My dream, my Personal Legend, may just be that ridiculously simple:
I want to write and travel.
When I think about becoming a mother, I think about losing everything I am and ever could be. I think about the loss of my freedom and my body. If I had to choose between never traveling again and never having a carefree day in my life, I don’t think I would choose to be a mother. Being a mother is different than being a father. You are on the hook in so many ways. I don’t think I need to have a child to give my life meaning. I think adventure, exploration, the search for truth might be the meaning of my life. I know I want to experience great love, but this is also something I may only want because of rumors I’ve heard about how great it is. To be perfectly honest I kind of love the way my life is now. I don’t need a steady partner, and I’m far from ready to be a mother. There is so much more world out there to see. I’ve been seeing the world in a frenzy thinking of the day I would have to make some choices based off biology and circumstance and in my mind, if I had a child I would have to give up traveling. Financially, that would be the case if it happened tomorrow, and that’s not something I want. I know that theoretically, hopefully, there would be someone there to bear the burden with me, but honestly, I have absolutely no interest in having a child if I don’t have the support of another parent. I am not someone who would use a donor or go to some other somewhat extreme to get pregnant without a life partner. I love babies, and I love children, but besides biological urge, it’s hard to picture myself doing the day in day out work of being a parent without regretting it. I have the image from my mom that being a mother is constant drudgery. And i don’t think sacrifice is the only meaning of life either. I’m not a martyr, and I don’t want to become one. I know that a fair amount of people manage to travel and do interesting stuff even while having multiple kids, but no matter what, your life is different and your resources of time, money, and energy, sometimes even health, are diverted from yourself necessarily, and you no longer get to be your own first priority. Maybe reproduction only works by ruse. If you had a completely fulfilled and happy life, why would you want to turn it upside down by having a child? Right now I can’t picture either having the kind of partner that would make me want to take that leap into the unknown. I guess another way of thinking is that everything you gain you do so for your children and it takes on new meaning, and I’m sure it does, but honestly I think it’s ok to just consume what you manifest yourself and leave a bit to nourish the world, right? I don’t tink I’m against having children, although I know I’m perfectly against having children with a partner. I don’t know if life has begun to or will one day begin to feel repetitive without having a child and having that greatest adventure of self sacrifice and love and responsibility, but at the moment I can’t contemplate having a cat or buying a car or even leasing an apartment for three years. I know if I had a kid, I would raise to the occassion and really love it. But I don’t think I will ever need it, and I don’t know if I will ever want it enough to disturb all that I’ve got going on now. My logical hunch is that having a kid never really makes sense in the long run, although I’m sure you do get to grow as a person in new ways. I doubt that having a kid is ever “worth it” for the mother if she’s already fulfilled in her life. And yet, I know a lot of women who seem pretty happy and still decide to have kids, so maybe there’s something about being with the right guy that changes things. I’m so enjoy my Aprodite and Artemis archetypes that being a mother feels like it would be sacrificing literally everything I am. I feel like I’ve got it in me, and my body is begging for it, but besides taking care of another person to avoid confronting life, the universe, and everything I’ve got going on within myself, I don’t see the point. Maybe this is the dirty little secret of feminism, and why European birth rates are so low. Or maybe there will be a day when love will win over reason, and somehow it won’t need to make sense anymore. But it would have to be a great love, and even greater trust.
As for men, it’s true, I theoretically want to have kids some day, and more to the point for these days, I do think I want to be in a relationship. But again, why risk having someone break your heart, or even more painful, breaking theirs, if you can get along just fine on your own? If I struggle to imagine owning an apartment (mind you, an apartment and not a goddamn house with a lawn, etc to maintain) because I might have to give up a trip because something needed a repair, how hard is it to imagine genuinely sharing your life with another person, and how many goddamn vacation days you would spend visiting their family when you already don’t exactly begrudge but are a little stingy with the time you accord your own, because you would rather be off adventuring, most of the time?
The real thing that kind of made me start wondering if it would be worth it is thinking about having less passion potentially over time, no matter how creative and romantic you are (also look at what science says having kids does to your relationship), and if you already have respectful and happy relationships in your life, and deep friendships, and high quality lover (s), what can a man really add without taking away quite a whole lot? Would the benefit ever be worth the risk? I’m not afraid of going to quite a lot of countries a lot of tourists shy away from, but I am terrified of choosing the wrong person, and being hurt again, and probably even more terrified of doing the hurting. I want to know or at least have the strongest possible feeling it will work out and that it’s worth it come what may, but I don’t think you “just know” all that very often. And I have fooled myself into just thinking I “just knew” enough times that I know how little my mind can be trusted. Also how much do I actually want love versus just the validation of having someone? To what extent is it lazy to go with being a relationship as the main form of companionship versus cultivating others if in the end, you aren’t sure if you are biting off far more than you can chew?
I am not in a relationship not because I don’t love myself, but because I am terribly terribly afraid of them. I want to come close to the fire without burning myself. I am chicken of all chickenshit because I don’t want to take emotional risks. I may have been to my fair share of therapy, but I don’t want another person in my life to disappoint or hurt or be disapporoved of. I know my family loves me as I am, and they ahve come to accept my role as a wanderer, but damn.
The truth is that I have very rarely, and pretty much never without shame, really let myself be who I wanted to be. And having a man or baby seem like a perfect way to put a muzzle on my soul, toss it in a box, and throw away the key. Fuck you, Personal Legend, put a bun in the oven, get back in the kitchen and take off those shoes! Not to mention a house. The homeowner dream in lieu of the man/baby dream, whether it’s a McMansion in in the burbs or a Hausmanien dream in the City of Light, while it might seem appealing at times to have one’s own “home,” the sky is already all mine. The road belongs to no one, and yet, by naming myself for the wanderer that I am, I claim every mile for me, and me for myself.
