Also talking to you, France. There's no way you're ever going to screw me over again. I know your tricks, and I am ready for them.
Entering my 4th year (in some form or another) of life abroad, and i'm declaring my funk and my grief with this place officially over.
This week has been a turning point for me. I took a look at my life a few days ago and said to myself, "i'm not happy". Then I took another look at it and evaluated what needed changing. The most distracting, motivation-sucking aspect of my life is my schedule (or lack there of) so putting one foot forward, I decided that this week would be the week that I would pull myself out of this funk, and for good (or at least for this winter). I cannot sit around waiting for my life to improve itself. This is the bed that I have made, now i'm gonna sleep in it, damn it. I live here -- I need to appreciate what i've got for what it is, and make do with what isn't. Luckily i've got some good friends who helped to bring me back up, and stubbornness is surely on my side. I'm just not going to let myself come home from work every day and go straight to bed -- that's not healthy, that's admitting defeat. I decided that I was ready to fight back.
I started making dinner every night, regardless of what time Jeremie was expected or not expected to be home. While dinner was cooking in the oven (yes, I baked. Every day) I did the dishes so as not to let my chores pile up on me. But at the same time, I practiced letting go and not getting overworked by letting my clothes stay put in their various piles in my bedroom. Having accomplished such small little tasks on a daily basis made me feel like I was back in the driver's seat, and it's been better ever since. I feel like taking the time to go to the store after work, and not only that, but strolling through and coming up with ideas. I like taking a few extra minutes after my lessons to chat with my students or drink a coffee. Dare I venture to say that this may have been the best month of my thus-short expatriot life? .. I dare.
Work has been nothing but enjoyment. Okay, so you guys can see that i'm fickle. One day my job is the best job ever and I love being a teacher and I was made to be a teacher, and the next day i'm sitting on the ledge looking over at France Telecom and feeling jealous of "how good they got it" over there. But this month the monkeys on my back were released into the world, and they are no longer my responsibility. I know for sure that my job can never get any worse, that I will never feel like a more horrible teacher than I have felt in the last few weeks, and that rather than letting it get the best of me, I'll get over it. As everybody said -- this is just a job. This isn't the only thing i've got going for me in my life. It's a job. It's one semester. It's a handful of kids. In the long run, this will only be a little bump on the surface -- not a gaping crater. With those monsters gone, now I can focus on the kids that I really enjoy (university wise). Not only that, my other job (the one with the real contract) has been SO great lately that I almost can't believe that it's true. I've been doing random contracts and teaching assorted lessons ever since we finished our contracts at the big DIY company, and as nervous as I was about trying something new was for nothing. The people that i'm teaching appreciate me, and my company appreciates me.
Proof of this point? The tickets that I received today that are worth 600€ for our super premium VIP seats at the Lens football match on Saturday night. I was chosen, along with some of my great colleagues, to have a reward because i've been working hard, and that is such an awesome feeling. You do a good job, you get rewarded. It only makes me want to work that much harder to see where else this could go. I have absolutely no complaints whatsoever. But almost an even better reward was hearing the last group that I taught today tell me that they prefer the lessons with me -- that they feel like they are making progress(and they are complete beginners, which is HARD.). Tickets or no tickets, hearing that somebody likes your work and appreciates you feels great. I swear I almost floated out of work on cloud nine, and i'm not even exaggerating. It may or may not have had something to do with the fact that it was 10°C and sunny when I left, which is nearly unheard of for this time of year.
Returning back to France at the beginning of January from the US was an eye opener, as I mentioned. I am more sure of my decision to be here with Jeremie than ever, and so far 2010 has brought us as a couple nothing but happiness. Our stress levels have gone down significantly and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that I was finally able to go back home and that we are able to forsee a trip to his home in the near future as well. I am confident that this truly is the beginning of the rest of my life.
Jeremie is a big talker and loves to dream up these expensive schemes and before, it would stress me out beyond all relief. Now, I may not buy 100% entirely into his schemes, but knowing that we are finally "financially stable" enough to maybe do some small variety scheming, it's actually kind of fun. For example, he said that we should look at SUV's last weekend when it was snowing, because I couldn't possibly have driven myself to work in my Smart car on Saturday (and luckily he was there to take me). Rather than just writing this off as some far fetched, convaluted waste of money, the idea of getting an older one next winter is actually possible-- not just a dumb idea that i'm going to tell him to get over and put to rest. No, I can actually consider it, and then maybe decide not to because I don't want to, not because I don't have the means.
So this is what they talk about when they are talking about "pouvoir d'achat" -- literally the power to buy.. or for me, what suddenly feels like the power to choose. I finally have the choice to be cheap or not. And for the record, I wholeheartedly choose to be cheap. I feel alive and secure in that way. And I also won't be buying an SUV before I buy a house. But I digress.
