I shouldn’t feel the need to explain what’s happening in my life.
Maybe I’ve been away from the ocean for too long. Maybe I’m going crazy. Maybe I’m completely fine, just tired, and I should probably stop writing and go to bed.
I feel like I’m going to get a lot of pushback on this post. I feel like I’m going to be chided for being privileged enough to have had the issues that I’ve had or continue having. I feel like I’m going to get smeared for sounding like a whining white girl Millennial (one factual caveat: I’m not actually white.)
I’m willing to recognize the reality that my problems aren’t groundbreaking or are even relevant to any major conversation about real-world matters… but this is my reality.
My boyfriend and I have decided last year that we will live together in the United States for a while, then we’ll move back to France… but why not stay in France period?
There are so many wonderful things to say about living in France, particularly in such close proximity to Paris.
As much as I loved living on-and-off in France over the past 2 years, I struggled emotionally. I was frustrated with a lot of things, honestly. At the time, I was still improving my French to reach the optimal level of fluency to truly live French. I had the support of my boyfriend, but I felt like an outsider in so many ways that were out of our control. Sometimes I felt discriminated against in certain situations because of the way I looked and where I came from or, more accurately, where people thought I came from.
What drove me over the edge was how I was legally unable to work full-time. I was on a 6-month student visa and becoming an illegal alien in France was neither an appealing nor sustainable strategy to residing in the country. I had undergraduate student debt that wasn’t being paid off because I didn’t have a substantial income. I watched my financial independence that I had worked so hard for completely disintegrate. Yes, I was earning some income from my virtual assistant and freelance social media consultant side-hustle, but I felt discouraged and overwhelmed that I was losing out on career opportunities and advancement. I saw LinkedIn updates from my peers and became furious with myself that I wasn’t working harder to be better…
I wasn’t who I wanted to be. I was losing ground on who I was—the optimist, the self-starter, the do-er. It’s been nearly one year since I moved back to the United States full-time—I feel that I still haven’t regained the spirit of the girl who used to push through and make things happen.
… It’s difficult for me to admit that I went through an emotionally difficult time when I should have been happy to be in France and to be in an amazing relationship. I tried so hard to stay positive and present, but wrestling with anxiety became a regular exercise in which I became an unwilling participant.
I am so grateful that I made friends in the American expat community in Paris. Being able to get out of my apartment, grab a coffee and do some group coworking definitely kept me together. I only wish that I had more time to grab more sunset apéros on the Seine with the girls.
I believe that I’m much better equipped to live in France again now, but on a selfish level, I still can’t bring myself to give up the professional progress that I’ve made in the United States to only receive a considerably smaller compensation in France. By the way, I’m aware of the social benefits attached to the French lifestyle, but that doesn’t make my American student debt disappear.
I’m attending an awesome graduate school program—the exact sort of program that I’ve been looking for—but now I find myself wondering if I made the right the decision.
When I was rejected from a graduate program in Paris, it felt awful at the time, but it was a relief to no longer subject myself to the daily anxiety of being broke, being unemployed, and being an outsider in France.
Fast forward from last June to the following April (present day). Living full-time in New England again. I have been back at my full-time job in retail for several months. I have started the second trimester of my graduate program and am balancing my schedule between work, grad school, homework, and Facetime calls with my boyfriend who is still in France.
I’m not fully present at work because I’m thinking about grad school, but I can’t quit working full-time because I need to be able to pay for grad school, my undergraduate student debt, and general living expenses, as well as health insurance. I’m not as available to talk with my boyfriend because there’s a 6-hour time difference and he needs to attend to his work commitments while I’m free and I need to go to class or be at work while he’s free…
I’ve reached a point in my career that I’m stuck without a graduate degree, because what marketing department in New York City is going to hire a small town shopgirl to work for them?
Do I want to earn a graduate degree that will land me a corporate job that I will eventually get sick of and start longing for the flexibility to live back in France?
I feel like this is the part where I should draw a cyclical diagram…
So. Is this what my entire life is going to feel like? Pacing through decisions that push me into corners that seek to delegitimize everything that I originally believed in?
Is this it?
P.S. I was torn between writing an insanely long Instagram caption, posting an Instagram Story or writing a blog post… You can see that the blog post was necessary.
9 thoughts on “Is This It?”
This is a toughy. But coming from someone who is out on the other end of earning a graduate degree, it can be a game changer with getting a job, even completely outside of the area you thought you’d be working in. If it feels right and it makes financial and personal sense to continue, then do it. Good luck!
Thank you! Yes, in the long run, earning a graduate degree brings your professional life to the next level that can prepare you for future opportunities—it’s important for me to keep remembering that in the present!
I feel this! I completely understand where you’re coming from. And the feeling truly sucks. You have to find a silver lining out there, even if it’s just a tiny sliver! (I am definitely not going to say it gets better, because I have no idea if it does, I’m sure it does, but I haven’t gotten to that part yet to say for sure.) Just know, you’re not the only one out there who is feeling the same thing, thinking the same thoughts!
Thank you so much! Honestly, this blog post was partly spurred by a conversation I had with a friend from college. We were asking ourselves « To what end are we going into the workforce for jobs that don’t fulfill our sense of purpose?» And you’re totally right—believe it or not, I really do try my best to keep sight of the silver lining!
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I know you feel like you shouldn’t need to explain how you’re feeling, but I’m glad you did! I sympathize with you, and I also can relate. I studied abroad in Paris 5 years ago and desperately wanted to go back and for a masters at Sciences Po, but I didn’t relish being a broke student again. So I didn’t apply, and I came to DC for grad school again where I could work and advance my career. I still want to return to France, but my field is so niche and US government-based, I don’t know what I could do over there realistically. And with a good salary.
Also, I feel your pain for the LDR. I met my boyfriend while living in Turkey, and we’ve done long distance for since July 2016. It was easy when I was in my masters program, but now I’m working and it’s like “okay, I’m ready for us to actually be together.” Jumping through all the immigration paperwork for him has not been fun, ugh.
I don’t know where I’ll end up, and now with a second person in the equation, I’m even more unsure. But it’s okay to wonder and stress sometimes! I think it’s normal because we want to live a great, fulfilling life. I think once you start working more closely in your field with your masters, opportunities and doors will open. Then you can return to France with a better portfolio and better options. At least that’s what I hope!
First thing’s first, it looks like you have so much good going for you! Specializing in politics/public policy—let alone entering that world—is such an incredible feat.
Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m happy to know that I’m not crazy and not alone in the abyss of « What now?! »
If you are planning to live in France, why not pursue a teaching degree?
This is an option I did consider when I was first in France, but then I quickly realized that becoming an ESL teacher is not my passion and I would be miserable. I know expat women who teach and *love it*, but I would prefer to pursue what really resonates with me and not settle for an opportunity only for the sole purpose of being able to stay in France. Thanks for posing your question!