Is it really a new adventure to truly love someone? Is it really so much of a great new world to have a child? Is it childish and selfish not to jump on board for these commitments and the life experiences they offer? Is it silly to even think like that, and to realize you bear children for the human race or your community or to propagate your own genes, and any satisfaction you get is a side effect of that?
When the world loves you without asking for anything back, is it not silly to put your heart in fickle human hands?
Whetther I ever love a man or have a baby, I love myself, and I love this world. I need no other justification or joy.
I love my fire. Fire might consume nearly everything it touches, but it also brings light and heat to the world. I love my fire.
Today I realized I could be perfectly happy without a husband or children.
I also realized that my peak experiences in life hadn’t come at work, even if I am quite grateful for my job that I like at least 60-70% percent of the time.
And i don’t need to leave Paris for ambitious reasons, I want to be here, I want to grow even deeper roots here, I want to bloom here, I want my fruit to be born here.
I’ve never felt so happy in my entire life, really that my life could be so free of conditions.
I feel genuine joy.
I do want to buy an apartment with my name on the deed, even if it’s no bigger than what I need for my own basic needs.
Happiness can be sort of unconditional, assuming some basic needs are met.
And they don’t have to be met in the way you expect.
I feel like I may not have performed as well as I might have for a consulting interview yesterday, but I did realize a lot about myself and what’s most important to me.
I’ve never felt so free, I feel like the fourth and fifth and sixth walls have been broken and I’m living in a seventh dimension of expansive freedom.
I don’t need to be a wife and mother!
I don’t need a man and babies!
I don’t need a million dollars or a fancy title!
I don’t need to be the CEO or the greatest or the best!
I am myself, and that’s more than enough, and always has been.
Paris, je t’aime.
I am so happy right now, it feels like a dirty secret to not need all those things to be happy I always thought I should be pursuing frantically and diligently. But no, no need.
I don’t even need an apartment, but I want one.
I am a free spirit.
Let freedom ring!
Almost turning 30 might be one of the best things that have ever happened to me so far. Life has not turned out anything like I planned, and it’s absolutely fabulous!
I am richer than Midas, and my wealth is too big for just this world to contain.
I’m free, I’m free, I feel like the Genie in Aladinn when his cosmic powers can finally put to his own use.
Blessings be upon you, my friends.
Thanks for coming along on this ride.
I’m not really sure why I’m not writing as much here. It could be that I am more busy and much less lonely, and it oculd also be that maybe I’m growing beyond fillefrancofun as I had claimed so many years ago soon after I started the blog.
I think a lot of my demons have vanished into a puff of smoke, and while I definitely am in the experience othe Buddhists call “groundlessness” as in, I’m nto really sure which way is up and I have no f not no but not so many fixed beliefs and hangups,
I think with Buddhism I have found what I was looking for, and in France I’ve gotten a somewhat blank canvas to decide who I want to be.
I also think a lot of my healing is done. The scars are disappearing, and there’s a new person here I didn’t know before
A girl who likes mountains, surfing, and deadlifts;
A shrewd non-self hating business woman who doesn’t hide behind self contempt and fake moral outrage over the global capitalist system;
A woman who accepts her past, warts and all;
A single lady, and kind of fucking proud of it;
A person who is giving her gifts to the world, and in healing herself, helps others find their path
A self transformation junkie always searching for the final door who realized at long last that the path doesn’t end and once you are on the journey, you never real come back, or cross the finish line
A seeker who has learned to live, not comfortably, but bravely, in the questions and no longer obsessed with a response
A native daughter of middle class Catholic central NJ who is now a certified wanderer, a global citizen, and who has seen too many tribes to take her own seriously anymore
Someone who has lost her identity too many times to count, plans to lose it again and again, and has learned to find peace and comfort in that
There will be no settling, no final destination, no moment where I click my heels together to go home. There will be no person, no love who justifies my existence or who comforts me in my existential woe. There is not even a spirit in the sky of a God who hears my cries, nor a dumb materialist universe without poetry either. There is cause and effect, the infinite wisdom of the compassionate heart, the free play of space, and that’s all there is. And to know it, and accept it, is enough. No nothing will ever comfort my sad ego need to know everything, to be in control, to be the center of the universe, to have something outside of myself save me and make sense of everything.
Self responsibility is about more than paying your bils on time, and it’s more than taking a leap of faith and accepting the consequences. Self responsability means accepting that even you yourself are a construct, a product of the mind, and that training that mind to do no harm is your highest duty.
Yes, to live a full life on earth, even if joy is suffering, to have a full human existence, sparing the less pleasant bits as much as possible, that is something to aspire to as well.
And maybe they are one and the same, the punk rock post colonialist explorer and the blissed out monk neither taking the world too seriously but aware of beauty, inside and out.
This blog was about France, and mostly about Paris. It was about my renaissance as a thinking human being, coming of age in the cradle of post modernism, finding my passion and still being depressed, healing the wounds from feeling different and unworthy, not pleasing enough, and most of all, getting over the existential fear in not believing dogma, but rather trusting one’s own experience.
The sacred is a glorious human invention, and it exists as much as anything. As love, as romance, as glory and grandeur. But like any form of meaning, it does not exist from any objective viewpoint. It exists because we choose to believe in it.
