I always thought I would go back to real life. Real life for me was demarcated as being back home in America, but it really meant this place where everything could be easily plotted out into five year plans and things to do lists. It was a place of goals, often ambitious, and it felt safe, no matter that I struggled with finding my self worth and always wanted to be best, th emost unique, and never felt special. Not because I lacked love or people to boost my ego and laud my achievements, but because I didn’t realize, never having broken a rule or failed in a way I couldn’t rationalize, that there was more to me than that.
I accepted that others had a cool character whereas for myself I felt kind of generic. I looked to having a favoriteband or color, or food, or even a preferred flaw to give me identity. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, ever.
Except maybe save the world, partially out of a sense of guilt and partially out of self-importance/searching for relevance. I always wanted to make a difference, and I did in fact start with myself- there have always been and still are so many things I want to change.
And then, for lack of anything better to do, at least as I saw it, I went to France to teach English. The whole time I was plagued with anxiety over hwt to do when I got back and the meaning of life, boredom, and loneliness. I looked forward to my real life starting, much as I felt a twinge of regret when I went on a backpacking trip, alone, for the first time, and already knew I had grad school acceptance offers on the table and I could look forward with some optimism to a bright and financially secure future.
But while I went to get my MBA, which I chose because of the opportunities it presented to study abroad, I felt like an imposter and a phony. A sell out. But more than that, I questioned the whole enterprise of goal setting and rule following, and found that when I made it to the big show, it still seemed like the big leagues must be somewhere else. NOt unlike when I first visited Harvard, and expected the brain ways to hit me but found much of the campus pretty prosaic if aestheticlaly pleasing. There were incredible lectures and thigns going on and ostensibly brilliant people, but this was still on earth despite its Olympian prestige.
And I fell in love with France again, as a student. It did seem like Elysian fields being able to speak French and English and being surrounded by brilliant people from all over the world, who really appreciated me as I was, open and curious and the fact I cared about theworld. I was dating someone and I didn’t want to leave.
But I did, since it was much better for my future and afforded the opportunity to go to Asia. I felt like a sell out once again, but even the people at school urged me to continue on since Paris would still be there when I got back.
Feeling like I was really horrible, I nursed my pain in unhealthy ways such as eating too much and procrastinating. I felt horribly alone. Every day was a drama.
FInally I finished school and nearly refused to go to graduation, believing that going to b schoolw as the biggest mistake of my life and I could care less about seeing my classmates. I’m glad I went, if at the time it was mostly for my parent’s sake. I do care about those people.
Even with school finished, I continued to be a bit crazy and delusional and gain weight. The gloom I felt before was now laced with panic, at the idea I needed to figureout quite wuickly what I wanted to do and get a job. Despite my efforts, nothing seemed to work out in Paris and it felt impossible. I started to think about going back to Washington and doing a political related job as I had always imagined myself doing. Only to realize it wasn’t what I wanted, at least nto considering how difficult it would be to break into and how even mid career professionals were struggling financially. THere just seemed no reason to suffer and I realized that the work there could be boring too- perhaps my passion had moved elsewhere. And I knew, knew, knew I wanted to go to Paris.
Like a bolt out of the blue, a chance acquaintance of a family member introduced me to my current boss in Paris. There were delays adn struggles making me start work about three months later than anticipated. I wondered if I had made the right decision before my visa came through and considered looking for a new job, not sure if Paris was worth the seemingl abusive delays and shitshow of it all. ALso, the guy I had been thinking of for about two-three years as the ideal man was finally going to meet up with me after two failed attempts the same week I ended up leaving.
I thought I was just going for a year, and I tried to keep in touch with him. I found it very hard to adjust. My old friends were all busy. I live in a very tiny apartment even for Paris. I didn’t feel like a professional and my job was less interesting than when I’d been an intern. I realized there was more to life than Paris and planned my escape. THe doom and gloom hadn’t lifted even in the city of lights, even after getting my heart’s desire.
And then I had a bit of a spill and had to stay in to let my ankel heal, and that gave me a new lease on life and made me feel very grateful for things in general. I stopped hatin gon France in part because of the compassionate care I received. Things were looking up.
And a few months later I asked to extend my contract, and my boss was glad to have me.
I’m a bit more settled in and have found some expat networks. Things are looking up, in general, although each month brings its unexpected crisis, partially a result of failure to plan on my part.
I am proud to be AMerican but prefer the French way of life in many ways. I’ve made many many misstakes along this path, but it could be a sign of growth. I do want to stay in Paris.
But France is not a refuge against the real world; if anything, it is an intensification of the quarterlife crisis and wondering what should I do here and how will I justify it to myself? I could probably make more money and have better career progression elsewhere, though I’m not sure at what cost. Right now I”m happy with my job for the most part.
I one thought that the goal of all of this was to get the wanderlust out of my system and someday become normal. The thing is, it’s a question of where you want to deal with the little disasters and annoyances of daily life, and where you want to be yourself. Because now I am in now way a dream deferred self awaiting for her real life to begin, this is it. ANd I am suffering from pressure and self doubt something awful, especially since I took the road not taken and thought that being in Paris would finally make me happy. It has and it hasn’t.
But for the moment, there’s no place I’d rather be, and nothing I”d rather be doing.
And that is enough.
ANd I am enough, and until I believe that and leave all my guilt and shame behind, all I’ll ever do is apply analgesic to the primordial wound. And Ineedto have thehumillitay to listen when my soul speaks.
My soul want a bold an d daring life of adventure and love; it wants friends and family and a journey without end; it wants to appreciate the present moment and not be afriad to stay. It wants to know that it is not in following my impulses that I will be happy but rather in listening to and owning my deepest desires. And most of all, I won’t be truly successful until I acknowledge my ownworth- which I am doing better, day by day.
Once you’ve stepped out of the box, it’s impossibel to go back in the box. And it’s tempting to imagine the possibilities for what could be and might have been and punish yourself for every imagined mistake. and most of all, for loves you don’t fully understand and perhaps are afraid to, and afraid of.
I’ve been looking for home, and I won’t know until I ‘ve found it. ANd even when I think I may have found it, life is inherently unstable.
There’s more to life than mere Paris. I won’t stay here if I can’t have the other things I want and deserve- just to live here without having friends and a thriving career I don’t think would be fulfilling. ANd yet,
Paris ne vaut rien mais rien ne vaut Paris.
ANd maybe it will be possible to have it all. Now that I know what “it all” is.
A little more faith and trust, of self especially, and a little pixie dust could make it all work out, if I can just let go of the past, if I can let the future take care of myself, and if I can just let it be, let me be me, right here right now.