On the subject of choosing, since Jeremie is travelling back and forth between Luxembourg and France this week, he bought us a TV for our bedroom and -- wait for it -- a DVD player that we can unblock (with a code) in order to watch my American DVDs. I'll have so many things to choose from that I won't know where to start! (we brought a DVD player from the US with us after Xmas and it promptly exploded upon being plugged in. Still not sure where we went wrong, but at least we know now..) I have my CD's here with me, my favorite sheets, and soon my DVDs will be fully functioning as well. It's almost like i've created a little American nest for myself right here in Marquette. I don't condone not integrating into the culture of the country where you live, but I fully approve of finding a little piece of something that feels like home, be it a bed sheet or a catchy chorus from a song that was popular back in 1996. Even if you've only been here for a few months, you still need things that make you feel good. Maybe it's crafting.. maybe it's movies.. maybe it's a big american-style coffee. I think from time to time we fully have the right to indulge in these little "cute sins".
What else did returning to France teach me -- well, I can see that I like options in life. My friend Jessica teases me because I hoard -- nothing like you'd see on television, but I hoard, just the same (and she totally takes advantage of having a friend that hoards what I hoard -- don't even let her try to deny it!) My weakness? American food. I've got a couple jars of peanut butter that i've been hiding around the house (don't worry, they are all accounted for.. no PB goes MIA in this place!) a couple bags of Reese's peanut butter cups in case the mood hits me, and last summer with Lidl (a grocery store like Aldi) was running an "American Food Promo" I stocked up on muffin mixes. I don't need an intervention yet, but I did get a good laugh the other day when asking Jessica if she wanted extra crunchy or regular crunchy on her sandwich. What can I say? I like variety.
Funny thing about this food is that it is all still in my kitchen (or bedroom.. or office.. okay i'm exaggerating (or am I?)), and I am super stingy about it. I don't like to share it, but I don't like to eat it myself. I just like the idea that i've got the choice to make a PB&J tonight if I want to .. but chances are that I won't. Maybe it's a waste, but it's something that has given me real comfort. And today at Carrefour when I stumbled upon -- in the same place -- a bottle of Hershey's chocolate syrup, mac n cheese, aunt Jemima style maple syrup, muffin/pancake/cheesecake mixes, Caesar dressing, not-Dijon mustard, strawberry marshmallow fluff and Campbell's tomato soup, I couldn't help it. I had to share my joy with somebody (Jessica) where I tried to talk myself out of buying at all (right..) and she knew me better, I walked away with my latest hoards -- fluff, cheesecake, more muffins. They'll sit there until i'm in another funk and need a taste of home, but for the time being, just knowing that I can have them (and share them) is sufficient enough. I'm also sure that i'll go back for more if need be. I've got the power.
The longer I'm here, the more I understand. I don't actually want to go home every six months or eat tons of junky American food or have lots of alternative rock to listen to -- I just want to know that I could -- that I have the means to. Having not gone home for 2.5 years had forced me to accept the reality that "home" in America is a concept I wouldn't be seeing much of, but with our newfound luck, I know that I could comfortably buy a ticket to go home in a couple months, and I just like that idea. These ideas are setting me free and releasing some of the demons that I feel have been eating at my spine since I landed here in 2007 and things started snowballing out of control. I'm ready to say screw you to all of the bad times, and let the good times start rolling, and soon.
I guess the same thing could be said for my obsession with house hunting. I had a house when I was in college and didn't have to experience the joys of renting until I got a place with Jeremie in Normandy. Our lawsuit on that place might finally almost be over after having left it a year and a half ago, so you can only imagine how much I have just loved renting. But now that the bank has put some ideas in my head, and i've had a look at the market, i'm much more content to just stay here and wait until we find something good and let our down payment grow. I feel like we could fix this place up, stay here a bit longer, and then roll with the punches after that. What's even more empowering is knowing that I could do that for us.. that I could lay the foundation for our family all by myself, .. even if it's just starting with an idea and letting it grow from there. These are my crazy, outlandish ideas, and now it's my loving hubby that is humoring me, rather than the other way around.
Our lawsuit almost being over. Going out for a fondue dinner or staying in with Mac n Cheese. Taking a weekend trip. Us going to our first football game in super classy style. Strawberry Marshmallow Fluff. Success with beginners. No traffic on the road tonight. The prospect of getting new curtains for my living room. Painting my bathroom and buying new fluffy towels. Owning our own home someday. Having a baby in that home. Choosing between driving my SUV or my Smart car.
Great choices. Great hope for the future. Call it what you will, but i'm calling it happiness, and hopefulness that it will only continue to improve from here.