This is a post about the Question I’ve been asked the most since I moved here. I don’t mind at all that this question gets asked of me a lot, it’s only natural that it would, so here’s my answer.
What the blazes are you doing here?/ Pourquoi est-ce que tu habites en France?
Call me crazy, but when you get into a hideous amount of debt after going to a brilliant university (University of Reading yo), to study one subject which makes you happy (English Literature), and a language and you love, despite not particularly excelling in it (French) and its culture, then you would hope to start a job after graduating which makes you feel that the night shifts at the library, exams, moments of doubt, closing shifts as a waitress before getting up at 7 to go to the library, gallons of red bull etc. were all worth it.
Which brings us to Motivation Number One: Alas, the feeling that my purpose was being filled did not happen immediately; after finishing the placement of my dreams at a publishing house (I didn’t give a flying hoot that it was unpaid), I was on the dole for three months (and I was lucky), before getting a job as an Account Manager for an IT Distribution company.
The people I worked with were hilarious, but I was not happy there. Working in sales and high technology was never my calling, and even though talking to my customers was the part of the job which I liked the most and I wasn’t too shabby at it, that aspect of enjoyment was overshadowed by not being able to use my degree, except on two occasions when a French client called. This was not why I went to university.
Motivation Number Two: When studying a language at uni, it’s preety much compulsory to spend your third year in the country whose national language is the one which you’re learning. I chose to spend my time as an English assistant because it was paid and it would be one more piece of working experience under ye olde’ belt buckle.
My criteria for picking the school was: in a large city (the bigger the better), teaching teenagers, and in terms of my choice of places, my first was Montpellier, second Bordeaux, and third Rennes. I ended up in the Academy of Rennes which encompasses all schools in Brittany. After three months, I found out I was placed in the sleepy town of Redon, with a population of 8,000 people, but hey they got the age group right. I was allocated to teach students aged between 13 and 22 (this meant that at that time, some of my students were older than me which, although intimidating at first, we quickly became friends).
As you can imagine, being told that you will be spending the much anticipated year abroad in a town with a population of 8,000, is not news which will have you shouting from the rooftops. So I tracked down the lovely bloke who taught at the school the year before me, and kindly asked him HOW DID YOU MAKE FRIENDS?!?! To which he calmly replied that there is a student village in the town, which was built specifically for those doing their masters in Logistics. I lived with 3 girls, and just like my first day of uni, my first ‘unpacking day’ was spent with my door open so that people could wander in and out. I ended up having the most wonderful 9 months, we went to as many places as we could, in France as well as Europe, and I met a lovely group of people, most of whom are here in Paris and are haapily my core group now. Which brings us to the summit of motivation number 2: Amongst those whom I met, I also met my partner of now just over three years, who was studying in the Masters school of logistics, before moving back to his home town, Paris.
We became pros at LDR (long-distant relationship) during my final year of uni, going back and forth between Paris and Reading on the Eurostar, and even afterwards, when my placement had finished and I was trying to figure out what the hell I was doing with my life. But with all long-distant relationships, a decision has to be made, either one of you is going to have to join the other one, or both of you are going to have to move to a new place, or you will have to call it time. The latter choice was not an option for us. At first, he wanted to move to England, so he started looking for jobs and going for interviews because he loves it there and still does (who couldn’t) and I wasn’t ready to move to France.
Motivation Number 3: Have you listened to ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’, written by Mary Schmich, read by Lee Parry, produced by Baz Luhrmann? There’s a couple of lines in the song that made perfect sense to me (even after months of telling anyone who asked, ‘no I won’t move to Paris because I’ll be giving up my independence, what if it all goes wrong, it’ll be too difficult’ blah blah blah’), not realising that if it all goes wrong, there will be a way to make it right. The two quotes that gave me the metaphorical kick up the arse I needed, after a much needed talk from a life-long friend and her mother, reiterated the two quotes that follow:
“Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you…”
The second is this:
“Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives”
Now, I’d heard this track a gazillion times before, but on this idle Tuesday I realised that it would all be ok, whatever the outcome. The friendships I have in England will either fade with or get stronger, and either outcome is ok, if I needed to see my family I would find a way to get to them, London is only a train-ride away, and so on.
So I had many conversations with the Mothership, my life-long friend, her mother and sisters, and after a short while, I told Loums to stay put. It hasn’t yet been six months, but I don’t feel like I’ve lost my independence, in fact I feel like I’ve gained some, there is always the possibility that something which one works hard for could go wrong, but that should never mean that one shouldn’t try, and yes it is difficult sometimes but again, that doesn’t mean that it’s not worthwhile.
So there you have the answer to the question, the next post will be shorter.