J’écoute

Hi, friends. It’s been awhile! Instead of giving you an excuse this time, I can say that this hiatus was actually intentional. In the weeks before I left for break, I felt like I was doing so much talking, constantly putting out information but rarely taking the time to sit back and absorb. I was writing a lot, sticking my nose into Facebook debates, sharing articles every other second. A constant flow of information coming from my mouth and my fingertips and a disproportionate amount coming to my brain.

Although I read almost constantly in college and continue to read online articles and listen to podcasts, I’ve recently realized that I produce so much and consume so little. Reading a book from cover to cover has become somewhat of a foreign concept to me. To me this is just a very arrogant way to go about life–always pushing your own opinions out into the world but never taking the time to appreciate others. My sister, whom I saw for a few days in Venice, Italy has always been an avid reader. It’s time I take a page out of her book (pun intended).

So I picked up a book over vacation. I forgot how great it is to close the final cover of a great book. “No Baggage,” a story about a girl who meets a guy on OKCupid and takes off with him after only a few weeks to travel Europe with no baggage (literally and figuratively) and I loved it. My friend Melissa who visited in the fall gave it to me and it could not have been more fitting for my life and what stage I’m in. When you’re constantly putting out information, it’s easy to forget that you are not, in fact the first to go through a certain experience or come have a particular epiphany or dream up the same invention. In this sense, reading can be both humbling as well as comforting.

 

So in the spirit of listening and not talking, I thought I’d share my favorite passage from the book, as a representation of it, and of me:

“Wasn’t it a little bizarre to be stuck in one of eleven billion meat bodies rushing around a 4.5 billion-year-old exploded star planet, furiously hunting for whatever it happened to be: hot sex, fairytale love, the next meal, enlightenment, the down payment on a Range Rover, world peace, cell pone minutes, a house with a white picket fence, ripped abs, sanity, whatever! Wasn’t it a marvel it be sentient? To be capable of love, terror, and over-the-moon joy? …

…I was interested in living it. Meaning was not an intellectual concept that could be captured in a net, labeled, and pinned to a board. It was a physical act, a continuous investigation renewed each morning. A decision to boldly explore despite chaos and messy fragility. And choice to give myself to the world without any promise that life would make sense or end up with a neatly tied bow…I was all in-even if it meant falling down, getting lost, and making a mess of things.”

Santé mes amis.

P.S. The featured image of this post was taken while I was out on a run the other day–one of the most beautiful views I’ve seen of Hyères. I usually never go this way but for some reason that day I decided I needed a bit of a different perspective. Fitting, isn’t it?

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Why We Marched

What a hell of a ride it has already been with our very own Oompa Loompa in office. On January 20th, the man was inaugurated in front of an unimpressive crowd (note: an alternative fact). I could not bring myself to watch. How could I bear witness to a direly threatening man being systematically ushered into the highest position of power in the world? How could anyone watch, never mind celebrate? I will never understand.

I am trying to practice empathy and compassion but I think I am failing. Someone please tell me what I need to do to understand people who continue to support someone who stands for prejudice in all of its sickest forms? I’m trying to accept that it does not come from a place of evil but rather misinformation and under-education. But that almost makes me feel more desperate. That would confirm a self-perpetuating cycle of ignorance and corruption. The ignorant fuel the corrupt and the corrupt make sure the ignorant stay ignorant. Case and point: Betsy DeVos.

This shit storm of corruption and ignorance have brought some truly horrific executive orders to fruition within the first few days of Trump’s presidency: He reinstated a ban on international abortion counselling, again putting millions of women at risk of unsafe abortions (which will result in death), instructed federal agencies to weaken the Affordable Care Act, step one in repealing the only semblance we have of a proper healthcare system (which will result in death), ordered a media blackout of the EPA and set in place the continuation of both the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline (which will result in death…of our planet). Forget infringing on human rights! Trump is going straight for the kill-literally.

