No, the cold did not kill me, although it is still here in the form of a horrible lingering cough.
I am, however, in the midst of a very uncertain and somewhat distracting time, as my deadline for renegotiating my contract approaches at breakneck speed and I try to realistically picture where in the world I might be, four months from now.
Much as I love change, and new challenges, and excitement, I am extremely poor at dealing with the “in-between” stages. The waiting, the wondering, the not knowing. I don’t like living in limbo. And yet I am the worst in the world at making decisions, choosing instead to wait around hopefully for them to, well, sort of make themselves.
This one hasn’t, despite the promising signs earlier in the year. I’m still in a job that I love, in a country that I love, surrounded by friends that I love. Occasionally, the job becomes a serious test of my patience, or the cultural differences get to me, or I clash with one of those friends. Mostly, though, I’m happy. I don’t want to leave. Mostly.
But then I see pictures of Paris from friends who’ve been a-wanderin’, and my heart sort of… sighs. France. French. The French. Being in a country that I’ve wanted to live in since I was a child. Not only that, but being in a country where I can actually understand some of what’s going on around me, and communicate without everything being one big misunderstanding.
And so, you see, I am too melancholy to write witty blog posts, these days, because inside my head there’s a constant tug-of-war which goes something like this:
I hate feeling stupid for being here for two years and still not being able to speak the language. I want to leave. I love my kids, and the teaching system I’ve helped to implement and develop, and I love seeing it grow. I want to stay. Five people stared brazenly at me as I walked home from work today. I want to leave. I spent a wonderful evening in the company of my friends. I want to stay. My classes drove me mad today. I want to leave. I love saving a decent amount of money and still enjoying my life. I want to stay. I’ve explored this country from top to bottom, and not much is fresh and new any more. I want to leave. I am having the time of my life. I want to stay.
I seesaw from one decision to the other within a matter of seconds. This morning, for example. At least five colleagues watched me setting up the media room for movie time – dragging in extra chairs, moving the furniture back, switching on the computer and projector. Not a single one of them bothered to tell me that we weren’t having movie time today, as we were going on an outing I hadn’t been informed of. Why? Why wouldn’t someone think to say “Oh, hey, you know what? You don’t need to do all that, we’re not having movie time today.”? I sat muttering furiously to myself about the lack of communication, saying “That is it!!! I need to be in a country where people think more like I do!!!”.
But then we went on our outing, you see, and I sang If You’re Happy And You Know It on the bus with the children, and taught them the chorus of a Beatles song, and one little girl clambered on to my knee and cuddled me for the whole journey whilst chattering in English and laughing, and, well… I came back to school with the biggest smile on my face and feelings of pride, love, and contentment. Why would I leave? My irritation from earlier is forgotten, and the idea of leaving breaks my heart. Until something minor tips the scales in the other direction, that is.
I’m using every single little moment, good or bad, as a reason to go or a reason to stay, and it’s driving me crazy. But really, when it boils down to it, I would stay here for at least another year if it were only about me. I love it. I’m happy. I’m fulfilled. Not only that, but work in Europe is scarce at the moment, and my hard-earned savings would be gone in a matter of months if I tried just going to France without a job, and looking for work when I got there. Here, I’m making more money than I need. In Europe, I will be broke – struggling to survive unless I come up with a new career plan.
And so as ever, it’s my guilt that motivates me. The fact that I can’t bring myself to call my grandmother because every time she chastises me for living so far away and tells me to “get back home” I want to cry like a sorry child out of sheer guilt for not being a closer part of my family, who I do love. I feel like a bad, selfish person for being here and being happy, but I don’t know what my other options are. I’ve been the unemployed, penniless jobseeker sitting gloomily in my parents’ house with not even enough money for a coffee. I don’t want to do that again, but sometimes I feel like it’s my only option if I’m to be rid of this infernal guilt.
OK, so can one of you make this decision for me, please?! I can’t do it. I can’t give up my secure and rewarding life here to go back to no job, no money, and no purpose. I can’t stay here feeling guilty as hell about being a bad daughter/granddaughter/sister and wishing I was more like everyone else with a desire to return to my home town and settle down. So what do I do? Where do I go? How do I decide?
Sigh. 30 years old and still no idea what I’m doing…!