This has been an incredibly hard lesson for me to learn. I like winning, if for no other reason than that it helps me feel worthwhile. It’s not so much that I need to win to feel better than others, as I need to feel like I am winning to feel worthy in general, whereas for other people I think they have other qualities. For me, in my own mind, it largely boils down to successs or failure in the ongoing competition between me vs the world.

I’ve decided I want to stay in France, despite the many ways it which it may not be ideal for the building of material wealth, a career, any illusion of stability, etc. I’ve felt extremely conflicted about it, and just plain guilty and ashamed of not being normal. This has been a pervasive feeling throughout my life though, not just about France, but since my motives for living in France, besides it being fun and adventurous (although I have a corporate job and many elements of a routine life) are unclear at times even to me, the mind vs heart dillemma has hit very hard. And I think about all that I am sacrificing, not only on behalf of myself but also for my family and those I care about, by taking the road less traveled.

But I”m not willing to regret it on my deathbed either. And I hope that no one will ever sacrifice for me in a way they would regret. And so often we use our feelings of responsibility as others as a crutch to avoid going after our dreams. Not always- of course there are moments where real sacrifice is necessary and desierable- and then there are others where you just have to have the balls to live your own life. I know my parents miss me, but they’re proud of me, my mother especially.

So if life isn’t about money, wealth, fame, power, or even just trying to be stable and secure, or RESPONSIBLE as it is defined for us in terms of material things and not in terms of existential ones, what is it about?

I’m still trying to figure it out. I still like material things. I want to be a millionaire, but I”m not willing to sacrifice certain things that are really important to me to do it. I”m not willing to trade my precious time I can’t get back for money I can’t take with me. I know people say it’s all about delayed gratification but that’s bs- all we have is the here and now.

And yet I’m purposefully not stuffing my face with cake so I can be healthy now and stay healthy for years to come- but pleasure is not happiness, and being addicted to any type of pleasure is not freedom. FOod should not be what is making me happy, and taking care of myself is anothe rexistential thing that’s really important. NOt just to wear a certain size or look a certain way, though those things are nice, but because I don’t want to waste one second on earth. One brownie is worth it- I’d rather live in moderation even if it’s not extremely healthy or so the health freak people say, though luckily in France no one asks you to give up pleasure from food- but the second brownie is not even really enjoyed, but you can’t go without it. It is taken out of compulsion, not genuine desire. And recognizing the difference between the two is hard.

Success is often a compulsion- especially when it comes to money and stuff. If one area of your life is going incredibly compared to some imaginary standard, why not towo or three, why not all of them? o wait, WHY NOT ALL OF THEM??!?!?! What is wrong with you? Don’t waste a moment being mediocre. What are you doing with your life?!?!

GOing to CrossFit is incredibly hard for me, not just physically, but psychologically. I am nearly always the worst in the class. Due partially to an injury and partially to being down in the dumps and partially to laziness, I haven’t gone to the gym in a long time. It’s just so painful to go and feel so inadequate. Not to mention the time to get there and getting into a class and everything. NO one at the gym has been anything but nice and understanding of me, and all the pressure comes from within. The truth is that once I started thinking I should have gotten somewhere, it became alot less fun. And comparison is the thief of joy. And at some point, I wonder if I have just taken on too much.

I still feel like I”m getting slammed against the rocks by the current everyday. It’s not necessarily France, it’s just everything.

My ego is slowly going to pieces. That’s the weight I guess I really need to lose.

I have lost so many cherished, precious illusions this year. And i do feel more free, but less stable, less in control. Many of my “once I get X, I will be happy,” illusions are shattered, such as

1 someday i will meet C again adn we will be together forever adn there will be no more tears or sorrow and my life will be complete.

2 love will come because I deserve and I’m no longer vulnerable enough to expect or need it.

3 being in paris will make me happy

4 having a boyfriend will make me happy

5 i can only have a full life in america

6 in order to grow up, i must become like my parents

7 i am selfish and stupd to follow my dreams

8 there is something wrong with me for going beyond the norm

9 someday my experience in france will fix me to the point where i want to go home and finally feel like i belong.