We search for God, but instead we find the seeds, the raw material beauty in a pit filled with offal. We look at the stars, at Van Gogh’s starry night, and we know we are here, and that’s it, and know we are neither alone nor is the mystery and grandeur of the universe something that comes in a box. God cannot be separate from His Creation- as we created God he created us.
Yes this world is an illusion, and full of pain and suffering and maddening impermanence, but i is the free play of space, and so are we. And I love it, in open hearted surrender, knowing my heart will be broken again and again, that the ground will shift beneath my feet, that every castle is built on sand, that one desire will always succeed another- I will keep climbing mountains just because they are there and I want to know what’s on the other side, I will keep spinning the globe and going to wear my finger points, that once every calling is answered, every Grail Quest is completed, another will spring up like a mushroom in its place. I will russle up the courage to create even though today’s creation might seem like crap tomorrow and will never in any case match all that I imagined.
I surrender to the creative process of life, the joy of connection, and the bliss of the journey.
Namaste and thank you for following me.
When you always strive for the path of greatest growth and possibility, there are bound to be some growing pains at times, particularly if the hunger for growth is not accompanied by the patience and self compassion of a growth mindset.
A growth mindset, if you are not familiar with the term, is about believe it’s not about innate potential, it’s about deliberate practice and learning from your mistakes. And the fact you don’t get it on the first try doesn’t mean that you never will.
I have never had a growth mindset or that much kindness for myself. For a long time, I’ve struggled with all-or-nothing thinking and also the belief that I am no more than my successes, that I don’t have any worth outside fo that.
I believe the past approximiately five years of struggling with depression in various forms and amounts is a pretty clear picture of the end result of that. if my choices didn’t lead to roaring success and happiness on the first try, and if I fucked up one bit, I blamed myself and believed I was no good, which just created a vicious cycle of mistakes I watched almost as a bystander and I couldn’t take my foot off the gas pedal watching myself self sabotage. I also felt I just didn’t deserve so many good things given that I didn’t take the riskiest most fantastical route to success, I made soem strategic accomodations to practicality, that made me feel like a sell-out of the first degree. I then fantasized about all kinds of ways to escape and made escaping my mind and its gloom a first priority over self care, self love, and self respect.
That meant eating food that didn’t nourish me, spending money I didn’t have for moments of temproary relief, blocking myself off from the possibility of a real love relationship, and in short, believing the answer was somewhere out there and I just had to find it. That there was an ideal job, an ideal man waiting for me, that once I found myself all would ecome clear.
And as I understood myself, I felt more and more trapped by my previous decisions. With the self knowledge I have now, I am not entirely certain I would have made the same choices- but then, isn’t that how I learned who I was? To an extent, no amount of navel gazing could have saved me, but on the same hand, I had such fixed ideas about who I was and who I should be that blocked me from envisioning those possibilities. And let’s face it, my mistakes have given me strength, experience, and wisdom I wouldn’t have had if I had gotten it “right,” on the first try. If I was some kind of explorer journalist or travel blogger, I would not have the lived experiences of being in business which for good or bad defines so much of our world. I don’t know if I could have had such wisdom if I had gone straight into a communications or education focused career. My greatest weakness or worst mistake in my mind will set me apart- I am a lot more than a communicator or explorer, I am a decision maker and a leader and will have learend the highest arts of persuasion adn a damn good bit of how the world works.
So long story short maybe I am not a dirty sellout who doesn’t deserve true happiness and maybe I should stop being so hard on myself. Even all the debris created by my depression is nothing compared to the person I have become. And I believe, though I could be wrong, that with the beliefs I held, there was no possible outcome but depression. It was my very strength and willingness to be hard on myself that drove me into the ground. If I was an inch less of a rigid person, I would not have suffered quite so much. And thorugh this, I learned the suffering comes from the mind.
Which is a priceless insight and the only one that can lead to enlightenment.
In terms of the Buddhism/Christianity thing, I would say they are describing to an extent two different things. Buddhism is taking about the mind and awareness, which we can observe. It teaches there is no creator god or external savior, that only we can save ourselvs by working with the mind. There is no good or evil, just consequences that arise from our level of awarness of the true nature of things, namely that there is nothing real beyond the free play of space and time and even we ourselves are stories being experienced by mind. Mind is reincarnated countless times before reaching understanding.
Chrisitanity is concerned with the soul, with a god who has always existed and who judges our souls before death, a god who was loving but also righteous in that the only way mankind who had chosen to sin could be redeemed was through the form of a blood sacrifice, which God made himself in the form of his son. Sacrifice for others is the highest good, and the best we can hope for is to reconcile us to God to avoid eternal punishment and achieve salvation.
So the units of understanding are much different. Christianity is the story of the universe, yes, but specifically our planet and the human race, with a focus on the Jewish nation until the birth of the son of God at which point the religion becomes more universal and less focused on norms within an ethnic tradition dedicated to monotheeism.
One demands very specific articles of faith, in events that happened in a physical place and time of a very supernatural nature, namely the death and ressurection of the Son of God. The other presents a path to deeper understganding of oneself and the universe through the examination of mind. In either case, actions have consequences. THough one merciful forgives sin, good and evil exist as distinct entities, and to serve others one is denying oneself in order to fulfill the will of God. So the most important thing is to sacrifice the self in one form or anything to achieve holiness. In Buddhism, there is no real distinction between self and other, and bad actions arise frm confusion, not evil. Self denial just reinforces the belief in the self, which is in the end just another story distracting from the reality of things as they are. In Buddhism, the whole point is to avoid suffering which comes from this lack of understanding of reality, whereas in Christianity, suffering is a virtue that can lead to eternal salvation through the miracle of God’s mercy.