Already it feels like one thing after another and admittedly I am feeling defeated. If I can’t handle the first four days, how will I cope with the next four years? This sense of defeat also comes from feeling restricted here in France. Sure, I help with some progressive social media efforts, I contact my representatives and I take the time to have the hard conversations. But I cannot run to the frontline whenever I want. I feel trapped in my own head of panic and horror. I’m there mentality, but not physically and it’s frustrating.

Which is why this past weekend was what I needed so badly. A solider is only a solider within an army, and this weekend I was able to join my forces. It jolted my heart and my will to push back. It was a march beyond my expectations. It was beautiful, nasty, fierce, pissed off women coming together for a day of patriotic dissent. I am very proud to be a part of this day, but what would make me even more proud is when this day becomes a movement. It cannot end here.

The other day, one of my Facebook friends posted this status: “Okay, but what do you actually want and how are you going to get it done?” Damn.

This led me to realize the source of my frustration since the election. Because my answer so much of the time is I DON’T KNOW. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to do or how to do it. I am sure that millions of Americans share this sentiment. Sometimes, inaction is not for lack of will, but rather lack of know-how. So I’m brainstorming a website/social media page that would serve up this know-how on a silver platter. I would love to know what you think.

If it doesn’t already exist, I would like to create something called “The Counterpunch” or something like that. The site would provide the tools to “counterpunch” specific actions of the Trump Administration over the next four years. Instead of seeing a headline that pisses you off, you would instead see a headline that pisses you off coupled with practical solutions: donation links, contacts of representatives connected to the issue, links to protests and marches, specific organizations working on that issue that you could join, etc. It would provide access to politically biased organizations that “bipartisan” newspapers cannot provide based on journalistic ethics. These tools would provide means of specific action to thwart specific legislation. It’s obviously just a budding concept right now but I’d still love to hear your thoughts and whether you think something like this would be useful.

Santé, mes amis. We’ll need your physical and mental health for the next four years to come.

 

 

Let’s talk French healthcare

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted, I know. There are a few reasons for that: one, I have been busy on vacation (see FB photos from Geneva, Paris, and England), I am applying to graduate schools (yikes), and I feel a little guilty for already flooding your newsfeeds with political posts that I thought I’d spare you an even longer tangent on my blog. But today I realized something–politics are no longer separate from private life. We are ushering in an administration that has the power to make changes-fast. And these decisions can and will affect our daily lives if we don’t fight back.

So, I am going to put a new spin on the blog. I’ve never been one to talk about my day-to-day or where I travel anyway, but now more than ever, those things will take a back seat to what I find truly important. Today, that is healthcare.

I think one of the United States’ greatest failures is not looking to and learning from other countries. When I was in Manchester visiting my dear friend Hannah over Christmas break, her dad teased me for not being familiar with some of the biggest bands in English history. So I tried to explain–the United States is so insular. Everyone borrows from us but we never think to borrow from them. We cannot tell when something is flawed because we give ourselves nothing to compare it to.

As my man Bernie says over and over and over:”The United States is the only major country that doesn’t guarantee health care as a right.” The only oneBut this is not by mistake. We’re not simply failing to keep pace with the rest of the world. No, it’s actually entirely intentional.

Today’s government leaders have far too much to gain from private health insurance and unregulated pharmaceutical prices. In fact, a few days ago, thirteen Democrats voted against amendment to lower prescription drug costs while twelve Republicans voted for the bill. And guess who gives these 13 Democrats money? You guessed it, big pharmaceuticals. Healthcare, a partisan issue? I don’t think so. All politicians are susceptible to bribery.

So what’s the alternative that the rest of the world has already figured out? Single-payer healthcare. BUT OH NO SOCIALISM! Before you jump out of your pants, here’s what a “socialist” healthcare system looks like in real life, not a page out of an outdated Cold War horror story:

For what seems like every other time I’ve been abroad, I’ve recently had some health issues. Cramping, back pain, nausea. All things that I am used to but not for a prolonged period of time. So I finally decided it was time to see a doctor. I contacted the mother of the American family I met a couple months ago here to see if she could recommend a OB/GYN and sure enough, she had found one who spoke a decent amount of English. I might speak French but medical terms? Non, merci.

