Monday, 30 June 2008

writing a very very big post. Hold your horses, here we go!

This week (in an impossible attempt to see the rest of Paris before I left), I:
  • Made lentils du puy
  • Visited Shakespeare & Co bookshop (with a piano!)
  • Saw dancing rollerbladers outside Notre Dame
  • More bertillon icecream (twice!)
  • Walked past l'Hotel de Sens
  • L'As du Falafel
  • Climbed the Arc de Triomph
  • Sales at the Printempts (2 new pairs of shoes)
  • Vespers at Notre Dame
  • Found the park at the point of the isle
  • Visited the Pompidou (like the one with the graffiti music, and the wrapped up grand piano - modern artists don't lack a sense of humour i find...)
  • Bought some pirate pants
  • Packed and posted 30kg home
  • Peach chocolate from l'Etoile d'Or
  • Pere Lachaise (how the mighty fall...)
  • Pompidou again
  • Posh dinner with Jillian (beans, tuna, pannacotta)
  • Musee d'Orsay
  • Louvre
So. I'm leaving Paris, first thing Monday morning. All my stuff is packed and off I go.

Why I am leaving Paris.
As it turns out Paris is a much better city to visit than to live in. It is dirty, and crowded, and smelly, and the people are rude, and it's actually kind of depressing. As my friend Andrew said, Paris is a great place to live if you are super rich and/or are bonking someone who is super rich. If that isnt you, then it's not so fabulous. I am looking forward to coming back as a visitor, and knowing my way around the citiy, but I am also looking forward to leaving as a resident.

I didn't like my job very much. The actual company was okay I think (in a relative sense, anyway), and my students were all nice. In the first place, I don't think I'm cut out for teaching. I found it really stressful, and mostly pretty unsatisfying; however, it might have improved with time, I don't know, and I'm sure if that was the only problem I could've stuck it out for 6 months, no problem. However; it pays peanuts. It pays about the same amount of peanuts everywhere I'm told, but Paris is stupidly more expensive than everywhere else, compounding the problem. I found I was spending significantly more than I was earning, even when trying to be frugal, which was not a sustainable situtation. To make it work in the long term (in my opinion), you would need to be: in a relationship and living with someone earning a normal wage OR willing to live on the barest of essentials (see this article for someone else who agrees with me) - ie. horrible apartment and living on rice & pasta. In addition the conditions were pretty horrible - I spent as many hours as I was paid for acutally 'working' on preparation and in the metro. The nasty urine smelling metro. I felt very much like I was being taken advantage of. No thankyou. So, I quit.

The second problem was, my lovely housemate turned out to be collectively crazy as coconuts. Yes, there were two of them. The woman I moved in with had her (male) cousin sharing her bedroom and neglected to mention it when I moved in. Which I kind of could deal with (none of my beeswax after all), but the telling me off like a child when I so much as left a light on for 15 seconds when going from one room to the next and back again, made me feel horribly uncomfortable - I spent my time walking on eggshells in case I got in trouble. Which is not a good way to live. And THEN (here's the coconut bit - and don't freak out becuase it's ok, I've left and I'm safe): the guy sat me down and gently suggested I come up with a 'plan b' living arrangement, because apparently the girl cousin has some rage issues resulting from an inability to deal with her murdered catholic priest father and her Sicilian cocaine dealer boyfriend. BONJOUR! So there's enough holes in that story to build a KI shower out of, but either way I was either living with a crazy lying guy, or just a plain crazy girl. So I decided it was time to move on.

What I am doing next
I am going travelling around for a couple of months and then I'm coming home. First off, I'm visiting a friend in Germany, and then I will go backpacking for a couple of weeks. I am kind of terrified about that, to be honest - shared dormitories, not knowing anyone, your way around, the language...all kind of scares the bejesus out of me. I think it is going to be quite a stressful experience - floating wherever the wind takes me is really not my style. On the other hand, I can go and see whatever I want, and by the end of it all I think I should be able to honestly say that I can face anything. I have vague ideas of where I'd like to go: maybe Hannover, Prague, Venice...but who knows. We will have to wait and see. I'm spending all of August in the UK visiting various friends in various places. I think I will have a good amount of time to see a few very different places and it will be nice to have locals to show me around. Then, unless my plans change (again), it's home again, home again, clippety clop.

But what about Geneva?
Well, I've sort of gone off that idea. For a number of reasons. The first and strongest reason is that I'm not sure I can handle the idea of studying for another two years with no goal at the end. Part of me likes study for study's sake, but most of me is ready to get my teeth into something 'real'. I'm sick of putting off my life to fritter away at uni just because I don't have any better ideas. I think I'd like to go back to uni at some point, but when I have a clearer idea of what I want to achieve from it. I also now do have some clearer ideas of what I'd like to do career-wise, and I'm excited to get started on it. That is the main reason. In addition though, this has been a really hard 6 months for me, and the idea of tying myself into another 2 years of being so far away from my family is not an attractive one right now. Not to mention the fact that my French is not up to scratch - English teaching is really not the way to go about learning to speak French. I could get up to the necessary standard in time, but it would require (really) intensive classes for the rest of my time here (and in fact, I probably needed to start a month or two ago), meaning I would spend all my time and money on lessons, and by the time I arrived in Geneva I would be skint and brain-fried. I think I would rather spend my hard-earned pennies on seeing a bit more of the world.