I think I stopped really being a Christian last year when I went to Christmas mass and was reminded of nothing so much as animal sacrifice by animist people. That being said, I had met many people who mixed Catholic and animist beliefs and practices, which might not exactly be orthodox but both kind of agree that things exist in a solid form. Buddhism is kind of the opposite, pointing our attention to the space from which the galaxies arise. From nothing comes everything, because nothing and something are one and the same- one field of possibility. And there is no thick black line separating me from you , God from man- we are neither shadows playing on the wall of Plato’s cave, there is no purer world beyond this, there is nothing sacred nor profane, nor are we simply matter with no hope of spirit, because there is no real difference between them, both are an illusion. We are matter, we are spirit- we are awareness coming to understand reality beyond the forms.
A long time ago, I thought that even if Christianity were a big lie, and there was no god, I wouldn’t be disappointed that I had did my best to do good things in my life, or even that I was stepped in incarnational Western Christianity which is really about the spark of divinity in man and man surpassing his individual self. I think there is really something to it.
The thing that seems most interesting to me at this point, is that Christianity could be 100% real in all its claims, including the ressurection of the son of a creator God, Heaven and Hell could really exist, and I don’t think that even really poses a problem for Buddhism. Buddhism can let them all exist, and also pass away, because all compound things are impermanent, and even a creator God cannot be eternal, unless that which is called God is rather the field of possibiliy that is the union of space and bliss. I also personally think that there is not really that big of a conflict between a mind that reincarnates and a soul that is judged. Of course awareness will continue; the soul, the story of me, the essence of me that is an illusion anyway, that can exist on some level and then go to Heaven or Hell I suppose. What’s even more interesting is that Jews at the time of Jesus did believe in reincarnation after a fashion and asked Jesus if He was Elijah returned. I think the image of God as judge/compassionate father and human worth as a score card/legal record with the possibility of sublimation if one professes belief in the love of God for man in the form of Jesus and His ressurection, which in a way is a form of non-duality and the union of God and man, is quite interesting. If all sounds are mantras merely for the fact that they exist, why is this any different tahn the Buddha forms one meditates on to gain awarenss? It is an image that can bring some degree of understanding and freedom from selfishness. And I thinkt aht both truths can exist simultaneously, if one drops the Western/Christian habit of dualism. If you can lose your concept of a paternalistic, solid god that was a patron of a particular tribe which to a large degree hijacked him to codify their customs (see Leviticus) and became a universal God (largely due to contact with Greek thoughts particularly Platonism) coming to save Jews and Gentiles alike but still being something of a judge on his throne, and one single, exclusive truth, I think you can have your Christianity and eat it too to a certain degree. Whether its helpful or not for realization and enlightenment beyond it is a separate question.
So those are the things I have been thinking about. I did think I would go back to Christianity, but I think that even if at first I just thought I was a visitor, then a participant observer, my real aim is to believe Buddhist and to give up some of the old beliefs and sometimes flawed ethics. I don’t blame Christianity for my depression, but I don’t think it gives a critical mind a partiuclarly robust hold on things. Everything rests on whether there is that one absolute truth or not. I believe this insistence on knowing the absolute truth of things sets us up for frustration and insantity to a degree, as not eveyrhing is absolute and black and white. Perhaps there is a richer Christinaity than that which I have experienced, but I havne’t discovered it yet. I have heard it said that God expects us to sin and loves us anyway and we are meant to depend on him for forgiveness and that’s how he wants it, which I suppose is a bit non dual, but for me the insistence on figuring out which action is good or bad and trying to figure out the best option has been really hard on me as an adult. Christianity isn’t that kind to business, unless you’re of the sort that thinks God loves rich people and so blessed them on earth because they are divinely predestined according ot Calvinist doctrine, even though the Roman Catholic Church is one of the most successful and long standing organizations on the planet. Maybe I should go learn more from the Jesuits.
As my perspective has expanded from being an ethnocentric American who really believed in eternal progress and that there was one beste way of organizing society and something along the lines of captialism was it, to a globnal citizen, with quite a bit of Frenchiness in me, seeing America as just another power flowering and fading onthe world stage, it has led to a lot of deep questions. And as I’ve realized the relativity of beliefs and just how long time is, the chants coming down from the early Christians who were perhaps in their way, the “deplorables” spoken of by Hillary Clinton, the unlettered masses unable to grasp nuance who were willng to get thrown to the lions for their beliefs, seem much less old when you have been in contact with civilizations much older like that of the Indian subcontinent, whcih also had something that came before and is considered not even that old by some. It’s hard to exist in this kind of relativity if one is holding on to some absolute truth or other. Perhaps the thing that I needed to hear most during business school, which completely tore me apart, was “there are many truths,” from the woman who accompanied us during a part of the study abroad portion.
I think there is a lot in Buddhism that is just ethnic and not particularly that helpful, but I think every religion gets confounded with culture from time to time. And perhaps monotheism to non theeism is an interesting leap for a human like me to make. From polytheeism to monotheeism and from tribal to universal religion are meant to be quite important leaps in the story of humanity, and the accomplishments of Western Christianity, particularly Protestants, in subdoing the rest of the world have been menat to be proofs of its superiority, but now in todya’s world, I don’t think that’s the end of history. I think all things are born, grow, mature, fade, and die. The West is losing power on a relative scale, although I hope some of our better ideas stay and influence the rest of the world and our legacy is not just McDonald’s. It’s interesting that China is takig back its historic place in the world, although my money is that it will collapse in its current form. Maybe the West will come back stronger than ever, and the US will be able to fundamentally adapt itself.
