This is the story of my blog, more or less, or at least my blog up to this point. I started it when I had just begun the voyage, and now the journey has ended, and a new one will begin. I’m not sure where I’m going yet, and it’s important to look back and remember sometimes. To tie the threads together.
It’s hard to know where one story ends and another begins. And it’s important to know the story you are really telling yourself, and to tell it with love and compassion. So the story begins in July of 2011. I was working in DC for the summer and had just found out I was taken off the waitlist for the Teaching Assistant in France program. I had planned on coming and looking for a job but one was waiting for me in France, I didn’t even know where I’d be assigned when I accepted. I met with my mentor for a quick talk. He asked me how much money I’d need to make to not go to France, and if I’d be interested in working for a start up. I told him if it was 60k, I would turn down France. He didn’t get back to me with a job.
He did advise me to think about business school, that he had another mentee with similar interests to mine at UVa’s Darden School of Business who was enjoying her time very much. Since I thought I needed grad school to break into the DC policy world in a role beyond administrative staff, I thought going to grad school was a good idea. Not to mention, I tend to like school and since reading the Economist as a teenager, I’d thought it would be cool to be an MBA, one of those qualifications they looked for in the want ads for the super cool jobs posted in the Economist. I spoke to E, his other mentee, and I started looking at grad schools.
I also started preparing for my trip a little bit.
I went to hot yoga for the first and only time so far one hot day working in Georgetown. My mom called me just after I fled the sauna like room to tell me a letter came and she tried to read it to me. From it, I had a slight idea of where I might be placed in France and asked her to scan it to me. Of course, she couldn’t work the scanner and it was weeks until I found out. Anyway, it was also an interesting night for me because I got dehydrated and someone I worked with walked me to CVS at about 3am to get some Gatorade. Being dehydrated sucked, but damn, I had a great time with him. We are still in contact, and yes, I did fall in love with him, but we only had a short bit of romantical time together. I think he fell in love with me too, but I was going to France and he was staying here.
I started looking for business programs and decided I probably wouldn’t apply for that year since i wasn’t finding anything I liked well enough. And then a banner ad popped up on my Facebook for a program in France, Philly, India, China, and Japan. I called and they said they would accept my GRE scores and I wouldn’t have to take the GMAT.
Anyway, I went on to France, actually on the guy’s birthday as it turns out. I was conscious of it when scheduling when I was also conscious things weren’t going to work out with him for a relationship, much as I had wanted it.
I took pretty much the biggest leap of faith I had ever taken. Never having been abroad independent of school before, and never for so long. Committimg myself for seven months to a job and country I had never tried before really. Although my love of France began when I was a very young child. It was quite an adventure.
My job of being an English teaching was fulfilling in retrospect but kind of boring at the time. I worried about getting back on the career track to the kind of job I always wanted in DC, and most of all I wanted to use my brain. I also wanted to be back in France for a bit, not least because the education wasn’t so expensive as in the US. I had seen a Facebook banner ad for a program that gave a dual degree with a French school, but I thought I would never get in. I also applied to a program based in Rouen, that was more for people with less experience and included an internship, which the MBA program did not.
Well, I applied to both.
And I got in.
And I got a great scholarship to the MBA program, beyond my wildest dreams.
I finished the program in France in May 2012, after having visited the environs of my little town, Paris, Rome, Krakow, Madrid, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Montpellier, Avignon, and Arles.
I started an internship with my mentor’s firm in DC at the end of the month. I lived in housing related to my previous job. It was great, I loved the work experience. It was more or less exactly what all my education had prepared me to do.
I missed France a bit though. I missed my little routines, and there were times I was just overwhelmed with the same sense of loneliness that had flooded me there.
In late July, my MBA program started with a course with both my program of international track and the incoming regular class for six weeks in Philly. I got to know my classmates and the city a bit, and see what the life of a young professional in America was like. It was really different from my life as an English teacher. Much more hectic and it was much more of a means to an end way of thinking. I didn’t appreciate the education as much as I thought, and my career counselor told me not to worry too much about that. I started thinking about jobs, and now all the business possibilities that would be open before me. I struggled to define what I wanted.
Then, in early September, we went to Paris. I don’t have enough good words to describe our time in Paris. I enjoyed most of the classes, LOVED my classmates, and fell in love with the city in spite of myself. Living in the province, I had not been super enamored of Paris and had heard bad things from other people. It just seemed like another busy capital city, only French. It is though, the center of the Francophone world. I love old and beautiful and French things so much. I met a few people who had just said yes to Paris and stayed there for a long time after they had planned to leave.
I gave all kinds of wonderful explanations on why i could never get work in my field there, why it was impossible, and why I’d never really fit in in Paris. It all turned to hogwash one day when a classmate told me I could. And I started thinking about looking for work and networking away. It was hard because I didn’t have a clear goal, easily transferable work experience, or that much experience at all frankly.
I met a guy totally by chance. He asked me for a light, I didn’t have one, but I did say yes to a drink with the handsome stranger, known as Y on my blog.
