Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Why I'm turning ledgers into lemonade

People, people, you wildly overestimate me. You thought my new job might be interesting enough to warrant discussion and/or some kind of big reveal? 'Tisn't.

Oh, I had high hopes, though. You want to hear about an interesting job? Let me tell you about how things could have turned out. A couple months ago I stumbled upon what I was pretty sure was The Perfect Job--Studio Operations Manger at a yoga studio. At a yoga studio that I could walk to from my otherwise not particularly conveniently located apartment. And one of the perks of the job was free yoga! Well, I pounded out an earnest and heart-felt cover letter, sat back, and steeled myself for yet another rejection. But, they liked my cover letter, and wanted to meet me! I will never make it past the interview, I told myself in a futile effort to avoid crushing disappointment. But, we talked, and they liked me! Things were going much too well for me, and so when they offered me the job, I finally discovered the fly in the ointment: though the ad had claimed "salary commensurate with experience, health insurance, and free yoga," in actuality I would be paid only slightly more per hour than your average Starbucks barista. Oh. That. Well, good thing I hadn't gotten my hopes up! 


So, it was back to the drawing board, and now here I am, about to start my new job as a bookkeeper at an architectural firm in the swank Maryland suburbs of DC. It actually seems very similar to the position I held at my first real job in Boston, back in '04-'06. The cushy one with amazing benefits where I lasted only a year and a half before deeming it "boring" and skipping merrily away in favor of a lifetime of impoverished studentdom. (In retrospect, probably not one of my better decisions.) When I tell people what I do, without fail they will look baffled and ask something like, "Did you always want to be a bookkeeper? I mean, how did that happen, exactly? You have two Masters' degrees in what, again?" And, um, no. Obviously I never wanted to be a bookkeeper. But other than teaching it's the only thing I have actual experience doing, and thus it is the only job that anyone will hire me for. Such is life. Might as well make the best of it. Starting tomorrow, I'm gonna keep the fuck out of those books.   

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Why two roads diverged, and long I stood

It's beyond strange to think that if I had just managed to stick it out, I would now be finishing up my first year of teaching. The summer would be unrolling before me just like it did when I was a child--seemingly limitless and full of possibility. I would be going to the pool and to yoga and buying plane tickets to visit old friends. I would drink iced tea and live on pasta salad and fruit--peaches and cherries and melon, cold from the fridge. I would write blog posts and read books, and no one could ever call me lazy, because I would have earned it. But I'm not doing any of that, and my newly purchased Nook languishes on the table where it's been for the last two weeks--still in its box. 

Instead I am a week and a half away from starting my new job, the job I thought I might never get. I thought it might be my punishment, to be doomed forever to this job I took at a desperate time and for myriad reasons have hated ever since. But the worst abuse I took there was still nothing compared to that of eighty urban teenagers, and so I stayed for eight and a half months--almost a school year, but not quite--and am just now finding my way out. 

And so it's on to the next one--not necessarily bigger or better but newer and at least different (until inevitably the newness wears off and it turns out it's just more of the same). Still, it's strange to think about parallel lives, and when I'm sitting in my new/old desk chair in a room with no windows, I'll know there is another Rachel in a hammock somewhere, staring up at the confetti of sky through the trees, an unread book fanned out on her stomach, smiling.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why I wouldn't want to live in France again

Père Lachaise Cemetery, 2008
In this post's comments, L wanted to know if I had ever considered moving back to France.

Hanging out at the Rodin Museum
Ha! Ok, that's the short version. The longer version is this: First of all, is someone knocking on my door, ready to  hand me an employment letter, naturalization papers, and keys to my very own Parisian pied-à-terre? Yes? Well then, duh, yes, sign me up! Short of that, however, the answer becomes very long and boring. And yes, ex-pat bloggers abound, taunting us with tales of just how charmed life can be in la belle France, but if you look closely you will notice that almost without exception, they are legally able to reside in France because they are either a) students, b) teaching English in the same assistant program I was in, c) au pairs, or d) married to a French person. There is also a separate category for the independently wealthy or those who are able to do their work from anywhere, i.e. those lucky few who are able to make a living from writing or art. Unfortunately, I am e) none of the above.

Running on the beach with thumbs in Normandy
The assistant program is great, and I highly recommend it as a way for young francophiles to get a visa for 7-9 months, while also getting paid a (very) small (read: not actually livable) stipend--that is, if and when you're lucky enough to get paid at all. I did it twice--once right after college in Grenoble, and again six years later, outside of Paris (examples of which you can find here, here, and here). Even though certain aspects of it were stressful, lonely, or inconvenient, I'm glad I did it. (Twice.) But would I do it again? Technically I don't think that it's even an option. (While there is no age cap, I believe there is a two-term limit, though I'm sure some people have managed to get around that.) But as a young twenty-something, would I do it again? Sure. Would I do it again now? Nope. (Short of the afore-mentioned job/papers/keys from heaven scenario, that is.) I've had my grand adventure and now I'm ready to settle down and hope that I make it back there again someday--on vacation. 

Paris in the springtime, 2009
In the same post, Chrys asked if I keep in touch with Harry/Henri. Actually, his name was/is Hervé, and you can read about him here and here, and about our bittersweet ending here and here. The short answer to Chrys's question is no. The longer answer is we sent a few e-mails back and forth after I left, but as I expected, they dried up fairly quickly. Actually, I think it was my turn to write back, and I just...didn't. And neither did he. It was better that way. Not to sound too...whatever, but I think he was pretty torn up about the whole thing. And I felt bad about not feeling sad enough, and I think it would have just been too painful for us to keep in touch. C'est la vie, eh?

And thus ends my love affair with la belle France. Anything else you'd like to know?