I’ve shared with Buddhists taht I don’t know if I could have made the leap of mind to Buddhism without my experiences living in France, but they said there is something in me that would have called me even if I had stayed in the US. Perhaps. But for me its hard not to notice this part of the story. ANd while I love France, I love that which is not French as well. I also struggle with my identities as American, Parisian, French, and global citizen. As a Buddhist in a way I am not even properly Western anymore. I am a do gooder who got disenchanted in a way and went into business and I don’t want to hate myself for it anymore, taking care of myself is important too.
And taking care of myself is taking care of my own small section of the world, one of the few things I have much power to control or influence, and making the most of the blessing of another day.
It feels good to write.
Five years and one day ago, I moved to Philadelphia to begin business school. I had been interning in DC, and I envisioned having a career that touched on public service or at least public affairs. I had met a man that I thought would be the love of my life, who would fit into my family, religion, sense of humor, even though inconveniently he hadn’t wanted to pursue a long distance relationship and showed some signs of bro-iness I didn’t love.
I remember moving into the apartment hotel where I would stay for six weeks before moving again to Paris, where I would study for four months before returning. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed by the much greater work experience of everyone there, and the stark contrast between my life as an English teaching assistant in the French countryside and an intern paid just a bit more than my rent, and my experience-seeking, idealistic, slightly do gooder self compared to the seemingly cold nad corporate world I was about to enter, which had never held a lot of interest for me. And yet, my greatest mentor had suggested to me to come to business school, I applied to programs with a connection to France, and was accepted with a large scholarship. I was the second youngest and the least experienced of anyone in my group, and I had never held a full time permanent professional job, but perhaps I was also the bravest and most open.
A few weeks into the program at Philly, just before going to France, there was a cocktail party, as is often the case in business school, and we talked about where we would end up after. I said Washington DC was my home, I had never felt better anywhere, and I had a strong conviction I would return to live the life I’d planned and this was just a last taste of France before becoming a real adult.
Within a month of uttering those words, I was deeply in love with Paris, despite having visited it several times before without forming any great attachment. I felt truly at home and like I belonged for the first time in my life, and I nearly left the program to stay there and just get a French degree. I didn’t take that leap of faith, and was plunged into a crisis of whether I had completely abandoned my ideals, and what those ideals were, as I found myself in America feeling like a misfit more than I ever had before, going to school with people who did not see the world in at all the same way as i did, which made me fear for finding my professional path through business.
About a year later, I returned to DC and it was just a ghost of the city I had left, feeling both provincial yet oddly particular in its obsession with politics, which I at that point realised are not the center of the world for the vast majority of its citizens. I got a job offer in NYC to work for a think tank dedicated to studying corporate responsibility and globalization, but I turned it down, because I wanted to continue the search for something to bring me to Paris.
I was willing to take anything, even another crappy English teacher job.
Out of nowhere, an offer to work with a blue chip French company came along, and I took it. It took six months to get the visa and I seriously considered abandoning the offer.
But I wasn’t happy. I thought of leaving. All my friends had gone and I never saw the boyfriend I had during study abroad. My best American friend seemed like a bit of a lost soul, and I continued to wonder if something was wrong with me for wanting to live outside of where I was supposed to, for rejecting my country and abandoning my family, and not being the person I planned on being. My mom made it really clear she was not a fan of the move, although she supported me, and I lost yet another cherished role- dutiful daughter.
It took me a long, long time to finally come back to the surface, and I”m almost there now. Depression is no joke. Therapy is the best investment I’ve ever made. And through it all, I’ve struggled to be my best self, because I wasn’t sure of who that was or if I was truly the second string player I believed myself to be.
In short, I’ve been afraid of my greatness, and it hasn’t been pretty. I have made a lot of mistakes along the way. Depression has colored many memories that had all the elements to be beautiful and enjoyable at the time. And yet, it was my human experience.
The feeling of losing my ground as Buddhists say really affected me. I am not the person I planned to be, and my greatest fear has been the changeable nature of myself and my desires, and the fear that everything I worked for was in vain.
This journey has taken me a long way and will take me farther yet. On Friday I’m going back to India, which was one of my dream destinations that I really enjoyed during business school. I am going in large part to decide whether I want to commit to the path of Buddhism.
Something of my Catholic self remains, and the Sermon on the Mount is engraved upon my soul, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing. And yet, I don’t know if I can pretend to go along with the Catholic hierarchy anymore, and to what extent i want to remain culturally Catholic. Can resurrection and reincarnation cohabit? I don’t know, although I can say I’m pretty sure my beef is not with Jesus.
In the meantime, I’ve come a long way from sub clinical anorexia/compulsive dieting as a teenager to binge eating as an adult to CrossFitter, sometimes with or without the overeating, binge eating, and emotional eating issues. But now, I am an athlete, that’s for sure, and i want to be healthy, I want things for my own good.
Through all this, I have pondered every road not taken, and tortured myself with what ifs. If I had become a teacher, if I had stayed in the US, if I had become a digital nomad blogger person, anything and everything. It’s just this week I put the digital nomad dream to rest. I want to travel, but I also want to build a home in France, and my current job allows me to do that. And that’s why I haven’t taken any real steps in that direction, despite a bit of talk. Yes, I would like to hav ea travel blog and all, but it doesn’t have to replace my daily life. I don’t see it with rose colored glasses anymore. Same with taking a long pause from work. It could change something, but I dont’ think th echange I need is so dramatic.
