Friday, July 6, 2007

Déchirée, Paralysée

Wavering back and forth between so many emotions these days, I just don't even know how to begin to express what's going on in my head and my heart. I've tried to reserve this space here more for sharing events or activities in my life, or from to time some reflections of my own on said events... But these days, for some inexplicable reason, I can't seem to get it out there, put it down, understand why my insides are so jumbled and why I find myself an emotional yo-yo on a daily basis.

And I can't even concretely put any words to it all... That's why I guess I've been so absent in recent times. Not sure as to whether I should share what's going on inside of me, so frightened of coming across as ungrateful, obscure and neurotic. Although I guess that last word is pretty apt in my case. I wish I could express my feelings more eloquently, really hit the nail on the head with the right tournures, like some bloggers manage to do with such aplomb. But, unfortunately, I guess that's not my strength.

Last week I tried to chalk up all this emotional confusion and chaos to hormones, to the ups and downs of my monthly cycles, but I know that's not my only problem. I need some objective give-and-take, some exchange with someone outside of my own sphere of influence and some input as to how to go forward without spoiling the good things I really have going on, which really are there; I'm just having a hard time seeing them. I spend my time constantly trying to relativiser, putting things in perspective and telling myself that I am blessed and lucky in so many ways, but it's just not enough... I need some goals, something focused and clear to aim towards in the coming months. I need to reassess.

It's funny, because last Friday I had one of my euphoric moments, just after lunch, some retail therapy, some nice finds that momentarily cheered me up and brought me out of my funk. I even came back to my desk at work and thought, "You know what? I'm going to stop focusing on the negative, really see only the positive, look forward with a strong outlook, a great perspective. I'm going to stop being so pessimistic, so torn and paralyzed by fears."

But this didn't last very long. I'm not sure why. I even thought about how I was going to apply this positive outlook to my blog, share more of the good things going on in my life, and my reactions to other blogs I enjoy. And I still have that floating around in my mind now, but for some reason the need or desire has (temporarily, I hope) drifted away.

And so I find myself plagued by these erratic emotions, and I know a lot of it has to do with my feeling of stagnancy in my current situation, which I try not to dwell on here, or even to describe in any concrete manner. We all need goals, I guess, and although one of mine includes having a family, I think I'm also lacking a fulfilling goal in the here and now -- something I always had to guide me while I was a student. Perhaps that's why I've always jokingly said I was a better student than I am an adult in the real world, particularly professionally speaking.

It's on the days that I'm busiest, of course, that I don't have time to reflect too much on the negative, that I see things in a brighter light. When I can throw myself into cooking, and find that it fulfills me or gives me a sense of accomplishment, then I am okay, for a bit... Other days I escape into books or movies, music, and these distract me from the matters at hand, namely whether I will ever have a true focus in life, an actual career. I've always hated that question, when you first meet someone, as to what you actually do "for a living", rather than who you are. I hate that we must be defined by how we spend our times in an office all day long, or in the case of those who work from home, what we do with our time in front of a computer. I've always hated that people don't want to know more about what makes us who we are, what makes us tick, our background and upbringing, our interests, passions, preoccupations... This is something that has followed me, haunted me, for years. When meeting someone new, if his/her first question is what I do for a living, this turns me off, and I'm sorry to say that I will often write this person off, not dig any further myself, because it's a bad sign as to what that person really wants to know or wants to share about life in general. I'd much rather be asked about my loves, my passions, how I spend my time...

And maybe this is because, inherently, I lack that all-important focus. Yet I have so many interests -- that's probably my biggest problem! So many interests, no single, solid strength to carry them all into a worthwhile profession. Or none that seems clear to me at the moment (or has seemed clear in quite some time). I've considered teaching English over the years, I even tried it for a time. Not for me. (In fact, given my love for French, I'd probably be a much better French teacher. But try teaching French in France as a foreigner... The eternal catch-22...) I've worked in various different sectors, with varying professionals, and I don't think the corporate world is for me either. Private sector, public sector... UGH. In fact, I'm probably an artist at heart, lost at sea, trying to find a way to put my actual passions to work for me constructively. But I've never found that specific path, and part of my problem is perhaps that I haven't looked for it hard enough. All I've ever known, for years and years, is that I love French -- the language, the culture, the civilization... And I know I'm not alone in this; it's perfectly unoriginal. And whereas many of my friends and peers, both in my personal sphere and in the blogging world, came to France to be with the one they love, following them in the building of a life here, I came here, first and foremost, because this was where I wanted to live. It was my dream, in fact, to live and love in France. And I did find some love along the way; in fact, I've probably been most distracted and diverted by my love affairs over the years more than anything else. They have, in their own way, kept me from finding that particular vision, that sparkle, that single element that would help to define me as a unique individual, a person in my own right. Because I've felt that I've had so much love to give, and I've ached for so much love in return.

