Maybe I don’t have to save the world-
Maybe it’s enough to just see it.
Maybe I don’t have to teach the world to sing;
Maybe all I need to do is start singing,
and the world will sing with me.
Maybe wonder is enough.
Over the last few days I’ve entered a space that I have rarely if ever experienced before in my life. I think it comes with maturity and owning one’s choices.
God, my life is so amazing, no lies.
I love living in Paris.
I love my job.
I love the people I work with.
I love traveling, and I have the time and money to do it.
I love my body and am so grateful for my health.
I love my family and appreciate the support they give me.
Life is good.
So, I happened to book a few weekend trips that would give me just over 24 hours in my destination. I’ve observed that when I’m alone, I often get to everything I want to see, and begin to feel bored, within this period of time, so it seemed logical. Also, sometimes there is nothing more refreshing than getting on a plane and landing somewhere else. Really. Knowing that a new land is right there before your eyes and anything can happen.
But the truth is, if we open our hearts, anything can happen anywhere, anytime, and there is no need to get on a plane.
Getting on a plane can be an act of freedom, but it can also be something less than that- a withdrawal, an escape, a mask that enables you to remain a stranger, a one night stand.
When I left Paris to continue my studies in the US and Asia, literally going around the world, I figured it made sense to see if somewhere else would capture my heart. Even now, there seems to be new possibility glittering somewhere else, be it in London or Hong Kong or Dubai. And maybe Paris will not be the only place I ever live in my life from this point on. But when I really think about it, I don’t want to move. Even if I’ve seen the streets a million times, and things are not new in the same way. Even if it makes me another boring person who stays in the same place forever.
Sometimes I have gap year kid envy. Icould have done something like a gap year, although not in such an unconstrained fashion, but I chose not to because I felt the pressure to build a career. ANd the truth is that I did want, and do want, to build a career. THis is something that the romantic side of myself tries to deny, but can’t escape. It’snot ust because I have student loans that I continue to do the work that I do, it is because I genuinely like it. And the more I apply myself, the more I like and even love it. That’s not something I counted on.
It’s always hard for me to look at the road not taken and all the lives I’ll never lead. But the truth is that I think the life I have, with all the mistakes that I’ve made, is still the best one, probably.
The enormity of the fact that I could indeed live in France indefinitely, in Paris, just hit me. THere is no need to spend 24 hours in Seville when I could spend a lazy week there. There is no need to act as though I’m going to leave Europe and will never get another chance, that I’ll never have a vacation day. Because I have about 32 per year, not counting public holidays, which is mind boggling. Even considering I will use some to go home to see my family. Just wow.
There is more to feeling alive than a new city, a new country.
There is more to feeling alive than a new direction.
I think the direction I have taken is indeed the right one, and while at the moment i’m not getting paid for my memoirs or travel writing, I have a life that almost 500 people are happy to read about, and an idea for another blog.
Sometimes I ask myself why I don’t start a professional travel or lifestyle or whatever blog, and the truth is that I don’t need to. I think I need creative outlets, and being valued for my creativity is something I really yearn for. And yet, creativity comes in my forms.
Including spending a weekend at home and cleaning, which is what I really need to do.
Every time I clean my room my life changes, so we’ll see how it goes.
I’m more afraid of the change from getting my life in order than I am of getting on a plane and spending 36 hours in Istanbul by myself. I am more afraid of enjoying the place I live in, and trying to make friends and be accepted here, than I am of depending on the kindness of strangers in a foreign city where I don’t speak the language.
But there’s no need for that, because I do have friends here, I do have people to call up on the spur of the moment, I do have a lovely apartment that there’s even a TV now to veg out too, I do have goals and dreams that require staying stationary.
And most of all, I do love Paris.
Even if I don’t really understand why, and it has very little if anything to do with the Eiffel Tower or any of the landmarks that represent the city to other people. Even if sometimes the people are horrid. Even if coming here and back again has caused me to break myself down completely, and build up a new self.
