About a month ago, I let an anniversary go by without much thought: my one-year-at-work anniversary. Since then I have thought about it a bit more and it's left me questioning my settling into France.
Where to start?
Well, I suppose I should go ahead and admit that real life France is nothing like the France of my dreams or the France of my holidays. I thought I had a firm grasp on the reality of living here before moving here. After all, I had lived here for a full year and I have owned a house here for ten years, meaning that I had spent a good deal of time in France before taking the plunge. Maybe it's the region I'm living in or maybe it's the reality of France, but I now realize that my image of France was an idealized one and that there was a lot I didn't know.
A lot. I can now see that Canada - my home country - is way more open and relaxed about pretty much everything in comparison. In France you need a diploma to do just about everything, including washing floors and shelving books, and a variety of work experience is viewed as suspect. Guess what? My 7+ years of post-secondary education and my varied work experience isn't getting me very far! How could I have been a classical singer, interior designer, library assistant and teacher all in one lifetime? That's just not possible (never mind that it might mean that I'm flexible and adaptable with a number of different skills). I'm also a bit surprised when I enter into conversations about just about anything and come across really closed-minded opinions: the old way is best, it's always been done that way, there is no room for improvement and vitamins are bad for you! Ok, I might be exaggerating a little but sometimes it feels like the whole country has been brainwashed into thinking a certain way. Maybe they're just defending what they know, but I fail to see the critical thinking (the questioning) happening.
What about work?
Well, I'm working, but only just. When I look back to a year ago, I see that I'm not much further along now than I was then. I've worked hard when there's been work, but it's never been steady and the idea of having to continually wait for the crumbs of work to fall from the table is stressing me a little. I'm continuing to look for other opportunities, but it would seem that my biggest asset is English - not my education or experience - and the jobs that I think I'd be good at are (so far) out of my reach. I'm waiting to get my diplomas recognized by some authority in Paris and we'll see if that changes anything.
Even though I'm in a bit of a slump (it is February, after all!) I don't regret coming here, although I miss (and appreciate) Vancouver more than ever. I love my life with Jean-Marc and there are parts about France that I do truly love, but the good stuff gets clouded when there's an underlying current of financial and work stability. Perhaps it's also the location. Most of my experience in France has been in rural, middle-of-nowhere France and not in urban areas. Just the other night there was a report on television about families who have opted to live in the more isolated parts of France, and one of the families was not too far from where we have the farmhouse (and it made my heart ache). It does feel different there and the mentality of the people I know there is different, too. Jean-Marc and I both love that region and we're looking at ways to make it a reality (although I'm sure there would be some shocks once settled in there, too!).
The grass isn't greener and anywhere you go, there you are. I don't want to live a life that is focused on the negative; I know I can live a full and happy life wherever I am and I don't want to dream about being elsewhere. I want to BE where I am and be thankful for it. It's only been a year and perhaps I've been a bit impatient. I was hoping to land some fantastic permanent job right away and that's not what happened. Oh well. It's all about the journey, right?