Upon arrival, I was seen right away from the doctor, a nice guy who didn’t waste anytime with height, weight, blood pressure bullshit (maybe that’s just a personal grievance but quand meme). I told him my symptoms and he immediately administered an ultrasound, concluding very quickly that I have a ovarian cyst. The remedy? Time and Advil. Of course, like any other women’s health problem.

But here’s what you’ve really been waiting for: how much did I pay? While I am technically a taxpayer in France and do have health insurance, I have not received my carte vitale or social security number so was unable to use it for this visit. I will eventually be reimbursed but in any case I paid 65 euros all together.

How does this compare to the U.S.? Turns out, this little excursion would cost (drumroll please) between $100-$250 for the office visit and another $100-$300 for the an ultrasound. This means that for the same care I got in Europe for about 70 US dollars could cost me up to $550 in the United States. And that doesn’t include prescription medication.

Why such a discrepancy? It’s not because healthcare in France is of lesser quality or the offices are dirty or that there are huge lines in the waiting room. It is because someone (aka your elected official) is cashing in on that tiny little cyst that you can’t do anything about anyway and keeping the costs high.

So there’s a very clear cut lesson here. It’s not about being a liberal or conservative. It’s about the fact that it’s time that we keep pace with the rest of the world on this issue. Healthcare is a universal human right, not a privilege. And the only way you’re disagreeing with that is if you’re getting something out of the system that the rest of us are not.

 

So my “santé, mes amis” signature has extra meaning today. May your health be high and your cost be low.

 

 

 

 

Giving Thanks

So this has been an unusually Thanksgiving-filled week for me, not only because we hosted a very American dinner with all the teaching assistants, but I was also teaching my students about the holiday throughout the week. In preparing this lesson, I not only learned about the origins of the holiday in better detail, but also realized how many falsities we teach the youth of American and, well, the world.

This is yet another moment when I felt a great amount of respect for teachers. Their jobs are not easy and neither is choosing what to teach their kids. I grappled all week with the questionable ethics of the holiday–the first Thanksgiving would make way for one of the least talked about Genocides in history, that of the indigenous peoples of North America. And yet I’m teaching kids about the poor Pilgrims righteously sailing across the ocean blue, miraculously surviving the brutal cold, and throwing a bitchin’ party to say thanks to the “Indians” (note to self: learn how to say “politically incorrect” in French).

What’s worse is that America is not at all apologetic or regretful for this dark part of our history. Au contraire, we’re still treating Native Americans like absolute garbage in our country. Exhibit A: the Dakota Access Pipeline protests happening at the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota. If you don’t know what’s happening here by now, then it’s by choice of ignorance or you don’t use your computer for anything other than reading my blog. There is nothing more ironic than America’s “law enforcement” spending the days leading up to Thanksgiving by tear-gassing and fire-hosing (among other means of violence) peaceful protestors.

On top of that, I’m having them decorate colorful turkeys when in reality birds across America are about to fall victim to an entirely separate mass-massacre. Sorry bird, pretty feathers can’t help you now.

So you’re probably saying, oh but you’re a teacher you have the chance to teach them the truth. Well, that’s true but do you really expect me to go in front of a group of six year olds, wide-eyed and excited for another round of the hokey pokey, and instead go into a rant on America’s complete disregard for and deplorable treatment of Native Americans? Even if I could figure out how to say that in French, I’m not sure an elementary school classroom is the place for me to air my grievances about this holiday.

So instead, like many others, I chose to focus on the merits of this holiday. There has never been a better time to check our privilege, particularly that of white people in America. If anything, Thanksgiving is an opportunity for people to recognize just how many people are not fortunate enough to be able to spend a day around a table and share delicious food with the ones they love. Maybe it’s because they sit in jail because the color of their skin warranted an arrest. Maybe they cannot find proper mental healthcare to get themselves off the street. Maybe they were unable to afford a college education, so they are stuck working in at a Walmart on Thanksgiving. Maybe they are spending their day at Standing Rock, fighting tirelessly to protect land and water.