10 there is an end to adventure and a beginning of routine, stability, and  “responsibility”

11 i am not capable of dealing with the challenges o fadult life

12 i am so smart i am stupid

13 i am not worthy of love withoutperfectingmy body

14 my success or failure in life is determined by my body size

15 i can only be loved and desired if i lose weight

16 i can only have a good relationship with an american man

13 i am single because no one wants me. WRONG- i am single ebcause I haven’t found anyone worthy of me or my time yet

14 love is not the most important plotline in the world, or the biggest story in life (even a great love story). “know thyself” would be a better synopsis

15 i have no skills and no real world value

16 my inexperience means i am stupid and was previously unqualified for a job

17 my inexperience prevents me from being good at my job and i will be less efective than more senior workers

18 work has to be your passion

19 corporate life has to be dull and people have to be really stale

20 people can be expected to reciprocate offers of friendship

21 i am not popular and dont’ have friends because i am not likable or worthy

22 there is something really wrong with me for wanting to live in france and having non typical goals

23 i should try to optimize the things i value rather htan living according to inner priorities

24 i am not prepared for life workig in a business and people will see through my fancy education to the awkward useless person i reallyam

25 the romance of paris will fade (it hasn’t yet)

26 i must be in control of my life at all times otherwise i dont doeserve good things.

Fortunately all of those statements are not true. I’m having a hard time internalizing their opposite, but I’m getting bolder.

And i’m realizing that you can’t expect more of people than the kind of person they are.

As long as I”m winning in my book, I will be a long ways ahead of omst of my classmates- but i can’t get snug about finding a spiritual path rather htan going for so called materialistic things. and travel can just be a form of spiritual materialism as it were.

Wow, I do feel better:

I think tha’ts the worst one, the feeling that it will just never get better and there will be no progress over time. Perhaps even more insidious though is my perenieal assumption that once i get the right path it’ll be smooth sailing both internally and externally, and otherwise I’m getting punished for being off course.

But some storms just can’t be avoided, and they are a sign of growth.

The past years have been painful for me.

In 2009, i decided to graduate from college a year early. because of this, i forewent study abroad (obviousy i made up for it in spades) and began to have a gap with my colelge friends, who i rarely speak with anymore anyway although i do still care about them. it was hard for me to figure out what i wanted to be when i grew up and still harder to figure out how to get hired to do anything.

my mentor told me, its important to distinguish between what you can do and what you want to do

only a year before I had broken up with the person i thought would be the love of my life, joined a sorority, quit forensics because it was too painful since i wasn’t winning trophys (since i lacked confidence) and was still in the midst ofa turbulent and often toxic relationship. still, he liked french movies. luckily i later found healthier ways to watch them.

In 2010, I graduated from college. my relationship with saidguy really coming to a head and making me really off balance. i feel like i stopped taking care of myself because i knew it was so important to him to be fit, and i wanted to be loved for who i really am, and i’ve never seen myself as an athlete. he didn’t love me and wouldn’t have any way i tried.

theday i graduated, theheavens poured. a very idyllic chapter of my life in general ended,but it was truethat some part of me had outgrown the quad.

In 2011, i struggled, did some assistant teaching, got an internshp in DC, met C who i thought was the one, and was introduced to the idea of going to business school. The idea of school appealed to me, as did being masterof somethingandgetting the kind of credential that would allow me to one day answer the kind of adsI read in the economist. offered an introduction to a promising startup, i declined in favor of teaching english in france, what seemed like a once in a life time opportunity to get the travel bug out of my system a bit and perfect my french, which I’m still doing today. the day i got my teaching assignment is when i fell in love with C.

In 2012, i struggled with isolation from my roommates and country life in rural france, but i loved it. i struggled to discern my life purpose and what would be a good career. I appied to b schools (actually that was late 2011) and ultimately got in to two with a component in france, hoping to leverage off my language and culture skills. and mabe not quite ready to bid adieu forever to france.

i remember the day i got the decision letter, and i went out to a bar and ultimately had a wild time as a result. i was lonely and it felt sad to ahve a glass of wine to celebrate by myself, though I ran into a friend.

i remember my first trip alone shortly after, feeling relieved at having “a future,” yet also incredibly jealous of the young hostellers and the things i’d never even dreamed of doing and now was on the fast track to not doing. i feared getting even more lost than i was and pondered how people survived on pasta and crackers and pure solo travel for a year. i visited three countries and many cities by myself. i met a friend who wanted to become french.

despite having applied to business school i dind’t actually want to work at a business. i wanted to be at a think tank

in 2012-13, it was the biggest struggle so painful feeling like i’d sold out on my dreams. I left paris after a joyful semester studying there and feeling like I really belonged for the first time in my life. i left behind a dear lover boyfriend something i don’t know what. i had never felt so guuilty or ashamed of not knowing what i watned to do with my life, never more self righteous that i didn’t just want to work hard and make money, neverdid i feel so different from all the people around me who seemed to think practically rather than idealistically. i felt like i bluffed my way in and it was a mistake ot accept me, and then i realized i was just as good as anybody else there, and that made me doubt the institution even further. i was disgusted with the lack of rigor and critical thinking. i felt like someone who had gamed the system to pass go and collect 200 and i didn’t relly feel good about tht. and yet i realized some of these thoughts were not necessarily true. and i was hell bent on getting back to paris