I will not use travel and novelty as a drug to avoid the life I really want to be living- surrounded by friends, busy, productive, and in love with Paris and hopefully someone from here. I don’t have a life I need to escape from at all. I have to get over my shyness, and just show up for the life I have, and not think I am meant to be somewhere else.
Because I am not. Every feeling I am trying to escape will follow me anywhere I go, as was the case when I thought my inner conflicts would end when I moved to Paris. THey didn’t, and the Paris I moved to was not the same as the one I remembered. And yet, there’s no place I would rather be, and that makes me feel really vulnerable, so much so that I have done so much to avoid doing the things that I want, being the person I really want to be.
I can do it, I can show up in my life, I can stay, and experience the satisfaction that can only come from commitment. I can stay, and find the joy within myself.
I recently stumbled across the blog of another person with my first name. Hers is called “seeking somewhere.”
The numerology of my name says something about visiting many lands.
Strangely enough, this travel blogger has been to some of the places that I hope to visit soon- Turkey and the Caucasus, among others.
She is also not blogging for the money, and has a profession in the communications field as well.
realizing my surface similarities with this person made me realize more about how I am.
And my thoughtful blog name has come true!
I have become unlost through translation.
The English/French interface of fillefrancofun has led me out of the wilderness, and I do feel the most myself somewhere in between by native language and my chosen one.
Fillefrancofun is more than a pseudonym, it’s a way of life.
And I do feel that my layers of identity have showed me who I really am, or rather, created a new me, the seed of which was there all along.
This is not something I plan on growing out of, as I’d thought at first, nor do I want to. This is my mature, adult self, and it feels good, and right, and joyous.
Words are powerful. Use them wisely and don’t despair.
And thank God! I am so unlost.
Thank God for my lost times, and thank God, I am found, created, made, acknowledged, respected, understood, admired, LOVED. By me, of course.
And others 🙂
Thank you for following me.
I don’t think you can really love yourself until you say, it doesn’t really matter if I find someone who loves me, it doesn’t matter if I achieve success in my career, it doesn’t matter if people like me, and I don’t need someone to tell me I am good according to their book or revelation or what have you.
And I love myself now.
Enough to know it’s not a mistake on my part that led my planned date tonight to flake out and fall off the face of the earth.
Enough to truly believe that though I may be a mortal sinner in the eyes of the Catholic Church, but I am a beloved child of God and faithful servant nonetheless, even if not of their system of beliefs.
Enough to live my life, think my thoughts, and really be free.
There is wealth and there is freedom from worry over finances. There is being a perfect 10 and being a timeless beauty. There is performance and there is personal power.
It really feels like the first day of the rest of my life, again.
The chains that tried to bind me, to hold me down and stuck in the chains of my old, filthy, cobwebbed belief systems in the dark cave of depression- are broken and I have turned to gaze at the Light.
It was a long time coming, but finally I am free.
The Light was within me all along. Now, the only reason to seek is the joy of the journey, unfolding the rose of Truth one petal at a time.
There are many, many things I have had trouble letting go of and allowing myself to stop brooding and beating myself up over. I feel like it’s necessary to use all my analytical rigor to tear myself apart, and I must stand up to the knives of my inner critic in order to prove my worth, especially if I plan to apply the same scathing judgments to others. How else to know and enforce my values?
Well, I have been under the knife, and cut down the bones of my soul.
After undergoing such self doubt, destruction, and cruelty, I have to say that I found the harsh penances I had meted myself out completely undeserved. It’s only been with time and distance, as well as calmness and self kindness, thatI”ve been able to see clearly.
And from this vantage point, I never really did anything wrong. Even my worst mistakes had meaning and value in themselves, and ultimately worked out for my greatest success, joy, and meaning. My intuition, and not my self doubt, is a worthy teacher. The kind voice I learned to hear during yoga goes much deeper and is way more effective than the inner torturer. Sometimes I feel mad at this internal menace, realizing how ridiculous it was to allow negative thoughts to dominate my life, but in the end, I realize I was only doing the best I could at the time, and testing out a belief system to find my own through trial and error. The truth is that the negativity and self doubt got into me from without. From sometimes well meaning family and friends trying to socialize me to ensure my survival, successs, and acceptance from the larger world (read: conformity), to the self improvement industry that makes billions of our insecurities, to the larger message heard throughout our world today that you will never be enough or have enough, you are inherently less than others, and you must work hard to avoid mistakes while accepting the inevitability of your failure since you are a hopeless wretch, since ONE WRONG MOVE will derail your whole life, and self worth is only to be found in perfection as defined by society.