I spent my 24th birthday in Paris, my second one in France, with him and some dear friends from business school. He gave me a little bottle of perfume called “girl in Paris,” as a little token of his affections.
I didn’t really know what I was looking for, I just wanted to find a way to come back.
I thought about staying. I thought long and hard about it. But it wasn’t a leap of faith I was willing to take, and I wasn’t sure I could give up Asia for Paris, and an American degree. And my greater scholarship. Things weren’t exactly equal, so I continued the journey. I was torn apart though.
Going on to Philadelphia was so hard. I left behind so many wonderful things, and while I tried to appreciate Philly, it just wasn’t as good as Paris for me. My workload got a lot harder and my criticism of myself, my business school, the mentality of career-oriented individuals, and the world just got sharper. I was eaten up with self doubt and somewhat depressed, seeking counseling. I regretted not staying in Paris, thinking that my happiness had a value too. My goals seemed even hazier than before, and all I did was try to get back to Paris, any way I could. I even looked into teaching English, which was what I tried to get away ffrom by going to b school. I continued studying French and got a certification of fluency.
I scheduled a quick rendez vous in Paris to do some networking and make myself available for interviews en route to Asia. Not much bore fruit, I got a really good connecion with someone with an English teaching company though. I thought that might work out as a temporary job until I could get something more on track with my long term goals, which remained hazy.
I saw Y. Our meeting was a little strained. We had kept in touch, but our online correspondance never reached the level of intimacy that I craved. He was having a tough time at work and I think things might have been a litttle touchy with his family who was staying with him too. It took us longer than I had anticipated to get together. He didn’t kiss me, and I was mad, and then I thought maybe I had been insensitive in some way, and I probably had. I emailed him apologizing. He said he’d been happy to see me. It made me really sad because I was expecting a lot more romance.
Y said, this time tomorrow you’ll be in India. Yes, I was.
People say India is an assault on the senses. It is. I had been to Madagascar before, an even poorer country to an extent, and so had some preparation.
What I wasn’t prepared for were the startling class differences, the coexistence of the modern and the ancient, and how everything was all swirled together. People also describe India as organized chaos, and I’ll agree with that. I’ve actually written a lot about India for my class blog, but here I’ll just say that the world’s largest democracy is a place that is getting better by leaps and bounds but still has far to go.
Our class was on entrepreneurship and innovation, and how businesses can solve social challenges. Despite my cynicism, it reminded me of why I’d come to business school, and to Washington, in the first place- to change the world for the better. The more I’ve learned about the East though, the more I’ve realized the only thing I’m really responsible for changing is myself and my attitude towards life, and that might be the most potent instrument I have.
ANd India is beautiful and diverse and crazy. I am blessed to have seen it.
Then it was on to China. I hated the communism, that millions of people had been coopted into repression with greater prosperity. I couldn’t go on Facebook or the New york Times. It didn’t ruin my life, but seeing a woman arrested on Tiananmen Square for protesting something did affect me. Growing prosperity without real freedom looked a lot like slavery to me. And this emerging center of the world simply made me sick on that level. The bribery, corruption, and cynicism upset me too. It is not such a bad place, but definitely no where I would want to live.
Our professor there was amazing though. He made the whole experience much more than a cursory glance at China, and engaged us on a deeper level. I will never forget him. And he told me I should get a PhD and be a professor or go back to working in policy, and said sometimes you just have to take the leap when it comes to things like France, where I had bought a ticket without yet having a job.
And finally to Japan. Japan was wonderful. The degree of conformity and Confucian values was astonishing. The city looked like Europe or the US, but the people experienced life in a totally different way. It was like being on another planet when I went to Kyumisadera temple in Kyoto. And something so wonderful about the Shinto and Buddhist shrines right next to each other.
It was gorgeous and incredible.
I had a moment of peace in Buddhist memorial shrine thing, in an area surrounded by red lotuses. I loved my trip there so much, and fet so strongly about it, I finally got the lotus tattoo I’d wanted for a while. It is quite small and on the inside of my right ankle. Beautifully done by a Japanese artist.
I made a good friend in my professor there, who saw the world in many ways as I do. And helped me as much as he could with the professor goal. He was insistent upon grounding dreams in reality, and I learned a lot from that.
And then the program was over, my doubts persisted, and it was time to say goodbye to all the people I loved, usually like ,and sometimes didn’t like. I didn’t like their eat or be eaten mentality, and some of them seemed so old and dried up of hope at times. My own insecurity made me think they despised me sometimes. But they were like brothers and sisters, an experience like that is something that is once in a lifetime to share.
Then I went on to Thailand. my best friend in the program was also going there, and her boyfriend joined the second day. It was nice that I got a little time iwth her before he came, and by that time I felt like an Asia bro. When she goaded me to taking a motorcycle taxi, I knew I was ready for anythng. Eventually she and her bf went on to the islands and I stayed in Bangkok.
I rested, taking in the sights at a leisurely pace, enjoying the cheap stuff, and especially the massages.
