A few days ago, I received news that I would have thought would make me happy, but instead felt a weight in my gut, like a let down, and I felt claustrophobic, trapped.
Basically I find out that it might indeed be possible for me to spend another year in Paris, although due to certain regulatory restrictions, it will be a little complicated and I”ll have to go without working for a few months.
Nothing to complain about, unless you want to talk about how many things don’t seem to make any sense here, but when it comes down to it, it’s all a matter of perspective.
These days, I’m trying to figure out what mine is. Knowing that it is likely to change, but it’s only through taking action and finding out the reality- of what I feel, and the situation- that I can take responsibility for my life. That said, knowing what you want and going for it does not guarantee that you get it, but living consciously is a pleasure, well more than a pleasure, deeply satisfying, in itself. It’s also good to aim for targets you truly want to hit.
People may say your twenties are all about self discovery and finding self knowledge, but the truth is that a lot of self knowledge is in the moment, and can only be gained through mindfulness. We can’t learn everything we need by reflecting on the past or imagining the future. Sometimes you need to think deeply, but knowing what your body thinks and feels is pretty critical to good decisions.
So I am taking this pretty seriously.
Conversely, when I thought about going back to the US instead, I was pretty happy, although to be honest I feel shocked at giving up the thought of the benefits and vacations and access to culture I have here. What I crave is community in all its forms, and besides a few good friends and colleagues I like, I haven’t really found that yet.
I tend not to get too deep in my feelings and try to remain independent, but I do have to admit that I miss my family, and that does take a toll, even if it’s mostly hidden. It’s nto that I want to go back to living with my parents, but I do enjoy their company.
Not to say that I have scraped till I hit the bottom of the barrel, but I have not really had a feeling of affinity with any French dude. Being in a relationship is not something you can order up like a croque monsieur, but kissing frogs has just made me long for some grade-a American beefcake to be honest. There’s no guarantee that if I were to go to America, I would be in a relationship , or even that being in a relationship would make me happy(though that’s an experiment that I’m willing and interesting in making), but it’s an experiment that interests me.
I think the biggest sacrifice would be all the things I do can do just by virtue of living in Europe. The culture, the travel, the food. There is nothing similar in the US. THe beauty alone is priceless, though I’m not exactly sure how much all of it is worth to me. Having more people to share it with would probably help, though it’s not just that I”m sometimes getting tired of taking vacation alone, much as I can’t really fathom how I would be able to stand most people for uninterrupted periods of time. I love people in general and I am outgoing, but in general I prefer to surround myself with a few people I really feel I can relax with. And I do tend to see travel as sort of a mystical journey. Usually just getting on a train and seeing something new soothes my soul.
Speaking of newness, I ordered a detailed personality profile- how scientific, I don’t know- and it fit me to a T. Actually, to an ENTP, although my Thinking and Feeling were very close. I htink my natural inclination is more thinking but through experience I have become more feeling, or at elast, I have some compassion for the feelings of others, though actually, there are a lot of illogical things I have trouble empathizing with.
Basically, novelty, variety, what is different- all that drives me. And it is soo true. It’s great to be open-minded, but sometimes I feel like it’s a weakness- just another drug. It’s true that I often get excited about something and don’t follow through, but that doesn’t really bother me because for the most part I follow through for most things in life. The truth is that some of the novelty is wearing off here, and though it will never be home, it is my current normal. Which is incredible, and why I don’t want to leave, and yet it also feels kind of sterile here. Another year of not “starting my real life,” or rather, having the mentality that it’s just another year, basically looking at it like an extended vacation, a novel experience. Although sometims it’s kind of strange because there are many, many things that I have never experienced in America that I have experienced in France, and honestly I have no idea how things would be in the US. Less endlessly fascinating yet inscrutable? Would I find any less food for thought? Would I actually enjoy it without all the cultural hurdles to navigate through?
A lot of what it comes down to for me, at this moment, is my career. Gaining skills that I can use anywhere, and mostly, getting paid to learn as much as possible, through doing, observing, and being mentored. I just read that work, at least in the corporate world, is school for grownups. Can’t say it’s not true, bu I do end to view life as school, at least things I like about it. I know, I ‘m so strange for enjoying personal growth and learning and not wanting to sit on the couch watching Jersey Shore in my pjs all day. Maybe reading articles in the New York Times and all the random internet sites I stumble upon is just as lazy in a different way, but I’m not interested in apologizing or being judged. It’s been difficult for me to understand that many pople don’t have a growth mentality, and I”m sure that it must have some benefits for society since evolution and modern life allow it to exist, and maybe I do need to stop and enjoy the roses more. However, you can’t stop planting and tending them either, and the joy is not only in the scent. It’s in the dirt too.
The implications for all these meanderings are enormous. I think balance in all areas in life is important, and I still agree with that, but the mentality behind work/life balance that work is something to be avoided or is somehow separate from life is totally erroneous. Work is an adventure, just like everything else. The stakes are high, which is why you should play to win, and play well. As Mary Poppins says, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Going about work believing it is just travail to get money is not a good way to approach life.
ALso, I have found that the feeling of making a difference in my team, and doing good in a small, private way- is really satisfying. I do not need to work for Greenpeace. I’d rather have a fun job in a dynamic environment and send them a check.
Speaking of money, it does not buy happiness by any means, but it helps with many things. Reently I feel like my money has gotten away from me and I’ve overspent, despite not really radically changing my lifestyle from when I was a student. However, life is expensive. THough your wants and “needs,” seem to expand when you have more money, being able to generate income with a bit of surplus (most o fthe time) is huge. A major stress affecting pretty much everyone on the planet, I can’t say how freeing it is to know that if I wnat to buy strawberries I can- even if they are 4 euro a package. Delicious. Having some leeway in the little choices is awesome.
I also fee a bit less judgmental of how people spend their money and live their lives now that I have experienced it. I would rather get a massage, or buy some meals out, than go blow money on overpriced drinks, but if that’s what other people want, so be it. Sometimes we take spending money a little too seriously.
The biggest takeaway of these meditations prompted by a gut feeling is that it sort of implies I need to take other gut feelings seriously. One in particular is inexcusably illogical. Also, to be honest while I remember the intensity of the feeling, I’m not sure if I remember the message as I want to remember it or as it actually was. I guess I’ll just have to shut up and listen to my body to see. And maybe take a real emotional risk, instead of gunning for something I know from the beginning is impossible. Certain, planned failure is not exactly romantic or putting it all on the line. I’m sure I know the answer to my question deep inside, I’m just going to have to cut out the blah blah and let the answer surface presently, rather than holding on to a presentiment from the past, when I was an entirely different person.
Action is no scarier than reflection. Reflection is not easy, especially when you realize things are not as they seem.
Also, I just want to point out that it’s through appreciating what I have, and finally being satisfied with my life at this moment, that I”ve been able to uncover my deepest wants.
I also accept that I will change my mind and desires, but I have to go with the flow and just be ok with the little dance. and If I listen to my body, that might save me a little bit of back and forth.
And the most important thing in all of this is that I am finally learning to trust myself, believing that my own judgement has value and I don’t need everyone else’s opinion. If worse comes to worse, it’s ok to be wrong but it’s worse not to live because you’re scared- at least that’s my belief.
And it’s best to enjoy it all, even the turmoil along the wya. This day will never come again, but I’m excited to see what’s next.
Even more excited to see what the voice within has to say about all this.