The change I need is just to take care of myself, eat well, sleep well, work well, have friends, have lovers, and hopefully find my one steady boy someday. And continue to travel! Just keep grinding and moving and dancing to the beat of my drummer, who did not indeed lead me astray.
so today I have to clean my apartment, wash clothes, and get ready for India. I have to breka through the mess I’ve creaed because I couldn’t deal with the pain from all the unfounded regrests and all the fears.
Throughout it all, I have to say my desire to find love has not wavered. And my faith is slowly coming back.
For the past few years, I have felt a victim of change, and my shifting desires.
But now I know, I am the one writing the story- not in charge of everything that happens to or for me, and many thngs are out of my control. But I wrote this story, and I do have the life I want most of the time. It’s not radical change, just a shift in perspective that is needed. There’s no where I would rather be…
And so dear readers, wish me luck !
Besides crying in the office bathroom during this exchange of messages, I have a really low moment.
Why am I in France? What’s the purpose of being here? Why stay until I’m eligible for citizenship? Do I need or want it anyway? Why am I in business if my heart is in travel?
Why can’t I meet anyone? Will I ever have a baby?
Does life end after 30 (I’m 28)? Does life end after having a baby?
Is life just a race to do everything you want to do in life before someone else owns you?
Is marriage and motherhood just a chemical joke made of oxytocin and dopamine?
What if i’s not all it’s cracked up to me? Vaginal tears, fistulas, bruised vaginas, deformed breasts, never again being truly free because your life is tied to a little person for good and for all? And you become a motherly coward who forbids your child to take a single risk that you did?
What if love is not so loving after all? What if the price of love is to be tamed, and all that’s given me joy in life is my wildness?
What if he pulls this shit ten years down the road? What if there’s no one out there for me?
What if the love I’m seeking doesn’t actually exist?
Why do I work in this job I don’t love? Why don’t I do something that makes more money even if I have less vacation time? What is wrong with me for not having any ambitions?
What if I always feel disappointed when my dreams come true, like I did when I got work in Paris but was still depressed for another three years?
What if the French are not all they are cracked up to be, and travel is just an escape and I’m a coward who can’t face the world, who can’t face my laundry basket, who prefers to live out of a suitcase because I don’t have the courage to face the challenges of having roots?
What if I’m the kind of person that doesn’t really need them, at least not the way other people do?
What if I will never be happy settled?
What if the problem is not France, not my job, not my single status, but me?
What if I’m too wild, too free, too kind, too giving, too crazy, too sweet, too sensual, too smart, too sexy, too brave?
What if that fantasy back in the day about having a blog and traveling the world was more than just a fantasy, and worse, what if when it came true, it actually didn’t s make me happy since I’d still be stuck with my sorry old self?
Or what if it actually did?
I made plans with friends from work to go to the Fete de la Musique in Paris on 21 June, a special day for me since it’s also the birthday of a family member.
I hopped in the subway with one of the work friends, who had invited someone to come out with us that I hadn’t met. “Do you like him?” I asked my friend, who had recently gone through a breakup.
“No, not at all, he’s just a friend.”
We started drinking beer on a terrace during the very hot day, and then the friend showed up. He looked to be in his early thirties, and cute, but when he started smoking that killed a bit of the attraction, being that he was North American on top of it, so it’s not quite the same as a European smoking.
We talked a lot about the French real estate market, and how now was the time to buy. “I’ll help you figure it so you can buy something,” he told me. “It’s ok if you spend half your income and stop going out as much, it is a great investment. And you’ll feel differently about traveling so much, home ownership really changes you.”
I made a joke about wanting a rich husband instead, and he said something like, “Well I’m not rich yet but my parents are.” He had also made a pretty penny from selling his house before moving to France.
We talked about France, and when we switched to wine I refused to pour for myself, because French custom is for women to be served. He started serving me.
Next thing I knew, we had gone to a much crazier area where people were packed in dancing like sardines in the gay district. “These guys must be gay if they are not hitting on you,” he said to me, “and I would be really jealous if they did.”
Mere hours later, we were kissing on the Place du Trocadero as the sun came up, and he was telling me how he is ready to have a family (read baby) in the next two years, and how he has had his eye on me in the corridor at work (I never noticed him, but then I kind of have my head in the clouds a bit, wouldn’t you believe it) for months and has been waiting for the opportunity to talk to me. I am his dreamgirl, and he can’t believe his luck. He wants to see me for lunch, take me out for dinner, and puts me in an Uber to go home.
But he is worried that our mutual friend is jealous and doesn’t want to hurt her feelings. “We’ll have to find her someone before coming out,” he says, and he wants to take it slowly, and not do anything physical, because he is really serious and wants to get to know me. Although he does mention- “My apartment is just there, maybe you’ll come live with me iin a few months.”
He texts me around noon “Wow that was amazing”
Radio silence over the weekend- he is meant to be elsewhere in France looking at real estate but in the end he doesn’t go. I get up my courage and ask him how’s he’s doing, an dhe explains he just rested up after the long night on Wednesday/Thursday (he’s not much older than 30 by the way).
We meet up during the week, before he has to go to a house showing and before I’m meant to go to the gym. He explains he wants to take it slow and start as friedns, that he is wary of the fact that we work in the same company in the same building, and and that he just got out of a relationship three months ago with someone he met at work and it was hell once the coworkers found out. The conversation started out cold and then towards the end he could barely stop himself from kissing me despite his imposed just friends rule. He told me about all the times in the past few days he saw me around but restrained himself from saying hi because he wanted to have this talk first, and he told me how pretty my dress was the day before.
