Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why only I could be miserable in Paris in the spring, part two of two

So you want to hear the rest of the story, do you? The villagers have spoken, and I have felt the sharp prick of their pitchforks on my backside. Ouch. I suppose it's my fault for posting a blog entry with 'part one' in the title. If I hadn't done that no one would have known any differently and I could have gone about enjoying my first day off with nothing to do and no one to entertain in I don't know how long. (I love having people to entertain, don't get me wrong). But instead here I am, in my pajamas at noon, lounging on my bed with a warm computer on my lap, trying to eke out a story about what an ungrateful ninny I am. Because who could possibly be lucky enough to live in Paris (or sort of), and even have managed to snag herself a French boyfriend, and still be completely miserable about it? Yes, it's a tough job being an ingrate, but someone's got to do it. And plus, have you seen how many sunshine and roses, my life is perfect and by the way here are some pictures of my new engagement ring bloggers are out there? I know you read them, we all do. But when your teeth start hurting from all the sweetness at least you know where to go. Diary of Why - the blog to read when you want to feel better about your own life. My new tagline, perhaps?

Ok, fine, I'm stalling. Where to begin...So, my teaching job ending, moving into a new (and awful) place, and even the Hervé thing all sort of came together at roughly the same time. My life was turned upside down, shaken and stirred, and now I'm trying to figure out what happens after. So let's talk employment. As I said, my teaching job is over now, and I went in to both the middle school and the high school last week to say goodbye. At the middle school they gave me an orange juice and cookie reception with the English teachers, the principal, and some specially chosen students. The teachers all said lovely things, the principal made a little speech, and the students, when prodded, asked halting questions like, "What will you do after?" Hmmm, I responded thoughtfully. They presented me with a beautiful (and unexpectedly heavy) photo atlas of the Seine-et-Marne department, signed by all the teachers. The students presented me with handmade cards, some of which made me laugh really, really hard. Goodbye my lover, someone had written. Have a good return to England, someone else said. Thanks to you I now like English a little bit more! said one girl. Goodbye my teacher. I'm happy!!! In one class turning my name into a poem was a popular idea, and so I got several variations on this theme:


My favorite one, though, used the words agility and essential, which kind of made me feel like a very important superhero. After class, one girl, who could never manage to stay in her seat or keep her mouth shut, came up to me and said with a big smile, "Even if I was bad sometimes, it was still fun." Another boy, whose name I don't even remember, so help me, came up to me and said, "We really loved having you here." He said it without a trace of a smile, completely serious, and I thanked him. "No, really," he insisted. "We really, really loved having you." He looked like he might cry. After school as I was leaving, the same boy was waiting at his bus stop. He walked up to me and just sort of stood there, staring, until I said goodbye about three times. It was sweet.

And for my last day at the high school, the school where I had spent most of my time? Nothing. Not a word. After school one of the teachers had a champagne reception to celebrate her recent marriage. There were toasts to her, and everyone signed a card and gave it to her. When it came time to leave I made the rounds saying goodbye. "It's my last day!" I said awkwardly, but no one really reacted. I stood in silence next to the principal for a good ten minutes during the reception, and he never said a word. The English teachers said maybe we would get together for lunch sometime soon. "Yeah, maybe," I said. This after I came in after my contract was technically over, after I came in even though I wouldn't get paid for it, just to say goodbye. This after I spent over 30 euros of my own money on peanut butter and Dr. Pepper and root beer for the students to taste. Ah, well. C'est la vie, right?

And so, anti-climactically or not, it's really over, and now my reason for being in France becomes a bit more ambiguous. Before, I was here to teach English. Now my only source of income is from baby-sitting, which kind of makes me question my existence here. Really? I came to France to wrangle a rude and over-privileged four-year-old and her even ruder and more over-privileged mother? My hopes of using this as a stepping stone into something else, something better, have all but disappeared as I've realized that, without working papers, finding an actual, real job here is pretty much a lost cause. And so I've turned my sites back towards the U.S., my country of birth, though not my country of choice, but the only one where I legally have the right to work. A quick perusal of internet job postings shows that my prospects are equally grim there, thanks to the current economic situation and a basically useless degree. When I think of the future, I see myself...moving back into my parents' house for an undetermined amount of time. Truly, a prospect frightening enough that even the most Pollyanna-esque of optimists quake in terror at the mere thought.

And Hervé? you ask. And Hervé??? (Yes, I can hear you, even from all the way over here!) Ah, yes, Hervé. And here's where the pitchforks come out. Hervé is...good on paper. But the reality of Hervé, like everything else, is quite a bit different. He is so sweet, and so eager to please, and yet...And yet. Besides the fact that he snores, and besides the fact that he sleeps, and therefore we sleep, the both of us in a child-sized bed, and that I lay awake for hours and never get a good night's sleep, and then I move to the child-sized couch, which is even worse, without even a pillow and miserable and shivering under the world's thinnest blanket...besides that is the fact that even the biggest bed in the world wouldn't change the way I feel about him, which is to say, the way I don't feel about him. Apparently years of experience have not yet taught me the inevitable lesson, that trying to convince yourself into developing feelings for someone never, ever works. And yes, I know, you hate me, but trust me I've heard it all from my sister already.