Needless to say, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how incredibly fortunate I am. I am white, healthy, educated, properly-housed, and overall privileged by the system. Even my financial burdens pale in comparison to others. So, I am thankful for that.

On Thursday night, we all went around and said what we were thankful for and I just want to share some of what was acknowledged: the home away from home we’ve created with our new family here; the multiculturalism we have the privilege of experiencing every day; our good physical and mental health that allows us to be here and travel the way we do; our families back home who send constant love and support; and our access to education and opportunities like TAPIF.

Santé, mes amis.

I Caved And Wrote About The Election

So tomorrow is the big day. The day we’ve all been flipping out, shaking our heads, dropping our jaws, crying ourselves to sleep, and cursing up and down about for the last however many months. I’ve lost track of the timespan of this election mostly because the American electoral processes are excruciatingly drawn out and because after Bernie lost the nomination, I kind of checked out.

Yes, I am now “with her” but with some reluctance and even greater sadness that Bernie Sanders will never get to be our president. It makes me sad to think how much we would have accomplished. He is the most inspiring man of our time in my opinion and while I am overjoyed with how many people were inspired and called to action by his campaign, I think I will go the rest of my life wondering what could have been.

I take some solace in knowing that Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been pushed considerably left, despite her intent to run on a bipartisan platform following eight years of a depressingly divided Congress. I’m not sure when bipartisanship went out the window but it might have been around the time when Clinton’s biggest contenders became a hip AF socialist Jew and hero of Millennial America followed by a psychopath Oompa Loompa neo-Nazi whose own party knows that its political suicide to work with him. So, Clinton had no choice but to shift left. First, in order to catch up with fair-share Bernie (and, well, modern times) and second, to distance herself as far as possible from build-a-wall Trump. Bipartisanship? See ya.

So yes, we ended up with a much more liberal Clinton campaign than even she probably expected. And who knows, maybe there is even enough liberal momentum to push her to the brink of crazy ass socialism before time’s up. Wouldn’t that be Bernie-Sanders-batshit crazy?!

But this is all assuming one big thing: that Hillary will win. Honestly, to everyone in France who has asked me about the U.S. presidential election, I have said the same thing: “There is no way Donald Trump will win.” This is partially to save some face–you really think America would elect someone like that?! Reverse psychology is kind of the only option when you’re a humiliated American in a foreign country with one of the more condescending attitudes. But I also respond this way because up until this point, I have chosen to see Trump and him winning as one big impossible hoax. I’ve done a great job of convincing myself. I’m not sure about others.

For the first time last night, I was struck by the notion that Trump could actually win. I was talking to my dad on FaceTime and he said something that I hardly ever hear him say unless the Red Sox are down by one run with a runner on second in the bottom of the ninth: I’m getting really nervous. You see, since I’ve tried my best to tune out all election news, I hadn’t realized that Trump has been gaining in the polls and assumed that he was continuing to self destruct while Hillary floated on up to the top. But in hearing my dad say that, I was bulldozed by the reality that there could be enough people out there–Trump voters, third-party voters, Bernie write-in voters, and nonvoters–to make nightmare of a human our president. Holy. Shit.

But we can’t afford to think like that right now. All we can do is focus on getting everyone to vote. I wish so badly that I could be there to help, particularly at UNH helping board buses to the polls, rallying campus, and harassing people in the hallways-have you voted today?! like I did for the 2012 election. Only then, people were not compelled fear of what might happen if they didn’t vote. Hopefully this fear among other things will carry Clinton to victory. Until then, no sleep for America and weary Americans abroad.

So for the last time before the wretched election comes to an end…Santé, mes amis. Keep calm and don’t have a heart attack. At least not until after you vote.