I was too late to make my gym class, and messaged him, but he was already gone to look at the house.
Then I invited him to a picnic with my friends later in the week, at the last moment so he wouldn’t feel pressured- he had plans with friends but would go if things didnt work out- as it turns out it was rained out anyway, and then wished him a good weekend to no response.
About a week goes by and no contact is initiated. Is this what he means by taking it slow?
I saw him around the office complex, made a point of saying hello to him when I pass by his desk, and outside the building. I pass him in the convenience store and he waves and smiles but doesn’t take a few minutes to talk.
I’ve had enough, and feel like something is not right. I wonder if my friend, who has actually acted quite jealous and claims we both disrespected her by wanting to date because it will put her in the middle, and the fact that it was spontaneous and he didn’t ask me for a date at another time, and claiming it’s that she feels uncomfortabel because of work though she herself has many of her close friends coming from work and has dated guys from work and parties with her team at festivals, it seems a little disingenous. Needless to say, I am disappointed my friend can’t be happy for my seeming good fortune.
So I message him that I am no longer interested in anything friendly or romantic besides basic politeness, he agrees that he feels the same and thanks me for clearing up. He starts asking me how work is going, I explain (in tears) that I don’t want to talk to him really and he has really disappointed me and hurt my feelings by talking such a big game and not following through, and that I deserve more than to be ghosted essentially. He agrees, apologizes, tells me there’s something I don’t know that he dared not say because it would only disappoint me more, asks if I want to cut ties (I already have, I defriended him on Facebook) but that there’s no need for awkwardness in person. He apologizes, and the conversation just seems to go on and on. I check back a few days later, thinking maybe at the least he could let me know if something opens up in his department, as crazy as that sounds, and I can no longer message him and conclude he must have blocked me.
As for my jealous friend, I am sincerely disappointed because I thought of the person who would come pick me up in the middle of the night if I ever needed it. And I realize that, consciously or subconsciously, she has done just the same as my family in exerting some pressur eto follow her path, of being single and childless and with a big apartment and fancy job, and maybe she’s not so happy with it, and maybe she doesn’t want to end up single alone, or doesn’t want me to find my person first. She is a bit older than me and I”m sure it wouldn’t be the first time a girlfirned’s priorities changed once she found a man. And she skinny shames me for ordering a salad when she wants to get a dessert and threatens to change her order, so I get a hot dog instead.
Conclusion- time to move on….
And if you coldn’t tell in the beginning what was I even thinking of doing with this guy? He’s not like me, and he’s a bit boring and odd. But I thought,a fter 8 months of celibacy and meeting him on the summer solstice, that my ship had finally come in.
Needless to say in my frustration, the celibacy streak was broken since we were just friends and he wasn’t doing anything to make me fall in love with him…
In the past week I’ve had two conversations with North American women of my age who make a lot more money than I do. One of them had also traveled more, and that made me feel a little sad. Until I realized helicopter tours of Victoria Falls are not the reason I travel anyway, and the idea of sharing a tour around the most touristic sites in Bulgaria, a pretty chill country where English is widely spoken, didn’t seem that exciting much as it would efficiently enable me to check the boxes off.
They both expressed some kind of concern, and maybe even pity for him, though at least with one, I’m sure a sense of competition led her to emphasize her financial accomplishments to get a sense of satisfaction from being better.
In the same week, the universe has seen to it that I didn’t book my planned trip to South America, and instead I’m going to India again (by way of Kazakhstan so as to avoid needing a Russian transit visa or paying a mint through another airline- pls I wanted to see Kazakhstan, because I enjoy comparing post communist places and I’m interested in Central Asia and the Silk Road).
The truth is that I had gotten into my mind I wanted to travel to all 6 (or 7 if possible) continents before turning 30, which would indeed be a wonderful thing. But now I recognize it as just another accomplishment I was aiming towards to justify my life, and also driven by the fear that once I find marital love and hopefully also have a family, my life will be over, I will have no more freedom, and my life is a race against my biological clock.
But a three day weekend in Bulgaria showed me what I needed to know- that I’ll go where the wind takes me, and that’s that. That is what I am most happy with. I had some ideas in mind for what I wanted to do, I packed my hiking boots and wanted to see beautiful nature, but in reality due to weather forecasts of rain (which were not true) and warnings about bad visibility and mud on the mountains, I didn’t actually get out of the cities at all, and the one city I travelled two hours to get to I only saw for 30 minutes or so as I met a lovely fellow traveller and kindred spirit and spent the day talking to him and having lunch instead. And what a wonderful trip it was! It reminded me why I travel- for atmosphere more than for sightseeing, and that rarely is there a specific thing which seeing it gives great satisfaction. Sometimes yes, but only when the desire is somewhere deep in our imaginations or souls and from a guidebook or travel blog.
I travel so I can learn how to live.
I actually realize this is one of the first times I’ve ever written about travel on this blog, which maybe is a sign I’m ready to write about travel, which I’ve been wanting to for years but feeling blocked. Yes, I want to do it to get some things sponsored perhaps and build a readership and get money but also to be of benefit, and I was a bit blocked. but maybe not so much now! Hahaha I love this blog, and I love you for reading it.
So anyway, my point is that if anything i pity the North American girls who see their value as a reflection of their career and bank account more so than what’s inside, even if they value me for my character and experiences or claim to. I could be reading it completely wrong, but just recently instead of thinking I’m the pits and that people who bring me down are right to do so, I’ve realized that sometimes people are genuinely jealous of my life, and I guess that’s the best compliment there is in a way.