I guess that’s not all my fault to feel in such a way 😉
Really, it’s not only me, it’s the world we live in, and I think it’s really important to recognize.
Yesterday, I decided to realy forgive myself, instead of making a new year’s resolution that would just be built on the shifting sands of my emotional highs and lows of seeking self worth through achievement. Because from a pragmatic standpoint, not to mention an emotional one, it’s really not working for me.
A long time ago, I heard a voice in my head telling me to stop trying to lose weight. I did, but remained conscious of my eating and exercise a bit and avoided some of the excesses of the modern diet while indulging myself from time to time, and I lost weight “without trying.” I have been trying to follow this method for the past three years, only to find my impulses have seemingly betrayed me,there is no enough anymore, and it seems silly not to try to lose weight when I gained back all the weight I lost and more.
Yet I find that even this seemingly false path has held a myriad of blessings. Despite being a case study in failure to control oneself and one’s results and a seemingly textbook example of magic thinking, the extra weight I have put on has forced me to realize my self worth is within, really, and no amount of worldly achievements including washboard abs or perfect healthy meal planning will ever change that. And that the people who love me still do, and those who criticize me for my weight (not talking about genuine concern here) are not only not respectful to me in doing so, but also revealing their own false beleifs and insecurities. A woman can’t really feel powerful until she has “fought the ‘man’ (who is more often a woman, I do believe) of the beauty police and won. Won not only in continuing to have a good, if not even better, sex life and level of self confidence than before, but finding spirituality and sensuality in the path of excess. By this I don’t mean that this is the appropriate path to follow to achieve enlightenment, or that cheeseburgers are a shortcut to orgasm, but that when you indulge your appetites, you find what you were always really hungry for- love, meaning, hope, confidence- in other words, God.
Sometimes it is only in reaching the end of a plate of fries chomped down mindlessly or the third lover of the week that one can realize that the pleasures of the senses have their limits, and “junk” food and lovemaking without love aren’t really all that satisfying.
So I don’t regret rebelling against the puritanical part of myself that insisted I was worth no more than my virtue, and my virtue consisted of not doing what I wnated in the moment to achieve some faraway and socially acceptable prize.
The other thing that I have realized is just how much I believed this lie, and was anything but poor in spirit as a result. Not charitable towards others, judgmental and mean to everyone including myself, when it really came down to it. An attitude to block love, like a skyscraper blocking the sun.
With the benefit of the time, I can say that my ceaseless hemming and hawwing and picking at myelf over whether I had made the right decisions in my lire, particularly in my adult life when I was supposed ot “know better,” particularly the seemingly contradictory conflicts over
Going in reverse order-
3) Well, this life is freakin awesome. I think even the biggest detractors see the beauty of it. And I only get one life. NO REGRETS. best decision I ever made.
2) It was a totally legit and awesome decision to leave Paris to see the Taj Mahal, great wall of China, and learn stuff in different settings. It was a brave, curious, adventurous choice to give up something I loved in order to better myself and see the world. A lot of my value add, bargaining power, and ability to work in France comes down to my “worldliness,” and the perspective I gained from those experiences is completely invaluable.