One day I went a little bit off the beaten path, taking a two hour train ride, which cost all of 50 cents, to the ancient capital of Siam. It was mostly ruins, and it was a moment of realizing wherever you go, there you are. The sky was the same sky, the grass wasn’t teribly exotic, and I enjoyed seeing the Buddhist temples but they all began to blur together.
The gnawing loneliness came back with my friend gone, and all I had was myself, my hopes and fears and worries, for company most of the time. And the beauty and mystery of Thailand.
I was so happy to have seen it, but ready to go home.
And now I am still home. The return went pretty smoothly, and I had plenty of chances to tell my stories. I knew from coming back from France that people could only understand a limited amount of what they hadn’t seen anyway, and I was relieved to be back in Western civilization. I appreciated home so much more.
I had plans to go to Paris, job or no job, but I decided not to take the leap. I just didn’t feel confident to do it without a source of income. And I wanted a little bit of say in what kind of job I’d have, plus I would need work authorization which could take weeks to get and would require coming back to the US if I found a job.
So it was alittle too much of a mess.
I told Y, he said he’d call soon, and he hasn’t. As always, I never know what’s going on with him exactly. I think of him very fondly, but I think we’ve both moved on.
I was fixin to go to DC even when I was planning on going to Paris. To get a sense of jobs there, and more importantly, To see if I still loved it and oculd live there happily. and maybe to run into that guy, who now works there full time in a steady job.
As it turns out, when I was sending out emails of my resume to a bunch of friends, he told me about a networking event. He didn’t register in time to go, so I missed him there. THe event was not what I was expecting, it was more social than networking, but I had a good time, drank a ton of champagne, and remembered why I love DC. Me and the dude weren’t able to meet up after either due to our paths diverging.
I took a few pictures, and I felt at home. Probably a bit more than I do in Paris to be honest.
I had thought I would already be working in DC by now. Turns out, life had other plans for me. But I turned my attention to applying for jobs and getting in contact with my peeps there.
I gave up on Paris, thinking now was just not the right time.
I had a great time hanging out with old friends, enjoying my family, and going to the gym and doing other simple things.
And then, out of the blue, I got a LinkedIn message from a contact in Paris who’d been unresponsive for months, telling me there might be a position for me there. I won’t divulge the details here.
I’ve been trying to get in touch with her to no avail. THe fact I’m not in Paris might make it impossible to get, although I’d be on the next flight if that’s what it took, maybe.
I was almost disappointed for a second, thinking that life is funny how I always seem to leave just as I’m beginning to feel at home.
I hope life isn’t always like that, that we can be at home wherever we are if we are at peace with ourselves, and most importantly, that I appreciate whwat I’ve got.
And I’m still waiting to hear from her. I looked through some job ads but put things on hold. just letting things sink in. I’ve been taking it a litle bit easy, and I’ve been working little by little and restoring my peace and confidence. It seems to be working when I just let things flow.
So we’ll see what happens.
I think it’s safe to say the b school trip around the world and back is over, but it has left deep roots in me. The imprint of this trip on my mind and life is everywhere. It is almost impossible to imagine life without it, much as I’ve been plagued by doubts the whole time.
Perhaps most important is that I’ve realized I’ve had a wonderful ride the last few years. Things didn’t go as expected, but I think God’s plans were better for me. The shame is that I’ve eben in perpetual life crisis mode and miserable about nothing really. Most of my fears haven’t come close to materializing, and all that owrry has not added a day to my life. It’s sad that I took so much regret and sadness with me when I climbed the Great Wall of China. I think it’s time for me to lighten my load and take it easy on myself.
I take life a little too seriously, honestly. Not only do I need to trust the man upstairs, I need to trust myself. I need to accept it when I don’t know where I’m going, and not get too comfortable, even with not having a plan. I need to be wherever I am, and just accept and enjoy it.
This is my life, I’ve met so many amazing people, and it’s time to enjoy it. Today and everyday. Wherever you go there you are. Each day has its charms, and no two are alike. I think this is the way to satisfaction.
Its not alway sbaout knowing, orhaving a plan, or thinking you’ve got it all figured out, or that you are better than people, or that no one can understand you, or any of that nonsense. IT’s definitely not about your job title or how much money you make, or about being a person you are not. It’s aboutbeing saintly in your own special way, whatever that means to you, and recognizing that no two people can do the same job in this world.
And there’s so much more to life than love, or work, or even fireindship. THere is a wonder you can access, and many times can only access, all alone.
And there’s a time for ehellos and a time for goodnbyes, and al the pushing and shoving and forcing inthe world won’t change that.
And there’s a time to act, and a time to wait, and let things ripen, knowing all iwll turn out for the best, whether you see it or not.
And knowing that you may never know exactly what your life’s purpose is, but that doesn’t stop you from having meaning in your life and daily living anyway.
And also that can’t means won’t. If you don’t try, you’ll never do. Failure is more valuable than success, but success is the habit tha’ts worth holding on to.
My loves, I’m gettin ga little sleepy. I have so mch more to say, but it’s time for me to stop as my eyes are more than dropoping as it is. Thank you for listening, as always. Hope you enjoy.