LIZ HARROD

Moving Along

In Au Pair, France on September 17, 2011 at 8:59 pm

So I’ve realized, as I’ve tried to think about how to start writing about my life here, that there are basically three important categories that I deal with each day:

1. the family I’m living with

2. my personal life – friends, dating, personal projects

3. the french language

So, there you go.  It seems as though I’m keeping it pretty simple as far as balls in the air, or at least trying to.

These first couple weeks have been a bit, interesting.  There have been ups and downs and kinks to work out, but I’m happy to say that with each day, overall, I’m feeling a bit more settled in and comfortable in my new environment.

The first thing I have to keep in mind is that this is my life.  Having moved around quite a bit since graduating Boston University, I’ve found comfort in the revelation that the things I am doing are my choices.  In fact, that was probably the biggest lesson that I practiced continuously while at Tao’s in Greece, and it’s something I continue to remind myself each day.

When I find myself in a situation that is trying my patience or throwing me for a loop, I try to remember to breathe and recall the fact that it is my choice to be in that situation.  If it is too much for me, I can decide to leave, but as long as I’m facing it, I’m choosing to be there.

This idea, by itself, is liberating.  Remember that you are in charge of your life, the things you choose to experience, and the things you choose to walk away from is empowering, not to mention a powerful aid when starting a new kind of life in a new kinds of place.

So here we go, my situations and how I’m choosing to face them:

The family I’m living with, again I’m keeping the specifics anonymous here, has overall been amazing.  However, I must say, though I worked with kids through four summers during university, I’ve forgotten quite a bit.  My patience has, luckily, quickly returned in most situations, though there are still certainly moments of frustration; and with the assistance of a little personal time and an amazingly supportive group of fellow au pairs (more details on that in a bit), I think everyone in the house is feeling very positive about where we are now and what this next year will bring.

The two boys I’m working with are awesome little characters, both with busy schedules and loads of energy. It’s never a dull moment when I’m on duty, but I must say I’m rather enjoying this sort of domestic side of myself where I look after children, put dinner on the table and make sure everyone makes it off to extracurriculars on time.

Of course there have a been a few spats here and there, but that’s to be expected as we adjust to each others personalities and ways of interacting.

The most trying for me has been the language adjustment.  I’ve realized that so much of my interaction with children has been my ability to negotiate and logic them into acting accordingly.  With my limited French, it has proven difficult to always get across what I’m trying to say, and there have been times that I’ve sadly had to resort to simple commands and “because I said so” situations – not really my style. But I’m getting there, and though it’s challenging, the family on the whole is very supportive and understanding.  I feel very lucky to be working for people who seem to understand that not only is this an opportunity for them but it’s a process and an opportunity for me.

And the 11 other girls doing the same thing . . .

As mentioned in my last post, I’ve met some of the other young women who chose to take on this challenge with the agency Au Pair Paris. Though we’ve only known each other a few short weeks, they’ve already proven invaluable to my sanity as no one understands better than they do when things get a bit crazy due to kids, language, transportation, or any of the other strange little things that can pop up during the day.

I’m sure they’ll each earn mentions in this blog periodically as things worth sharing happen to them, but for now I’ll just leave it at something I find very interesting:

As much as I feel like we’re told, as girls growing up, that our fellow females can be awful (ie mean girls), when it comes down to it, they can also be the most accepting and supportive people you meet.  This is the second time I’ve put myself in a situation where my support network is some girls I barely know.  The first, when I moved to Sydney, resulted in an irreplaceable friendship with two of the most amazing women I know.  Now, I’m enjoying a similar situation, with all of us opening up and blindly trusting each other to provide support and friendship as we face a whole new batch of challenges.

Finally, there’s another, more personal side, of my social life that I’ll touch on just briefly as a few people have asked about the mysterious male companion who did influence my decision to return to Paris. It has been a bit of a roller coaster since I landed a couple weeks ago, but with open minds, we were finally able to talk honestly with each other.  It was hard for each of us because of our own personal journeys over the past few months; and I must say, though difficult to deal with, the depth and variation of human emotions never ceases to impress me.  However, at the end of the day, it was about honesty and trust, then understanding and acceptance. Once we reached that point, we both, or at least I, finally felt free to move forward and accept whatever comes next.

So it’s week two, and things are moving along.  French classes start next week (FINALLY!).  I’m trying to jump start a bit of an online writing career.  I’ve been busily googling bridesmaid dress options for my dear sister, and I can’t wait to phone my bestie Lindsey to congratulate her and her new fiancé, Tony, on their engagement!

I feel like I should just sign this off with the wise words of Ferris Bueller….

“Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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