Recommence

A lot to process. Frankly, too much for a blog post. But I thought that since my vacation was such a whirlwind of different trains, cities, friends, and conversations (with maybe a little bit of wine mixed in here and there, making that much more of a blur), that I’d talk about something that I do have a a good grip on after these past two weeks: how thankful I am to have reconnected with my best friend, Emily. A spectacular friendship has been reborn here in France. I’m sorry to all the innocent people who have dealt with our antics along the way. We appreciate you and know that you’re part of the story. But it’s really all about us in the end 😉

As I’ve mentioned, I was unsure of how Emily and I would travel together. We’ve spent a lot of time apart in the last four years and in very different environments. She, a crunchy, liberal arts school in the Midwest, and I, a big, party, public school in the Northeast. But I would bet that this time apart is actually the reason we are so compatible as friends today.

In the most objective way possible, I admire Emily as a woman. She largely abstains from social media and instead channels her connective energy into intimate and substantive conversation with those around her. She doesn’t seek out superficial gestures of validation and has learned to own her womanhood (something we talked about in depth on the train ride home the other day). Unlike myself, who developed somewhat of a dependency on male companionship from an early age, Emily is strikingly independent. This can be both her strength and weakness, as she doesn’t always ask for help. But she loves harder than anyone I know. Maybe these are two complimentary features.

Like myself, Emily is a talker. We both live for a good conversation, both between and outside ourselves. For the past two weeks we’ve discussed politics and social activism, our post-grad future abysses, and the notions of passion and self-confidence. We discussed feminism and womanhood and what that means in the context of the United States versus various cities in France. We reminisced on how our friendship budded in the costume closet at high school theatre rehearsals and the many people who have colored our lives since then. And, of course, we discussed more trivial matters like boys. Oh and boys. Did I mention boys? I am definitely more boy crazy but I think I’m rubbing off on her…

We have also been able to test just how versatile we are in different social contexts by switching between French and English–foreign language definitely adds an entirely new dimension to socialization. It is incredibly rewarding but also mentally exhausting. I’m confident that we’ve both made huge strides in our language skills within the last month, but not without the expense of wanting to sleep for the next 48 hours.

Emily left a fews hours ago and I already miss her madly. Between our outrageous romp around Paris with the boys (big thanks to Donald, Max, and Noah, three out of four of the world renowned Core Four, for an unforgettable trip-missed KiKi Mus and Lattle P), our hermit days recuperating in Hyères, hiking the breathtaking Calanques in Marseille with Jen and Niccola (two other teaching assistants), a nostalgic day in Aix-en-Provence, two days of mind-blowing food and quirky vibes in Lyon, connecting and reconnecting with friends new and old, I could not have asked for a better two week vacation.

I recommence my “job” as a “teacher” on Thursday which also happens to be my birthday. I will likely have a two-years-until-my-quarter-life-crisis moment so who knows, maybe I’ll have inspiration for a melodramatic, sappy blog post about time and how oh so quickly it passes.  Until then, keep warm over there and keep enjoying the beautiful New England Fall. And feel free to shoot me a message anytime! I always love hearing from a friend.

Santé, mes amis.

Malade

Getting sick sucks. Getting sick while abroad extra sucks. When you’re already kind of homesick to begin with, there’s nothing that will make you want your mom more than getting sick.

But it’s not my first time getting sick in France. Actually, it seems to be a trend. While studying abroad last year I got an awful throat infection (real diagnosis still unknown). It ended up coming back several times the following summer and eventually I ended up at an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor who all too quickly concluded I needed my tonsils removed. I was all for it until I decided to go to Belize over J-term and thought it might not be all that fun to be digging up ancient artefacts in the sweltering hot Belizian jungle with open wounds in my throat. Good decision at the time? Yes. But now I’m wondering if all my illnesses could have been avoided had I just bitten the bullet and yanked them out.

Oh well. Too little, too late.

I can usually get along just fine with a cold–classes, rehearsals, nights out. Getting a cold was more of an annoyance than anything. This time around, I feel like I’ve been hit by a bus. I’m surprised I was able to make it to lunch with the other Hyères teaching assistants (pictured above). Glad I did, but it really tired me out. I took that as my cue to finally go to the Pharmacy and ended up getting some of those good good French over the counter drugs. Not really sure what the Pharmacist gave me but I’m feeling a tad bit loopy…I think that means they’re working.