I know I love children, I love children's literature, I love many forms of art and music, particularly all those attached to France and French culture. But I've never found the perfect "professional" outlet for these interests. And the one time that I may have been close to finding that outlet, the circumstances were miserable (keeping me awake at night, giving me nightmares) and not motivating enough to keep me there. So now I float adrift, mucking my way through my days, métro-boulot-dodo, praying that this won't last forever, but not knowing whether to change directions, to start over again, to continue to plug away and hope for a change brought about by fate, or to turn things upside down and take new risks with regard to my current situation... and outlook. And not even knowing how to do that. Asking myself so many questions. I seem incapable of just living in the moment. Preoccupied by the possibilities and options, but not being able to act on them.

Torn, paralyzed.


Jennifer said...

I feel much like you do. I wonder where my future is going here. Especially after the child arrives. Will I be one of those stay-at-home moms? Something tells me NO WAY. I have too much drive to make a career for myself. The question is: in what? and how? and where?

Not easy questions to answer. I've had bad days, days where I'm asking myself if I made the right decision in coming here, with all the frustrations, and missing 'home'... it ain't easy! I feel like I have no right to complain, I'm living "a dream", as my friends and family say. So I shouldn't feel ungrateful. But where's all this going?

If you come across any enlightened answers to your questions, please let me know where you found them. :) I'm searching too...

Wendz said...

So....what do you do for a living? ;)

No seriously - you're at some sort of crossroads and it's quite normal. Just don't yourself get too hung up on over-analysing everything.

Think about it, yeah, and make some notes of what you'd like to do, look at stuff available, figure out possible future scenarios, but have fun doing it. Try not to be so full of angst.

The answer will come to you when you are ready. In the meantime, just go about your daily business and snatch those little moments of happiness where you can.

You will find your answers one day. The universe just isn't ready to let you have them yet.

The Late Bloomer said...

I know, Jennifer -- it is good to know we're not alone, but it really is tough sometimes... Sometimes I tell myself that at least I'm thinking about it, and asking myself questions, and that's GOT to be better than just resigning myself to things, right? But it makes it all so painful and confusing sometimes.

I think you're lucky and blessed to be preparing for your baby's arrival; I hope to have the same gift one day... Enjoy this time you have for yourself and for bringing your baby into the world, because it's precious, and you seem very at peace to me.

Wendy, thanks so much for the encouraging words. I guess that's a good way of looking at it: that the universe isn't ready to give me the answers yet! I like the sounds of that. It gives me hope yet...

Oh, and basically I'm a bilingual assistant right now, doing some editing and translation work in my office as well, but I feel so stagnant and underappreciated some days, and I know I'm not living and working to my full potential -- like I'm capable of so much more! If only I could figure out what... I just think the right place, the right environment, hasn't opened its doors to me yet and allowed me to spread my wings and prove my capabilities.

But like I said, ideally I wish I could work in the book world -- but it's tough to really combine those interests over here. Publishing is a tough area to break into, even tougher here in France. You need to be "pistonné", and as always, have the right diplomas.

Oh well.

Samantha said...

I obviously have no words of wisdom to give, but just wanted to say that you're not alone out there in this quest!

Scribbit said...

I'm not very good at advice or consoling words but I can say thanks for posting and putting some of these things into words. I hope it helped a bit to work things out.

joy suzanne said...

It's been said, but it bears repeating: you definitely aren't alone.

Sometimes I actually find myself in the middle of SCOLDING myself. I live in this incredibly beautiful city. I'm in love. I'm doing okay. I've got most of everything that I need. So what's the problem? I stop every so often and say, Merde! La vie est belle, quand même. Vas-y! Make your life here, for real. Get going.

It's not easy.

avec amy said...

Feel exactly the same way, ugh!

Ayannis said...

I am pretty much in the same position. In my country it is a disaster to work as a freelance -- as I often heard, just another word for unemployed and basically it matters not who you are, but what job you have, what position that gives you in the society and how much money you make. I am blessed that my husband earns a monthly paycheck, but in the past 5 years I have felt many times disappointment. It is like I am a worthless individual, well thats how everyone else sees me, and I am hurt and disillusioned. But I have decided that this year I will change all that. I am thinking about going back to Univ to retrain myself in modern languages, either in my country or abroad. Depending on where I will be I want, hope for the moment to do other changes as well. Right now I have a low self esteem. I guess that the others opinions influence more than it should have. Life was tough for my husband as well and for 4 years we actually struggled to make a living. Now the situation is better, at least for him but he is very supportive. In Romania too the first question my former high school mates, family, relatives etc ask is: what do you do for a living? and how much money per month? If I say that I do research and every once in a while write short op-eds, they stare at me in disbelief and its like they are pitying me... I just hate it!
I just hope sun will come on my street as well. I wish you well and thank you for putting down your thoughts.

