Challenges

On Dealing with Real Life

The universe ceases to amaze me with how complicated life can get in an instant! The French have a saying, “jamais deux sans trois” which means never two without three.

You could say that significant (or at least significantly emotional, if also significantly expensive) events piled up, never two without three! Just under two weeks ago, I took what I thought would be a short break…. As they say, men plan, god laughs! 

I was feeling quite overwhelmed by a number of things; work deadlines and a workshop that I was hosting, the scores and scores of people asking about my relationship with E, an inappropriately drawn-out admissions process for school, interviews in French, volunteering work, our mattress pretty much falling apart, and my bosses’s departure for the summer!

My emotions welled up and over while talking on the phone with a friend last Friday. I’d taken my lunch break to call her, and we talked for a long while about some very important things in her life. Yet, when she asked me what was going on in my world, I said something along the lines of, I’m fine, I don’t know, it’s fine. As she’s known me for over a decade, she knew how to ask me to try and elabourate, even if I wasn’t going to be eloquent or succinct or even necessarily coherent the first time around. That led to me, tucked away in  a corner by the fountains outside my office, crying on the phone like I was reliving a high school break up! 

While I eventually calmed down, I realised that I’d finally vocalised the source of the deep discomfort I’d felt  for the better part of the summer. Faced with a drawn out admissions process, I realised that I was using another school application to somehow insulate myself from joining the job market. Why? I was so afraid of failing, failing to find a ‘good’ job, failing to get a job in a French office, failing to immediately start work, and it was looming over me but I wasn’t willing to face it.

Ordinarily, I probably would have compartmentalised and moved on, choosing to ignore my own fears until they went away, but I think the wedding really brought them to the fore. I was repeating over and over, “No, I’m not getting married, but no, I don’t have a career dream. Why? Because I’m a foreigner and we are often in the position of taking whatever we can get.”

Repeating over and over that I wasn’t sure if I was going to school or not, that I didn’t know what kind of job position I wanted, that I wasn’t going to at least distract everyone with a fancy party and a permanent relationship status… That was so, so unbelievably draining and instead of compartmentalising it and ignoring it, I had to face the feeling that I was already, somehow, a failure, and confront whether or not that was actually true. 

It’s been two weeks and I’m still trying to sort through why I would feel like a failure in the job market when I’m currently employed and when I have yet to even make a serious application for work in France. I’m afraid of letting myself down, I’m afraid of letting down the people who have invested their love, their time, and their attention in my life, education, and training. I’m afraid of what it would feel like to be unemployed in France for a year, which is my worst case scenario. 

As you may have guessed, one ‘failure’ has already come to pass. After almost two months of rotting on a waiting list, numerous email exchanges and several phone calls, I was finally not admitted to a second master’s program after all. And wouldn’t you know, it doesn’t feel as bad as I thought it would to be rejected. I don’t feel like all of my doors have closed, I don’t feel like I’ve somehow failed to fulfil some kind of cosmic destiny.

I don’t feel the failure I expected, but I still recognise how I feel. It’s the moment at a swim meet before a race, it’s the feeling of being the anchor in a relay. It’s the feeling before stepping on stage for the first time in a show, the breath before your first response in an interview. I am very aware that the outcome of the next few months and my next moves are uncertain, but I need to acknowledge in the way that I did when racing or acting that the groundwork has already been laid. This is the reason I studied, the reason I found an internship and began to make preparations for the ‘real world.’ 

Feeling like a failure is not the same as being a failure, just as feeling unprepared does not actually mean that I’m not able to proceed. I may never feel ready for what’s coming but I am reminding myself that the only way through is through.

While all of this existential angst has washed over me, I’ve still been unbelievably busy. I’ve managed to take my happiness very seriously, and I can’t wait to tell you what I’ve been up to these days!

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