Look at that, it’s over! Well, mostly. I’m flying home June 1st, but I’d rather spend the last days getting the last of my France fix in than blogging, so we’re getting the conclusion to my time abroad a bit early. All that to say, that’s right y’all, it’s reflection time.
I do have a class left to teach and some time in Paris ahead of me, but otherwise my year in this program is well and done. I went back and read my pre-departure post to brush up on all the expectations and fears I had for this year, and it was just how I remember it: anxious and uncertain, but at least a little bit excited. It turns out that these are just my default going-somewhere feelings, seeing as something similar is going on now that I’m headed back, although to a lesser extent. I’m anxious about leaving a boy behind for the summer, uncertain about finding a job, and excited about seeing my family, friends, home. If being a worrier is something I’ll grow out of, it’s certainly not happening soon, but that’s a post for another time. Now, I can see what became of my last big wave of worrying, and maybe it’ll give me an idea of what to expect from the next one.
What I was scared about back then included finding a home, making friends, doing my job, speaking French, finding work in a boulangerie, and generally everything. For the most part, it all worked out, but not quite as I’d envisioned it. Ain’t that just the way. I did find a home, but a big old creaky house by myself instead of a tiny apartment with roommates. I did make standard program buddies, but the friendship with my landlady and some coworkers was a bonus. My job has been fun, much more fun than expected, and I’m pretty sure my French has gotten better, though I do still occasionally tear up after bombing too many half-translated jokes in a row. As for getting to work in a bakery, that’s the one part that didn’t work out, not even a little bit. They said no, and there’s not much getting around that. At least they were nice about it. So, with a job that lasts no more than fifteen hours a week and no early morning baking, I’ve had plenty of time on my hands, actually the most unexpected aspect of this year.
In terms of life changes, having all this time has been neck and neck with adapting to a foreign country. At least I’ve been to France in the last few years; it’s been a good while longer since I’ve had time. After years of finishing a paper to study for an exam or ending a semester to start a summer internship, I’m suddenly sitting calmly in a glassed-in porch, writing, with nothing in particular to do tonight. Honestly, there's been more free time than necessary, but it mostly went to good use. Quite a bit of it also went to Youtube and Netflix. It's felt like retirement at 23, just not at all financially secure and with reentry into the workforce looming. In two weeks, actually.
So, I’ve been taking walks, binging on podcasts, thinking about my life and what to do with it. There's been lots and lots of writing, both on this public blog and elsewhere just for me. One little hope I’d had for this year, hidden among the anxieties, was that I’d have the space to glean something of an idea of my greater future. I thought I’d get enough of an inkling of the teaching life to decide if it's my dream career, or else write enough to be a pro or to be totally burned out. Maybe if I could've worked in a French bakery, that'd have set me on the path to being a pastry chef, and all my questions would be answered,the uncertainty dissolving away in the buttery fumes. It would seem that with all this free time to think and overthink, some of that might have been worked out by now--a two year plan, at the very least. That's what I thought. But no, of course not. Y'all know me, and I'm getting to know me. All I know is that I've accepted the TAPIF contract again for next year, so I'll be returning to France at the end of the summer. Then there'll just be a new big question mark hovering around May 2019.
This means I’m more or less in the same place I was this time last year, just less nervous about the job and more confused about what to do after. It doesn't help that TAPIF cuts you off after two years. Will I stay in France, and if so, how? Will I be able to continue in pastry? Should I keep writing? What about the boy?
And so on, and so on, forever, amen. Y’all know the drill. So here I am, comfortable with France, its people, and its language, and with a deeper awareness of myself and my independence, but with no more of an idea of what I’ll be doing in 2019 than I did walking off the stage in my cap and gown. While I’d prefer to have things more planned out, this ultimately is not very surprising. Life for now is just happening one year at a time, with a big “we’ll see” after any given 9-12 month period.
How thrilling. How destabilizing. How else would I want it to go? Plenty of ways, honestly. More predictably, for example, but I’m okay with this too. For now.
Come see me while I'm back in Memphis, buds.