adventure is a main prioirity for him and he plans to move to Brazil, maybe forever, though he loved Australia.
I’m a little shocked that someone who is so not my type and so the opposite in some ways (though inwardly the same) as the guy I was obsessed with for years could get the slightest rise out of me.
It’s interesting to watch my mind try to concoct some sort of a story around this guy, if only because it would be an interesting twist in the plot line, and it would be nice to think that something I’ve long logned for could be within my grasp. I am tired of waiting, and yet, less sure than ever of what I seek. Also, I’m trying hard to come to grips with the parts of myself I haven’t really accepted yet, that I have long tried to deny, that I tried to hide from in my obsession with C.
The truth is, I don’t know when or if or how I want to go home. I don’t kno whow long I will accept the many disadvantages of living in Frane, especially when it come to finances and being away from my family. But I do know that what I want to do now is travel. Sometimes it seems perfectly nromal and good enough to stay her and ocntinue to grow with my current company- that’s what I want now anyway. But it also feels like an enormous risk- because by doing that I am letting a part of myself go that was always looking for higher faster stronger more, better optimal.
And by stayin gin France I am renouncing one of the easiest, surest paths for ambition, in order to travel, remain immersed in another country and culture that are far from strategic, and have greater work life balane.
The truth is I feel incredibly attached to France, and live it very much. Sometimes I hate the French but love France. And above all, I love the French language. I haven’t even read all the greats of French literature.
I am here and I don’t know why.
I though the quest would be over at the end of my contract, but it’s only just begun.
And I am breathing a sigh of relief, because I don’t want to go back to real life. Even though this is becoming my “real life,” and there’s no escaping my flaws or pecadillos or the anxietty of the human ondition. I want my real life to be travel, or expatriation, and vacation has become “going home.”
I thought at the end of this year or two of living in Paris, I’d be cured of wanderlust and ready to embrace hard working, comfortable, stable suburban or city life. That I’d want to give all this up.
That I would be forced to, for love, for money, for family, for career. most likely, by ambition or nostalgia. Or sheer loneliness.
But Praise God, I haven’t.
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, beause I have had to though so many things off my boat just to keep afloat. That’s probably a big reason of why I came here.
And yet I feel like the quest isn’t over, and may not ever be. Maybe I will go back to the US and be completely happy to do so, or at least excited about it, or mayb e I will jet off somewhere else, be it Belgium or Brazil. Who can tell?
Personally, I don’t want to know, I want to keep improvising and letting life surprise me. I dono’t want a five day plan, let alone a five year plan.
I don’t want to go on Match.com and order my perfect man and meet him for happy hour at Friday’s.
Sometimes the control freak in me does though..
I want to meet him on the top of a mountain, and find he is everything I ever wanted yet nothing like I ever expected.
I want to through away the maps, the measurements, even the compass. The needle has already started spinning out of control, and “true North,” seems to have switched directions. Sometimes I can’t tell “where” home is anymore, only who.
I”ve stopped lamenting for the roots and the routines and the certainties I’m not growing in the ground, and realized that they are the invisible lines that hold me up when I fly. My roots are somewhere in the heavens.
Anchors away my friends! Let’s mix some metaphors! Shatter those stone idols! Stop worshipping the golden calf…
And give up self improvement in favor of self liberation, self realization, self actualizaion…ahh what a luxurious and joyful and healthy thought! All change comes through acceptance!
I don’t know who I am, I barely know who I have been, but knowing that I know nothing and life is a mystery, that is everything!