Confessions of an Au Pair’s Year Abroad in France
We come here because we are bored. We are thirsty. And eager. And resistant of that encroaching sense of apathy toward life. It’s what has always scared us the most- blindly and obediently moving with the motions of day to day living. Now don’t get me wrong. I understand that the daily-grind is inevitable. You can’t help but get into a pattern when you wake up at the same time everyday, put on the same grandma sweater, with the same slippers, and pour yourself the same bowl of cereal five days a week. That is a reality of things. Life can’t actually be one big grand daily adventure- or can it?
Truth be told, once you take that chance and leave home, life is exciting for a while. It’s uncharted and beautiful and irresistible- especially when it’s nestled between the mountains, close to the boarder of a country that holds your dreams in the palm of its hand. Every day feels fresh and novel and you step outside and can’t believe that this is the backdrop to your unbelievably exciting adventure. You pinch yourself because you can’t process the fact that life actually conspired to make this happen for you. You are thankful for all of the support that helped push you out the door, and also for all of the resistance because it gave you the chance to prove to yourself that it is possible to follow dreams- no matter how much you feel like you are tackling the impossible.
And then four months pass. It’s December, and you realize that a pattern has formed in this new place and you are comfortable again. Life is neutralizing itself. You can feel it in the pit of your stomach, and your inclination is to change something again, because you don’t like that feeling. And it’s hard to justify your choices when every second isn’t the perfect little adventure you envisioned: You are broke. You miss being with the people you love, getting drunk with them until sunrise or sitting in the living room drinking something hot and discussing the theory of things. You live with someone else’s family, and no matter how great and amazing they are- they aren’t yours. You miss walking around pants-less in your own house, kissing your man after a long day of work and eating take-out from the container. You miss the comfort of your own place. You are frustrated by the time zones that separate you from the people you rely on to build you back up again after a hard day. You miss all of the things you ran away from because at the time you felt like you were suffocating, and you had no idea why.
The hard reality is that things are good here, but they aren’t perfect. Because life doesn’t pause while you take some space to figure things out. It keeps going. It keeps pushing. It keeps forcing you to take a look at things and ask yourself what’s important to you. Some days it’s mundane. Some days it’s difficult. And some days you are surrounded by so much more love and magic than you ever could have expected. No matter how you feel, or what you are going through, you adjust. You find people here to share your dreams with, who have their own ones, which are just as big and undefined as yours. This family of strangers that you moved in with on a whim aren’t strangers anymore, but people who you are going to miss in the exact same way that you miss family now. And you realize that it wasn’t ever really about seeing a new place. It was about searching for something bigger than yourself, for something that might clarify this insane, crazy, full-blown life experience that we are all trying our best to navigate with some shred of purpose and dignity.
You will book your flight home and it will hit you how little time you actually have left here. This will make a part of you eager again for that mundane yet perfect little life you left behind. But it will also make another part of you sad, because no matter how homesick or broke or stressed-out you have felt over the past 5 months, it’s nothing compared to what you have gained.
You will then realize that adventure isn’t a place you fly to, or a place you come from. It’s present in every day, every second that you are growing and learning and discovering what it is that makes you happy.
I’m telling you- Go. Explore. See everything possible. Drink too much. Spend too much money. Laugh your head off. Join a choir full of 60 year-old divas. Take a chance on salsa lessons. Travel to new countries. Be silly. Be reckless. Make a move on that bartender you’ve been in love with all year long. Sing out loud in public. Do you. And then maybe you will see that in the end, it’s not really about the shiny new cities and foreign countries, but rather about what these places bring out in you, and who you meet along the way.
Inevitably, you will realize the things about yourself and your life that are working, and also those that are not. You will discard old messy habits that don’t have a use anymore and pick up new ones that reflect the kind of life you desire. You will learn what does work- what holds you back and what makes you actually feel alive- which you’ll be surprised to find out is an equal mix of reckless adventure, along with your favorite spot on the front porch with your puppy and the person you love.
You’ll board that international flight in 5 months time, throw your carry-on into the overhead compartment, say merci once again, and reach into your back pocket where your new found gems of wisdom, appreciation, gratitude, and love are stuffed snug behind your boarding pass and worn-out passport.