Reb said...

I felt much of what you said -had found the perfect job but was making me sick with migraines and stress because I was having trouble making ends meet, terrible environment, etc. I often describe my current job as a dream job in someone else's dream. But since my daughter was born, I've made peace with it. who knows what will happen as she gets older, but for now, I can say my job is ok. Hang in there! You're not alone...

The Late Bloomer said...

Yeah, it definitely helps to know I'm not alone. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and for commiserating with me! In a lot of ways, I do truly know I shouldn't "complain" -- but it's not necessarily complaints, per se, but just questions and hesitations... Confusion and wondering about where I'm going with my life and how I can better it, on my own and with my partner. I feel lucky to have him in my life, and blessed in many ways, but the challenges ahead of us are daunting, and I guess that's what scares me the most.

But life is for risks, right? And maybe I just need to grab ahold of things, hold tight, and jump -- make it happen! Just as you said, Joy Suzanne. Because time is flying by much too fast...

Ayannis, it's really interesting to read your point of view and your own feelings about this. Thanks so much for sharing your experience here with us! What a world we live in, huh?!

Reb, I'm hoping I'll fall into that job I can make peace with eventually, sooner rather than later. But in order for that to happen, I think I'm going to have to dig for it a bit. And believe that the right thing will come along at the right time. And will help me find some sort of balance in my life.

Anonymous said...

mmm, gosh how many times have i felt this way?...mais, i think it is good to question yourself sometimes. :)

in the meantime, here is a fun little quiz...


Anonymous said...

i think the key is to take each day at a time, do small things to make you happy and definetly keep busy. i always get depressed and feel overwhelemed when i'm sitting still.

i think dream jobs are always about contacts, being there in the right place at the right time and meeting that person who can open doors for's just a matter of time. stay focused on what you want out of your life in the longterm, even if you aren't sure of the details yet. light a green candle.

ColourMeCrazy said...

I know what you mean about the métro-boulot-dodo thing. I've been doing this for years and despite wanting a change, I keep putting it off either because it's too hard or because we need the money. Anyway, hope you find the answers to your questions...or at least hints for where to look for answers ;-)

The Late Bloomer said...

Delphine, thanks so much for that link! I had a good time choosing the photos that suited me. I even created some sort of profile, but I'm not sure yet how I would use it... So many profiles out there on the Net these days!

Thanks for your thoughts, DestinationMetz and Colourmecrazy -- it means a lot!

Betty C. said...

I just dropped into your blog through some other expat blogs and am surprised I hadn't run into it before.

I haven't been able to read up about all of your background, but I think one of the very difficult things to adjust to in France is the seeming lack of appreciation for workers and employees of all levels, and the overriding mentality that anyone should just feel so lucky to have a job. I'm sure this professional contacts has something to do with the blues you're experiencing.

I will try to drop back in and see how you're doing. Courage!

Claire said...

I totally agree with Betty. Workers are undervalued in France.

Late Bloomer - you are much, much more than your job. You are right to see people who define themselves or others by their jobs as having a very limited vision.

Anyone who looks at what you write can see your talents, your qualities, your dedication.

Please never lose sight of that.

The Late Bloomer said...

Betty -- Thanks so much for the supportive and encouraging words. I'm happy to have found your blog as well! I'm also surprised not to have seen yours before, but it seems like this expat blog community grows more and more every day!

And Claire, your comments mean a lot to me... Thanks so much for stopping by and giving me your input.

Linda said...

I guess everyone has felt the same at one time or another. I have. I was a stay at home mother for many years, then back to being a nurse, a job which I hated. It wasn't until I came to France that I bloomed. I'm still not sure why. I have to say that I've met few people-expats-in France who like their jobs. Probably not many French do either. I think the advice given here is good. Make lots of contacts and keep your eyes open-something great will come. Focus on what you want in a job and visualize it each day-the old SECRET thing. Good luck.

The Late Bloomer said...

Linda, thanks for your words. I know, I'm trying to keep my eyes peeled and my hopes up. But I also know that I need to be more proactive in my own life and make some solid, concrete decisions for once, rather than wavering willy-nilly for ages. My attention is just too "scattered"!

