Saturday, August 19, 2006

More Me, Less Europe

Apology and Disclaimer: This entry is rather personal. I try to stay away from entries like this because I don't really want my inner life on display for the whole world, but as I have said in the past, "It's my blog and I will curse, use bad grammar, bitch, complain or cry if I wanna."

As the days slowly pass and the “incident” becomes less traumatic, I am faced with growing confusion and filled with questions. My mind and emotions have always been subject to what I like to think of as a roller coaster effect and for as long as I can remember, I have always over thought everything.

One of my friends (Amanda), recently said I am very cerebral, and well, if there is one way to neatly box my personality and my being, it is that word. Cerebral. I do live in my mind and have, more often than I care to think, wished the wheels would quit spinning. They never do, probably never will, so I deal with it the best way I can: burdening my friends with my thoughts, writing them down, introspection, etc. I always think by telling my friends and by saying what I am thinking out loud will help, but all it ever really does is annoy people. I know nobody can make my decisions for me, and I wouldn’t accept a decision from someone else, but for a brief moment, after letting it out, I feel somewhat relieved. And it is nice to hear other people’s reactions; it makes me feel less alone. When I can’t discuss things with others, I tend to have the conversations in my head, which adds to the roller coaster effect, which usually confuses me more. Writing (or rather typing, because I am a child of the computer age) never really helps either because I tend to write in the same circles. I always think, “If I can just get a clear and concrete idea….,” but those clear and concrete ideas elude me with every keystroke. What I end up with usually looks as if it should be bound in a psych book. Introspection is the worst, because, well, that is what I am usually trying to get away from. I can think things through and never find the answer, winding up more confused and more convinced that the answer will never come.

So that is where I am today. You see, what happened on the metro the other day seemed like a culmination of every negative feeling I have had since I arrived in France. At the time, it seemed like a cut and dry sign telling me to leave and yet, in retrospect, it wasn’t so bad. The guy didn’t mug me, he didn’t rape me, he didn’t shoot or stab me. Millions of people experience things ten times worse everyday, and I am whining about some guy who pulled my hair on the metro. Don’t get me wrong, I know it was horrible; I haven’t been able to sleep more than a few hours a night nor have I been able to eat, but am I overreacting?

Do I really want to give up a dream I have had for years just because Paris is a miserable place to live? Ever since the first time I came overseas, I have wanted to travel. Life is too short to wait until retirement; who knows if I will even be around that long. Living in Europe is increasingly hard for Americans because of all the restrictions of the E.U. If you aren’t working for an American company or in school, there is a very small chance of ever finding something. If I leave, I may never have another opportunity to come back.

I know my circumstances are terrible. My “home” is a morbid box, I share with students. I have to share a toilet, shower and kitchen with people 7 years younger. I live in a horrible neighborhood in the worst part of France and the place where I will move if I stay is much worse. The university where I work is despicable. There are no resources; I am expected to provide my own books and teaching materials. The classes are painfully overcrowded and the students are way too aggressive. I can’t learn the language; I rarely understand what people are saying to me and I don’t think it will get any better if I stay another year. Other than my few friends, I don’t like French people. I swear, I have tried, but more often than not, I find them to be miserable people. I don’t know more than a few people and those few people are the same people I met the first day I arrived; they were all introduced by my friend Sebastien. I have made no friends independently. As you can deduct, I am not exactly thriving here.

I know the good is outweighed by the terrible; the museums are great, the wine and food are fantastic, the city is romantic, and my friends are beautiful, but I feel, more often than not, that I have to struggle to see this through all the shit. I know satisfaction and happiness are no guarantees and they only come if you work for them, but I don’t know if I am fighting a losing battle here. I don’t want to fight; I didn’t want to fight, I wanted it to work, to click, or at least be easier than it has been.

I know I should leave, but I don’t want to run away from failure, that is not who I am. If it was, I would have run away at 19 when life was really crappy. I feel that running away from this will mark my personality and that it will always hang over my head. Logically, I should leave and try something else, something better, but what if leaving is not better? What if I regret it? What if it changes who I am?


Anonymous said...

reread your blog,you are working a job you don,t like , living in a ghetto with people you don,t like,you have not made new friends because you cannot speak and or understand the language. the only good thing is the travel and sight seeing.COME HOME there are lots of places to go,things to see in America. you can reconnect with old friends make new friends,live with or just visit family who love and miss you. come back to the US and start your new adventure

Expat Traveler said...

maybe you want to search for a job, mayabe you want to try being an au pair in switzerland. I can hook you up with those resources if you'd like. Maybe you need a year off to travel??

I see you needing to stay in Europe, just not in Paris. Can you get transferred to the south?? to Strassbourg? I'm sure you'd like it more... Just ideas for you.

Julie said...

Do I have this right? On the positive side, living near Paris is fulfilling a dream you have always had of traveling and living abroad. There are many things about Paris that are beautiful and which you love. You have a small group of friends who you're crazy about.

On the negative side, you have a crappy working and living situation (both of which are important for day-to-day happiness). Plus, you are struggling with the language, and you don't find the French warm or welcoming. It's been hard for you to make more friends.

My thoughts? I don't think it's a failure to decide not to continue to live and work where you are. If you were living in Arkansas and had a job you didn't like and crummy living conditions, you'd be trying to do something about that and no one would consider it a failure. They'd think it was the only reasonable thing to do.

You've lived in Paris for a year. You've checked it out. Wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Leaving is not a failure.

But it sounds like you'd like to continue to live overseas. I agree with expat that you should be looking for a new job. If jobs in general are difficult to find in EU countries maybe you should be looking in Switzerland. Or are you at all interested in living anywhere else in the world?

I know someone who is teaching English in Japan and loves it. The people are nice and his job situation is good. And there must be tons of opportunities to teach English in places like China.

It might also be easier to deal with your present surroundings if you knew they were temporary because you were in the process of finding a different circumstance.

Finally, the learning to speak French thing sounds like it's hard for everyone. Here is a funny account of someone else who is living in France and his struggles with the French language. link

Samantha said...

What about moving to Italy? The food is delicious, the people are friendlier, and there are business English companies all over just dying for native speakers...

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Angela!

If you left Paris now, I would never see it as running away. You gave Paris a shot, it's not working like you expected it to, so, I see no harm in trying something else. I am all for a new start, but if you do decide to stay on, I hope things get better for you.


Moment said...

so sorry hon. I know how you feel sometimes. I would say follow your feelings. If your that unhappy go home. Life is too short to be miserable.

Ok, on a happier note, go check out my blog because you've been tagged! :)

Diamond Lil said...

You've been unhappy and undecided about France for quite sometime and then you got attacked. Everything happens for a reason. To me, it sounds like this attack is your wake up call to move on. You tried to make it work for over a year. I wouldn't consider that failure at all. I would consider that a great success.

Angela in Europe said...

Thanks everyone! Reading your responses really made me feel much better

Amit said...


I came to the US some 15 years ago as a student. I went through some tough times, financial issues, cultural issues, etc. I did not have many friends or a support network. I also thought of quitting. A good friend, a japanese who used to work in the same lab as I, sat me down and told me - no one said it was going to be easy. But you have to do it, just like your father faced his fears, and his father before him. I took his advice to heart. Today I am a relatively successful person. And I am grateful for my friend's timely advice.

Don't quit, no matter how hard it it. If you do, it will stay with you for the rest of your life. And, things get easier over time.