Monday, February 14, 2011

Looking Forward, Looking Back

It occurred to me the other day that I have breezed through the half-way point of my grand French Adventure without even noticing. Time flies when you're having fun, huh?

I don't have much to report this week in terms of gallivanting I've done or crazy situations I've gotten myself into, but I have been doing a lot of self-reflection lately... a mid-term evaluation, if you will. So I thought I'd share a little bit.

I've really changed a lot since I came to France. Not only in the way I view myself and my relationship to the world, but also in the way I live my life. And I think most of it has been really good change. Leaving home last September was an incredibly hard thing to do. While I was excited about the prospect of living in another country and all that that would entail, I was also really reluctant to leave my comfortable American lifestyle. I left my job, my apartment (the first one I had ever paid for by myself), my car, my dog, my friends and family, and a relationship of nearly two years. When I got here I knew no one, barely spoke or understood French, had nowhere to live, no concept of French culture, and about $1500 to get started. And I remember how incredibly terrified I was as I said goodbye to Mom and Dad and Laura at the gate in Indianapolis, and how terrified I remained for about the first week I was here. But now I look at my life here, and it's awesome. I live in a great house with wonderful roommates, I have a fabulous and diverse group of friends, gainful and (mostly) enjoyable employment, passable skills in French, and plenty of time for adventures and shenanigans. And it really kind of blows my mind to think, "I did this." I did it by myself. And I'm pretty proud of that.

I'm also proud of a lot of the lifestyle changes I have made since being here. When I left the US I was a pretty stressed out person most of the time. I was prone to laziness and lethargy, preferring to spend most of my free time on the couch watching TV, rather than out and about and doing things. I smoked a half a pack or more of cigarettes per day, and ate way too much fast food. And despite the fact that I was making almost three times as much money as I make now, I always seemed to be broke. Nowadays I make my cigarettes last three or four days instead of one or two (and I'm thinking about thinking about quitting, haha), I usually eat out once a week or less, I eat tons of fruits and veg and a lot less meat, and while I am still working on getting out of the house more (hard to do when it rains all the time!), I have traded TV for reading, so at least I'm learning. I always have money, and I just feel so much BETTER about myself and my life. I feel healthier, more energetic, and less stressed.

So now that I am starting to plan for when I come home in a coupe of months, I'm trying to set myself up to maintain these improvements, rather than lapsing back into old habits, which I know it will be easy and tempting to do. My lovely and wonderful former roommates from Bloomington, Rachel and Lauren, have recently moved to Indianapolis, and have invited me to live with them again when I get home, and I think that will be stellar. They are a great influence on me when it comes to healthy lifestyles, not to mention two of the greatest friends and roomies a girl could ask for. And I'm also looking for a job somewhere in the community development/ social justice arena, in preparation for eventually pursuing a masters degree in the same area (macro end of social work). I have no qualms about going back to Papa John's for a while if I need to, as I know community agencies are really suffering at the hands of government budget cuts right now, but I think working in a field that encourages the same kind of lifestyle as I want to live (ie healthy, low environmental impact, frugal, etc) will also really help me make these changes permanent ones.

And that's really all I have to say for now. If anyone has any potential connections in social services/community development, please let me know! Happy V-Day everyone!

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