What I have learnt from all this (warning: serious navel gazing ahead).
Most obviously, I have learnt to speak French. Okay, I'm nowhere near fluent, but I can have a conversation with someone, most of the time understand what's going on around me, and if I don't I can ask for an explanation and understand that. I'm not at a level where I can appreciate the nuance of French vs. English, and enjoy it as a beautiful language in its own right (most of the time I just find it illogical and stupid at this point), but it is really satisfying being able to understand and be understood in a foreign language. I'm actually suddenly nervous about going to other countries where I won't have that luxury anymore. Learning another language was on the life list, and sure, I'll keep having lessons when I get home, but I think I'm far enough along the way that I can definitely tick it off the life list.

I have learnt some stuff about what I want to do for a career. I don't want to go into it yet, because it's still not super clear in my own head, but suffice to say I'm a lot closer now than I ever was. I think I've been waiting for the 'right' answer to come along, and I think now maybe there isn't a 'right' choice, just making the best decision you can, giving it a shot and going from there. So that's what I'm going to do next...

I have learnt that I am not a big city girl. I thought I was - I thought I would like all the hustle and bustle and the million things to do and the cities that never sleep and all that. And there are some things I like - for example, it's great to be able to catch public transport and walk home in the middle of the night without feeling like I'm in danger, because there's always so many people around. And of course, being able to go to the Louvre, the Pompidou etc etc whenever you want is a real luxury. And you'd never run out of things to try/see/do here. But by the same token, you could never really say you 'know' Paris - it's too big and it's changing constantly. I miss feeling comfortable in my space, I miss feeling a part of it, and above all, I miss the space. I really didn't think space was that important to me, but (like so many other things) it turns out that I never missed it becuase I never lacked it. I feel cooped up here, and I'm sure it's just in my mind, but I feel like this city is closing in on me for miles around. I yearn for some wide open spaces, some plants, some life. And the associated feeling of having time and space and freedom to think and move. I think for me, the ideal situation would be living in a small-medium sized town city - one where you could more or less walk where you need to go, but one not so far away from a big metropolis, so when I feel bored I could go and find some inspiration. But here I don't feel inspired - I feel overwhelmed.

Speaking of things I never missed because I never lacked it, I miss my family and friends. Here I am lonely almost all of the time, and even when I am with people, they are not people who know the real me, who have known me forever. I wanted to leave because I felt tied down by that - unable to grow much because the idea of 'Emily' was too fixed in too many people's minds for me to be able to work out what Emily was really like. And it has been a good experience finding out what things have changed about me when they were no longer tied down. But it turns out, I'm (mostly) exactly who I, and everyone else thought I was (what a surprise!), and while it's good to be able to blur the boundaries a bit, it's also good to be able to have one foot firmly in the ground (not to mention, mix metaphors willy nilly). Most of my closest friends are not at home these days, so it seemed like I wouldn't be missing much to travel. But it's sure as hell not better here where there is no one! I have learnt to stand on my own two feet, but I have never felt so lost in my life, and I am ready to find my way home. Maybe it will be for good, or maybe it will just be for a little while and then on to something new again, but either way at least I will know what I have now.

They say that people who moan about Adelaide are the people that have never been and the people that have never left. I think I have proved that true for myself, and about a lot of other things as well. I have a much clearer idea of what's important to me now, which will hopefully make it easier to find that and hold onto it.

I am ready to come home.


alt.ayu said...

Hey ~~~ :) It's nice to see that you've sorted things out in a way. I'm glad you did too. Do enjoy your travelling days in the next few weeks and I can't wait to see your blog posts about your backpacking trip~~ :)

Nick said...

I wonder if your new career path involves technical writing, because that was a rather well structured and easy to read post! God maybe I've been at uni too long too...

I'm glad that you've sorted some things out, it sounds like you're much happier now, so I really hope you enjoy the time you have left over there :) Be sure to see Prague at least!

Elsie said...

Sounds like some good plans for the next few months! Thanks for such a juicy post to keep me going on my mundane munday... I'm glad to hear you are excited about the future :) And that you think Adelaide is tops :)

Min Tan said...

Hi Emily,
Just to let you know I dropped by. Wow, thanks for sharing your thoughts. So I guess we'll see you back in Adelaide sooner than we initially thought (well it'll be great to catch up with you when your do return!). i think its a brave move to go traveling and to live in a new city alone, like you have, for the past 6 months. I'm contemplating going to Europe for 1 month or so mid next year for my research. I was wondering about the loneliness factor staying at a new place for while when you don't know anyone (although compared to the length of your stay 1 month sounds like peanuts)... Your housemates sound really strange (and somewhat stressful to live with)... I'm glad your missing Adelaide. Adelaide is missing you too. It seems like so many ppl have gone to the UK :(
Anyway, much love xx, and all the best for the next leg of your trip.

Anonymous said...

Hello Emily :) It will be lovely to see you again! I hope you have a fun time in the next few months to counteract all the stress. Everything you've managed to pack in sounds amazing... if highly irritating in places. Call me unfashionable, but I'll tell you a secret - I like Adelaide too :)
love Cassia xx

Lauren said...

Hey Emily,
I'm so glad you've made a decision that makes you happy; if it feels right, it usually is. Have a wonderful time backpacking, and thanks for sharing all this stuff with us - I'm looking forward to seeing you again so I can hear more. :) You're an incredibly brave girl, and don't you forget it.

Alice K said...

Canberra is a small to medium sized metropolis, perhaps you will like it maybe?

Lovely post, look fowrard to seeing you soon i hope. :-) xxak