I mean, I still like the guy, and I still want to hang out with him, I just don't see a future with him, if you know what I mean. And I know some of you may be saying I should just bite the bullet and end it now, why drag things out unnecessarily, and I tell you, I would if I had anyone else at all to hang out with. But the sad but true fact is that all this year, I have not made a single friend in France who has not been either a roommate or sleeping with me. Which kind of puts yet another damper on the whole I want to stay in France forever daydream. Not that home is any better, mind you, since the friends I have in the U.S. are scattered far and wide, but nonetheless. It's hard to be a stranger in a strange land, you know?

But Hervé, yes, Hervé. It is a bit of a sticky situation. The last time I saw him, he said, "So you're staying with the baby-sitting job until the end of June?"

"Yes," I said.

"And after?" he said.

"Um...I don't know," I said. Why worry him unnecessarily, I thought, when it's true, I don't know exactly what I'm doing after. We'll just cross that bridge when we come to it. Twenty-four hours later I bought a plane ticket home. I haven't told him yet.

It's for June 30, and I thought I was ok until it came time to press the button, that one little be-all and end-all button confirming the purchase, and I almost couldn't do it. I put my head in my hands and I tell you, I almost cried. All of the awfulness here aside, going home still feels like such a failure, somehow. But I did it, I pressed that button, and my one saving grace is this: it's a round-trip ticket. Have you tried to buy a one-way trans-continental plane ticket lately? I swear, in no other business in the world does it cost five times as much to buy one of something than it costs to buy two. And people wonder why the airline industry is failing. Sheesh. So I bought a round-trip ticket because I was forced to, Air France twisting my arm while simultaneously prying my hard-earned euros out of my unwilling hands. And so, I will be going home on June 30, moving back in with my parents, and at twenty-nine years old, starting from scratch and trying to cobble together some semblance of a life for myself. But it does help to know that I have an escape route. And if I happen to get a wild hare round about July 21, then who knows what can happen. With my health, a couple of suitcases, and one half of a round-trip ticket back to Paris, I suppose anything's possible.


  1. "All of the awfulness here aside, going home still feels like such a failure, somehow."

    Please don't look at it that way, because it's not. You've had a great experience -- one that you can, if you choose, go back to -- and not staying doesn't equate to failure.

    Not to sound cliche or anything, although it does: When one door closes, another one opens.

    The slam of the first door SOUNDS like a failure, but the creaking of the one that opens will negate that. You'll see.

  2. I have a tiny inkling of what parents must feel like because I'm like "Yes, Rachel! Come home! You beloooong here!" But I know how shitty you must feel about it. Instead of thinking about how you're not doing what you set out to do, and that you somehow failed, think about how much you DID do. I mean, how many people live in France for a year?? You overcame a lot of bullshit and even if it's not what you had intended to experience, you still have the experiences you did have. Does that make sense?? Where's my coffee?

    And Herve...of yes. I have a Herve in my life, or at least had until recently, and it's almost as exhausting as having someone you actually see a future with. I vote you come to Los Angeles, for whatever it's worth. There are studios in my cute Hollywood building for under $800...just sayin!

  3. Hi Rachel, I discovered your blog pretty recently and decided to de-lurk myself. I really enjoy reading your blog. Leaving France isn't failing - do you know how hard it is for Americans to get jobs with the right to work here? Getting a job is like winning the lottery (and I, by the way, am really hoping that I win the lottery this year). Fingers crossed for both of us. If being in France is what you really want to do, then go for it.

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  5. About as far from failing as a ... well, a far away thing! You haven't failed at all. When my year in France is up in August I will go back home still not remotely fluent and I feel pretty gutted about that, especially as everyone will expect me to speak French fluently. But for many reasons, one of them being the fact that i was on my own so much, it just hasn't happened. But it's been an amazing experience. Just as you have had!! And hey, you've still got a month for some magic to happen!

  6. I literally almost jumped out of my seat as I was reading this post.

    I can't help but see all of the parallels in my life and yours. My ticket is for July 1. I am going back to the U.S., to no prospects, and slim to none chances of finding a job. My last day in my middle school is Friday. I get the feeling there is nothing coming. I need to contact you, I feel like this is just too much.

  7. Like others have said, I think you have had an amazing experience in France, something that many talk about but never actually pull it together and DO. But you DID! Please don't sell yourself short. And you never know what is around the corner, either Hervé-wise or France-wise, so I hope you can try to be open to all possibilities for the next six weeks. Bonne chance!

  8. "even the most Pollyanna-esque of optimists quake in terror at the mere thought."

    Hmmm... whomever could you be referring to?

    Good for you getting a round trip. That means you'll have to keep doing that forever, huh. How long does it last?

    Glad to distract you for a while...

  9. It just means that you will finally have the time to write a book about your experiences. Seriously, if I had the extra cash lying around I would pay your expenses for a year so you could write.


  10. Rachel, you are amazing. No really... I have been reading your blog for what? Two years now? I would know ;) Consider yourself on the brink of greatness! Oh the life ahead!

    You could be 29, divorced with four kids, starting an entirely new career, coming out, and in the process of buying a vehicle that can seat an entire football team.

    That my friend would be worse. :)

  11. I love reading your posts, and yes, I know how it feels to have the sweetest guy but not feel the love.

    Wish you all the best, am sure things will work out well, back home or in France or wherever you fancy. You're so young!!

    Can't wait to hear more adventures and water tales.