I started out all my classes today with je suis malade so please please please shut the hell up and listen to me. Ok, I was much nicer about it but I’ll admit there were times I wanted to break down and cry when the class got rowdy. Teachers (Mom), I have a whole new level of respect for you. It is not easy. And you don’t even have the cool foreigner factor going for you. I’m sure the initial surprise will wear off soon but I’ll milk it as long as I can.

This brings me to ask: If there are any teachers reading this, would you mind throwing out some ideas for lesson plans? Even if you are not a teacher and have a particularly poignant memory from a language class as a kid, I would love to hear it. I would like to think I am a pretty creative person but lesson plans are really a whole new ballgame (see last post).

Speaking of ballgame, I would be remiss if I didn’t end this post with a big #ThanksPapi. Can’t believe we won’t be seeing you jog the bases next year. You best believe I’ve been teaching all my kids about baseball in my “About Me” presentation. Can you imagine a world without it?! Well, that’s France. Scary right? Don’t worry, I’m here to save them.

Santé mes amis.

Qualified

I’ve been in France for two weeks and there is no amount of writing that will make up for all my lost thoughts. In some ways it feels like I’ve been here a lifetime but I’m still very much a deer in highlights in most regards, especially with the French school system.  I am trying to think of the kids like I think of a snake…they are more afraid of you than you are of them. Maybe not afraid but intimidated. Yes, even six year olds are intimidating when they expect you to be a competent and well articulated adult and sometimes all you can muster as a response is oui or non. 

Today was my first day in the classroom. Really, the kids were adorable and I quickly got over my self-consciousness about my language skills (which are coming along, slowly but surely). In fact they seem to be increasingly fascinated by me the more “American” I behave so pretending like I don’t know French is totally an option. Score.

After crossing that bridge, I was soon faced with another intimidating factor. The teacher I observed today asked me what I had planned for lessons. I practically laughed in her face. Lesson plans?! Lady, do you know that for my degree I wrote papers on anthropological feminist theory and contemporary national identity and ancient artefacts for god’s sake?! I am not. at. all. qualified to teach. Not even my native language. I feel like I’m in college again, about to give a half-assed presentation on a Friday morning after a night at Libby’s. Oof. It seems some of these teachers did not know what they were getting. Whatever I choose, they all seem very excited to relinquish 45 minutes of class time to me so I’ve got that going for me.

I’ll get into much more detail in my blog section about the TAPIF program itself but long story short, this program is full of sink or swim situations. Sink being showing your cards and letting everyone know that 1) you do not speak fluent French and 2) that you are not, in fact, une institutrice. Swim being pretending like you know exactly what you’re doing. Thankfully four years at UNH made me a grade-A bull-shitter.

So far, I am in constant flux between moments of pure elation for being back in France and moments of complete disorientation. Alexa and I were discussing the other day how we can’t help but question every little (or in this case, big) move you make after graduating college and setting out on uncharted territory. I’ve gotten on a few self-deprecating benders: What the hell am I doing here? Shouldn’t I be getting a real job? Shouldn’t I be doing something I’m qualified for? Wait…am I qualified for anything? Should I be in grad school?! It’s a slippery slope.

But then I see all these wide-eyed kids beaming at me and I notice that my French is beginning to improve with each passing day, and at the end of the day I get to climb a mountain that gives me the most beautiful view in the world. And I’m like, yeah ok, I’m definitely in the right place.

Santé, mes amis.

TAPIF #1

Ok, so I’ll be back tracking a bit so I can try to explain my experience with the TAPIF system from start to finish. I have to be honest so you can be prepared…it’s stressful. There are a few stages of the TAPIF process in which you’ll be dealing with different people from different institutions and administrations. It’s not always clear when you’re being passed off to the next person so I encourage you to take initiative throughout the process and ask: Who should I be talking to about X? I’m going to try to break it down into three levels that I’ve distinguished for myself (they are my no means official).