Paris didn’t go anywhere, and I am an active member of my alumni community. While I missed out on fun times with my classmates there, I also had an amazing experience in Asia and deepened my bonds with my American classmates, one of whom is one of the best friends I’ve ever had. I was just in her wedding. Another of my theories for why I put on 30 pounds in a year is that it all unraveled during the trip we took together, when I finally let loose and ate a whole bowl of cheeto like (but peanut flavored) snacks on vacation in Croatia with her. She is one of the few people who has succeeded in teaching me to relax and realizing that life is not a competition
1) Business school was a decision I made when facing the world as it is/was at the time. It was the best of the options I had, and while nomadic celebrity travel blogger may seem like the better choice, there’s no reason I still can’t do that if I really wanted to, and the truth is, I don’t. Going to business school RIPPED ME APART. Because it taught me something. It ripped me apart so hard, and taught me to cut things up so well with my analytical sharp like a knife mind that it has taken me a full two and a half years to more or less put a new self back together and feel justified in my decision to go there. It did not provide the “academic” rigor I was seeking and the people were completely different from me in some ways and completely similar in some of the most annoying ways- in other words, I learned a whole freakin lot. I was always good at writing papers, taking tests and playing the academic game, but business school brought out the worst of my anxieties- about my future, about my ability to play work and be accepted by others, and my realationship to money/status/power/external validation and fame. I saw the good and the bad in myself during business school, and I was in an environment where people didn’t automatically share the same values. Which was really, really good. Maybe I did belong there, because we were all there to challenge and learn and grow with each other. And at bottom, I do like my bourgeois, not directly aving the world life, my creature comforts, and getting increased responsibility, autonomy, mastery, and yes status at my job. Some amount of greed really is ok, and even good. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself, and who are you to say you know how to save the world if you can’t even take care of yourself? Whether you like it or not, whether you agree with its rules or not, you can create more effective change in the world- and a better lifestyle for yourself- by knowing how to play the game and breaking the rules out of artistry and following them when it advances your larger goals. Knowing how to look for a job, which of course I only learned through experience but had a lot of good theory and professional development on, is one of the most important skills to have, and once you more or less figre it out you can help others with one of the most important things in their life. That’s huge. I may not work for a non profit, but I’m pretty sure the career advice I paid a pretty penny for and now give away whenever it seems I can help somebody counts for something.
Probably the most important thing I learned from business school is respect for the real world ad not just the world of ideas. The values of business school were seemingly, at first glance, at odds with those of my liberal arts education, but in the end, it’s all about curiosity, and maybe a little wonder, and a desire to find out the truth and ponder what to do about it, then how to do it. There is plenty of room for genuine intellectual curiosity in business- you just have to be actually curious and willing to apply yourself to seemingly boring problems, and look beyond the surface of what seems like a bland corporate existence to see the adventure within. And all that leadership and risk taking and self awareness and technical mastery of your field and working with others and all that jazz, it is a complex, richly rewarding, and highly satisfying game.
I didn’t sell out, I bought in. And because I bought in, I’m not standing on the sidelines wondering what to do with my life or who I am, I am doing the damn thing and putting myself on the line everyday. It’s just a matter of how much of yourself you put into things, and if you are willing to learn anywhere from anyone. There is no richer sociological testing ground or moral philosophical case study. Real life is not broken, as McGonigal suggests. Real life requires you to buy in, play the game, not take it too seriously, and know what you want to cash in your winnings for.
Whether I was a teacher or a journalist or president, I would be the same me, and probably would be honing the same set of passions and skills I brought to the world trough my innate talents and unique set of experiences, I might have slightly different challenges depending on the setting but as Alan Watts says,
I had a discussion with a great master in Japan… and we were talking about the various people who are working to translate the Zen books into English, and he said, “That’s a waste of time. If you really understand Zen… you can use any book. You could use the Bible. You could use Alice in Wonderland. You could use the dictionary, because… the sound of the rain needs no translation.”
It is all the great adventure, the Hero’s Journey, the Spiritual Path. You can’t escape it. Even if you get off the path you are on the path.
Even now I am tempted to believe my soul will sing more loudly elsewhere and there is some other perfect way, but in thi beautiful but fallen world, nothing is perfect, and letting go of that illusion is the beginning of peace. Finally, I’m getting there, really able to be here and enjoy the here and now. FOr a change, it’s not some distant future I”m focused on. It’s my vacation in two weeks, my date tomorrow night, bringing in cookies to the office tomorrow morning. Yes, I work in insurance and my life is amazing.