2013 i almost refused to go to my graduation and didnt care much about whether i saw most of those people again however dear they really were. i was really upset and felt like i hadn’t done anything worth celebrating and yet i went if nothing else for my parents sake and to be gracious. i dont regret it. got a nice message from my x boyfriend’s grandpa who i loved on the day of the ceremony. started to feel like i should give up on france. went to dc and it was ok but it wasn’t where i wanted to be and just seemed strange and small after all my adentures.

i got a lead on a job in Paris, miraculously, and with a lot of grace, and compassion, got it. but there was still the issue of the visa- i started working six months after i was hired, about four months later than expected

2014 ups and downs of settling in to paris and wondering if i should settle and if i was setlign with my business job and with my specific job and my specific company and whether paris was worth a mess(e) after all. many times it didn’t seem to be. and then i sprained my ankel hard and ralized life is beautiful and i am one lucky duck. i also started indulging mself in more sensual pleausres.

continued to not try but want my weight to change and lose my stress. caught in a fog and isolated sometimes. despaired of ever integrated

and now 2015, after having rested during my vacation back in america for the first time in nine months, i was able to recognize th mantle of guitl and shame and am slowly taking it off, layer by layer, to see who is the person really inside. in the meanitme msot of th e time i’m killing it at work which makes me feel good but i’ve become afraid of going back to crossfit, artially bceause of the ankel, partially because i’m afraid of weighing down my partner, mostly because i haven’t gone in a while, and i wonder if i’d be beter of exercising at the gym near my current work

just a few dyas ago found out my temporary contract is not planned to become permanent.

and some days i feel like i did more important work as a teacher.

and the weekend before finding out my job was not as stable as i had been thinking, i realized i want to stay in france. as i have written of abndamently on this blog an d discussed with friends. this was just supposed to be a detour, and i keep prolonging it. feelng more and more sure that i didn’t make a wrong turn and am in the right place, at least for now. as mentioned, have been floored ot learn theres’ more to life than getting things perfect, being succceesful, “love, money, ambition etc.

feeling a little fraked out at my mortality and that i’m not getting any younger. and yet, i’m happy to feel like i’ve become a person and am not just a ball of primordial ooze.

and yet, a lot can happen much as time seems to go faster.

and i am, kind of more or less a real person.

and i am demanding no less than that all my dreams come true.

maybe not demanding, but i am not going to give up on my carer because i am in france.

i am not going to give up on all my other interestsand possible new directions just because mycareer seems to be promising.

andmost of all, i am not giving over my self worth to whether i have a man or not. it is not the crowning glory that will show me i’ve finally “made it,” while i look forwardto it, i am the hero in my own story, and love is just one thread of it, however transformative and profound. i will still be on my hero’s journey, there wil lstill be ups and downs

to be aliv eis to grow to grow is to risk to risk is sometimes to get hurt and to succeed is to pick yourself up when you’ev failed and allow ourself to be in a place you’d fail to begin with.

and to realize that it’s liberating to say, “i failed.” and just let it go but learn. but it’s untrue, unkind, and destructive to say, ” i am a failure.” and the more you say i am a failure, you can’t admit where you have failed but the second it stops being about your worth, you can see the world and yourself much more clearly.

i’ve realized that being around people is imporant, but not essential to living a healthy happy life

i’ve tralized that travel alone cannot always sustain  ou but i do love it

and i’ve realizedthatadventures have expiration dates, ad th second you finaish one thing another comes off, but the initial challenge ends, which is happy but still better sweet. sad to bury that person you used to be, sad to leave it all behindsometimes because tere were some good things in there after all.

and sometimes settlingfora  bit is the real adventure.

to mae a friend is perhaps life’s greatest and most important challenge.

i do have really good riends.

i’ve also decided that i want to be straightforwar dnad that’s who i am and what i care for.

and this year is the year i want to stop feeling guilty.

i want to be happy from the inside out.

i watn to stop wondering what i’m doing with my life and start living it. i want to stop pondering whether my life has any many or perhaps and start living and working well in stead. and msot of all, i noticed that someday, i have the guts to be a leader.

and yes, i can be trusted.

love,

MJ

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