Step 1 : ‘MURICA

Ok so while you are in the good ol’ U.S., you will be dealing with Natalie Cox who is in charge of all the language assistantsInsane, right? But she really does her best to accommodate everyone. My advice would take your needy factor down a notch-or ten. They are doing a lot behind the scenes that you don’t know about and she cannot and will not answer every single question unless it is of extreme importance. Many of her emails are automated and streamlined in order to gather information for hundreds of people at once. I know many Americans are type-A stress balls about administrative stuff like this but have some faith in the system.

The most important pieces of information you will receive are: you acceptance and placement and your arrêté de nomination. You will find out which academy you are placed in upon your acceptance to the program. Your arrêté de nomination, however, will tell you exactly which school(s) you will be teaching in. Clearly, this little piece of paper is a big effing deal. When you find this out, you can book a VISA appointment, a plane ticket, begin looking for housing near your schools, reach out to other assistants in your area, etc. I’m reluctant to tell you about my experience with receiving my arrêté de nomination because it was such an anomaly but I will anyway.

Long story short, it was awful. But not everyone waits for this document until a week and a half before departing…ha. HA! It’s almost funny except that it’s not. If for whatever reason you are stuck in the situation when you still haven’t received your contract several weeks after the final deadline (usually August 15th), revert back to your type A tendencies and start bugging the shit out of everyone and anyone you can get a hold of. Hound them. 

In summation, be patient until it’s no longer feasible to be patient. This is your first lesson in chilling the hell out. See? It’s like you’re already in France.

 

 

 

 

 

FOMO

Today is the best day of the year at UNH. It is the 150th Homecoming at my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire and I am having extreme FOMO (fear of missing out). Homecoming is the holy grail of UNH celebrations. “Remember at Homecoming when…” is a common phrase screamed by Wildcats young and old for long after the festivities come to an end.

On this day last year, Elora Moeller was banging on my door and jumping into my bed at 8 in the morning to wake me up, mimosas waiting on the table. Pancakes and bacon would soon be sizzling in the pan thanks to Charlotte and we would wait another hour before rousing Colin because we know he’s an angry beast before 9 am.

Although I am incredibly grateful for this new adventure I’ve embarked on, I miss these days. A lot. I knew I would, which is why it was so difficult leaving our apartment and UNH and my AB family. But missing the “good old days” takes on a new meaning given that I’m in the midst of basically starting a life from scratch. There is little to no overlap between my life in Durham and my life new life here in France. Which is great in so many ways-clean slate, endless opportunity, a chance to dig into myself a bit more than I have in the past. But I’m realizing that although I am an incredibly social person, I struggle a bit with the part where you have to actually make the friends to be social with.

Thinking back I realize that I’ve always had trouble with transitions to new social settings. Summer camps, new work environments, sports teams, my first year at college. Woof. I think I’m reluctant in forming friendships for the same reason I am about romantic relationships–what if we aren’t compatible?! What if the hype wears off?! What if this doesn’t work out?! What if we’re stuck together both feeling too badly to break things off?! See why I’m single?

I know that is completely unreasonable-that you have to put yourself out there and take risks when meeting new people. I also know that I can be a versatile friend. It’s not that I conform. I just have such wide ranging interests which helps me to get along with people in different ways. Take my senior year roommates. I don’t think anyone would take any of these three at face value and throw them in an apartment with me. But we each formed unique friendships based on our commonalities. Colin and I were a cappella nerds. Charlotte and I liked to clean and pretentiously debate sociological theory. And Elora and I liked blowing off homework to drink G&T’s.

Going ahead I must remember that although people here might be coming from entirely different places, speaking strange languages, and used to a variety of lifestyles, there is always common ground. Which takes effort to find–the defining word of my first few weeks here. Yep, it certainly would be much easier to make no effort at all. To be a hermit and pass it off as self exploration. But like any good Into The Wild junkie knows, happiness is only real when shared.

So, though I am facing this intimidating friend-making process, I take all the people who have colored my life thus far as evidence that I am good at making friends. So santé to new friends and cheers to my Wildcats. Though I’ve traded my PBR for a bottle of rosé, I ask that you all pour one out for your homie in France and wish me luck in my quest to find new weirdos.

À bientôt mes amis.