Although a bigger one woudl be if someone changes their life in order to like it better thanks to my inspiration and empowerment.
I feel compassion for them because they seem so stuck and rigid in their habitual ways of thinking, and caught in black and white. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you will know how much I suffered from this until very recently, and it really wasn’t pretty or fun at all. it’s only recently I’ve learned to let go of expectations and take happiness where I find it.
And yes, I do intend to manage money better and manifest money better, but I realize finally that the fact that I for example, didn’t follow my taxes on time in a silly oversight doesn’t make a bad person or constitutionally irresponsible. It just means I messed up, and if I have a habit of messing up, it’s just because I haven’t found the right system.
But what I can say is that I have absolutely no regrets about the times in my life I followed my heart and made it work even if things were a little tough. In those moments, I chose my own adventure, took my life in my hands, and exercised my radical freedom. I might have more money or be more comfortable if I didn’t do those things, or I might be stark raving mad and depressed and more self destructive than I already was for the relatively reasonable compromises I made. i would hate for my life to be a tightrope walk of needing to always perform well and follow the rules in order to be happy or value myself. That is no fun at all. That said, money and skills and some amount of rule following can bring freedom, and that’s important to. It’s important to play the game well, but not let the game play you.
Live to love your life, not to work or earn or play in the sense of pursuing only shallow pleasures. Play in a larger sense of everything in your life being on the board. Enjoy the ups and downs, play to win but let it be fun, realize it’s only a game. Don’t take things too seriously, and my hunch is you’ll find that things start to go your way more often.
So in other words, I’m rich, and we’re all in the process of winning.
The truth is I do really want to be thinner. And not only for health reasons. I do want to have the “cool” body that fits in with the people around me and what I see on TV and even if I will still be technically plus sized since I don’t think I’ll ever be smaller than a size 8, at least a bit less so. I don’t want to lose all my curves, but there is some surplus I would like to be rid of, for good. I don’t hate myself now, and I know my body is beautiful, but i personally think I would look and probably feel better if I released a few pounds.
I have been loathe to admit it since so much of my energy over the course of my life has been dedicated to the battle of the bulge, and the only time I was the weight I would like to be effortlessly well I didn’t make any conscious effort. That being said, I was in a different environment with little money for junk food or eating out and walked two hours a day and had little day to day stress in my life besides existential ennui and most of my diet was eggs salad pasta in at home portion sizes and some yogurt and chocolate and eating out twice a week- getting a sandwich or wrap usually nothing more elaborate.
Sometimes I miss my simpler life, bu tI was also quite bored.
The other thing which I might as well get out while I am admitting stuff is that I would like to be financially stable and do something else,s omething a little more aligned with my heart. I do like being a manager and the feeling of being a bonne eleve and a leader, but deep in my heart I know I don’t want to do it forever. I do like the relative prosperity it brings me. What I’m doing now was never a deep dream, though I am pretty happy and extremely grateful on the whole.
My soul dreams of doing something else, of being an adventurer, a travel writer, a writer tout court, and that this might be the truest part of me once I will have played the roles of teacher and manager, maybe real leadership will come through the word- not to denigrate what I am doing now. The truth is that I don’t want to be doing what I’m doing twenty years from now, maybe not even five or ten years from now if I can get financially prosperous enough to make it work. And I truly hope I will.
The thing is these are not new revelations. I’ve written about them a thousand times on this blog, then buried them under layers of guilt and shame and distraction and procrastination and thinking I’m not allowed to want what I want from life and my desires aren’t wise.
Yesterday I went to a friend of a friend’s house for dinner and it was magnificent. If I were ever to own a place, I hope it would be like that. Not because it was perfect and bourgeois and everything in its place, but because the living area was a gallery for all kinds of art and knick knacks the owner bought here and there throughout the years, and he used his house to store art, which I think is a worthy use indeed. But when I asked him where he got the Kuan Yin statue and if everything was from his travels, he explained a lot came from auctions and he hadn’t travelled enough to accumulate those things on his own.
That being said, it would be great if, some day, I had a lovely space of my own and money and wherewithal to travel, but for the moment I don’t think I want to invest my energy into that. Because to renovate an old house and bring out its soul the way he did demands a lot of time that I would rather be on the road!
And it’s ok that I want to be out there in the world, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s not an escape, it’s just seeing life in different ways. Even if in the immediate future I don’t have plans to stop everything and just travel for months and months, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking trips and working even if it doesn’t leave as much room for spontaneity on the road. It does help ensure variety though.
And my life in Paris is getting more spontaneous. New circles are opening up to me. I have found some really cool people recently.
The Buddhist center is another really cool and unexpected piece of my new life. I didn’t think I would ever become a practicing Buddhist, but that seems to be what’s happening, slowly but surely.
Things are changing and quickly. It’s completely possible that within a few years, by the time I get French citizenship, I could be financially free and clear to travel the world and do something else. Perhaps not completely without debt, but in a position to take a sabbatical and or start a new career or even go back to school.
I can’t believe I’m only a year and a half from turning 30. I thought I would have all the answers by now and be well on my way to a predictable upper middle class life- hence why I got the MBA- that I would have the boyfriend, probably also the ring, and I owould be hitting those life milestones at the expected age and hitting the ball out of the park in all aspects of my life. And there was the not so distant time I felt I should strive not for the extraordinary but for the everyday and be content with being above average and normal.
I have fire in my belly now to change my life, and this time, I think I have the wisdom not to let it burn me. And in any case, it’s time to allow the buds to blossom.