It will come, though -- one of these days, it will come!

New Yorkaise - Parisienne said...

I feel as if I have just read an entry in one of my journals. I'm reading your blog today for the first time, and I just want to say thank you for sharing. I too am a late bloomer, and I identify all that I am by way of my love of France... the culture, the language, the music, the food, the wine, the people, the countryside, the city streets, the sights and sounds. Paris is my true love.

jchevais said...

Golly, how true your words strike me. Hang in there, darling. You can't give up, for if you give up, you won't be receptive to the universe's grand plan (when it lets you know what you were meant to do).

Harold Speed, a painting teacher who also wrote a particularily dry oil painting manual, used to say that "the only students worth encouraging are those you cannot discourage".

Keep plugging.

Betty C. said...

I just read all of these comments and feel for all of you young-ish women who are having trouble finding your professional way in France.

BTW, L.B., I made a typo in my first comment -- I meant "this professional CONTEXT."

Thank heavens I love teaching and have been able to make a career of that. I think I would have been lost without it.

That said, I do think things will open up more in France in the coming years.

"Bilingual assistant" sounds fairly impressive to me. So, have you thought of actually trying to get some of those needed diplomas? I have some expat friends who actually have managed to nail the dreaded concours at forty-plus!

Take your time, set some can get there. It just may be a little slower than in the English-speaking world. But isn't that something you loved about France in the first place?

The Late Bloomer said...

NY-Parisienne: it's nice to share thoughts, feelings and words together, and of course it somehow makes us stronger to get these things out there. It's great to share this passion for all that is France! It's far from perfect, but without it, I don't know where I would be today. I am obviously meant to be in this country; I'm just trying to find my place or my "niche" here. But it will come -- it must!

Betty, your insight is helpful and very eye-opening... You're absolutely right: I need to set some goals and get a bit more focused. Unfortunately, without going into too many of the details here, my current position doesn't allow me much "stretching" and broadening of my horizons and has instead smothered me and made me feel less than valued... And the less my brain works, the less I'm inclined to MAKE my brain work -- it's a vicious circle! I'm trying to stop the cycle and get out of it, start over again, but it seems to be slow going. It's really hard to explain. But I'm determined to make some changes -- the question is, where to begin?! That's the hardest part, I think: the starting point. As so often in life.

Jenn, thanks for your encouragement too, as always! As you know, I have my up and down days; I am a bit "manic" aren't I?! I say that tongue-in-cheek, and yet if it weren't for my happy moments, I seriously don't know how I would get by.

First step: use my creativity and get some more posts on here, get my thoughts out without worrying about how "perfect" or "imperfect" they may be, because that's not the point. The point is simply to express them, n'est-ce pas?

Oh, and Betty -- again, yes, the language part, you're absolutely right -- that is absolutely one of the reasons why I wanted to be here. Now I just need to embrace the positives with the negatives and use the positives to my advantage!

Nathalie said...

Hi there,
This is my first visit here and just like many other I want to tell you that you're not alone.

I'm a French girl living in Australia (but about to head home).

There are so many aspects to what you just wrote about : how much of your 'mal-être' would you attribute to living in France, how much to your lack of satifaction at work, how much to other factors (love life or whatever) ? This is quite crucial because only by recognising the real causes can you work on them.
I wish you luck. Take care

Nathalie in Sydney

Nathalie said...

BTW, rather than asking "what do you do for a living?" I like to ask "qu'est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?" - this open question works just as well for busy professionals and stay-at-home mums! Promote it!

The Late Bloomer said...

Hi Nathalie! Thanks for stopping by. I've always wanted to go to Australia, so I hope I make it there one day. I have an Australian friend I'm still in touch with after all these years; we studied together at the Sorbonne in 1995, and it's so hard for me to believe that it was so long ago... He has a family now, but we catch up once or twice a year. One day I might be lucky enough to visit him.

You know, the "mal-être" I don't think necessarily comes from living in France, becaus I wanted to live here -- I CHOSE to live here, really, on a conscious level, and although no country is perfect, and France certainly has its problems, I do appreciate a lot about life here, including a certain quality of life. Even if it is difficult to attain in the région parisienne.

A lot of this probably does stem from my dissatisfaction with where I stand at this point in my life, namely regarding my "professional" life, I guess, or lack thereof. And I know that only *I* can change that and do something about it to improve my situation. So I'm depending on myself to get things in order and to become more motivated and proactive, hopefully more and more in the coming months. We'll see.

There are also lots of other things that of course I want in my life, and OUT of life I guess, and again I need to bring them to myself by being more positive and more confident. And I guess in the end that if I WANT something I do need to go after it...