I’m sure there are people in other fields who completely agree with me. ANd there are others who work side by side with me who don’t.
The sound of the rain needs no translation.
So be happy, my friends, and let your troubles go.
Life goes on, and it is beautiful, just around the bend you can’t see past.
I can’t promise great results, I can’t promise tomorrow, but I can promise that the joy of the journey is there with you, a constant, reassuring weight in your pack which you do’t even realize is there hen you are down in the dumps. Weighing you down to earth, so you can build the kingdom of Heaven.
I am incredibly blessed and happy with my life right now. Of course, I am far from a perfect person, but now I finally realize that one can and must love oneself whilst striving to improve, and the target should never be perfection, rather self-actualization. The best me is not going to have all the same qualities as the best somebody else, and that’s not a weakness, it’s a strength.
To be honest, I can’t remember another time that I felt so happy and secure in myself, and so completely blissful about my life.
It wasn’t easy, but I created by the grace of God and with some help from my friends and family the life that I wanted. Of course, I am sure that as I grow and change over time, my interests and goals will change, and that’s ok too.
But I just want to take a moment and say how happy I am. I know I am growing up when I can say that I am spending more time being happy for what I do have than worrying about what I don’t.
I’ve successfully become an adult, and while that felt at one point like a one way , one dimensional arrow that would mean an end to change, growth, and non linearity, now I know it’s just a solid foundation. Know thyself, that’s what I have done.
There are still many new dreams I dream yet I know now, from all those I have achieved, that happiness comes from within, and even if I drop 20 pounds tomorrow, pay off all my debt, or find a boyfriend, my happiness still depends on me. You can have all your wildest dreams come true but unless you’re in the headspace to appreciate it, you can’t be happy. Being happy is not easy, it takes strength and is not for the faint hearted.
Like kindness, it’s an act of courage and faith, a moral choice.
Can I acknowledge all that’s not right in the world and not perfect in my own life and within myself and still be happy? Yes, I can and I must. I want to be. And that’s not insensitivity, that’s gratitude.
And self-love too, which can mean toughness and self discipline, but can also mean 2 days in your pajamas without beating yourself up over it. It must mean letting past mistakes go, and thanking God for the grace of a second chance. Overall, it must mean living the life that makes your heart sing. And it’s undeniable when you’ve found it, when you’ve found the gifts that you need to share and the things that make you you.
This year, I want to do more of that. Yes, I want to exercise and eat healthy, but playing small is not going to help me or the world. I can’t focus on my figure without giving my gift away. The two things go together, I think. I have a lot of songs that need to be sung, words that need to be written. I have been blessed with so much, and the ability to communicate, and I need to share what I’ve learned.
It’s not about finding meaningful work, or making myself happy. It’s about sharing my unique perspective on life with others, no matter how flawed it may be.
There is no particular box, or array of boxes which once checked will bring perfect happiness. That’s something I have learned many times the hard way.
All those supposed missteps and mistakes, which gave me a meandering path and made it hard to figure out my identity, which made me think there were parts of myself I needed to either cut off or agglomerate with some shallow stereotype of capitalist or bohemian or what have you, those are the things that make me special. Everything that doesn’t fit into the box, every line I have colored outside of, despite my best efforts to conform, most of the time.
Finally, I think I have found my passion, and you’re looking at it. It took everything to get here, just look back at all that’s on this blog for starters.
Now I can bless every mistake, every moment of self sabotage, every tear shed in frustration. Now I know there are no mistakes, and self sabotage is a message from your soul that you’ve missed the point. Sometimes there is no alternative to losing to teach you how much you are truly worth, and what matters, and that the whole notion of winning and losing isn’t that wise anyway. There’s just living. All of this.
No work, no life, no work/life balance. It’s all life. No business, no art, no travel, no stability, it’s all the same. Just moments, cut from the same cloth. Anything else is an illusion.
And it’s all life, all numinous, all sacred and profound. Not all signs and symbols and hidden meaning, but every breath is powerful and precious and holy and unique. Every breath.
Now I need to live that way.