Today was the first day I felt I could be completely honest on answering the question, “What do you do with your day?”. I replied, “Well actually, I spend a lot of time doing jack sh**”. It felt somewhat liberating to be honest about what I do during the day. To be fair, I was talking to a fellow Antipodean who happens to be in the same boat, so it wasn’t as scary as when replying to other, supposedly harder working individuals. Today there weren’t any pangs of guilt or looks of condemnation as I explained what I do or don’t do with myself.
While I shouldn’t feel the need to justify being a childless housewife, society is driven by the economy, which in turn is driven by the blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease of my fellow humans. So yeah, I feel the need to justify my situation. But I must say that I don’t feel guilty because I believe that I should. Coz I don’t in the least bit think I deserve to. I feel guilty because I know that other people probably judge me. I’m speaking more about France and the French, rather than NZ where most people are envious and try to figure out how they can have my life!
So here goes.
I am a bloody hard worker. Anyone who has ever worked/studied alongside me or at least been a witness, will attest to that. I give 110% to any task I am assigned. I become consumed by whatever job I hold at any given time. Even if I despise it, I will put just as much time and energy into it as if I loved it. My integrity means everything to me, so I don’t believe in cutting corners. You either give it everything you’ve got, or go home. Half-pie doesn’t cut it for me. I’ve been told on more than one occasion that I have high expectations of myself and of others. I can’t concede whether or not it’s true, since I can’t be objective. What I can say is that if a job is to be done, it should be done properly. So I admit, if it is a job I dislike I will stress myself out and feel anxious half of the time. This makes for an unhappy chappy. If, however, it’s a job I love, life is bliss and the world becomes the most beautiful place in the universe. I am fortunate enough to have experienced this and I can’t tell you how much I yearn to find another job like this, a job which feeds my soul just as much as my family and friends do. You may’ve come across the quotation, “If you find a job you love, you never have to work another day in your life”, and well, its true.
So at this young age, I have come to discover what my strengths and weaknesses are and I am smart enough to recognise that a healthy, well balanced and happy life is one in which you can realise these, and where you may find a job which uses them to your advantage. I would certainly be doing this if I lived in my home country. But instead of being a more productive member of society, instead of advancing my career prospects, instead of having a higher standard of living which would allow me to be a good consumer and buy, buy, buy to help the economy, I am living here in France, which comes with a whole lot of obstacles to me achieving these things (including a tiny thing called the global financial crisis which has in turn created historically high levels of unemployment!). Though I’m not complaining.
The most obvious point I wish to make is that finding a purpose in a country other than your own, where you had no desire to live in the first place, where your most meaningful work experiences have no meaning at all, where your strengths become your weaknesses, but most of all, where you don’t even speak the language (which make it next to impossible to find anything other than ‘teaching English’, or a job in the sciences which tends to cross cultural/linguistic divides), well it leads one to ask some existential questions. Thankfully I’ve always enjoyed philosophy so I’m open to pondering about the meaning of my life. And I have come to this conclusion. Unless my husband and I need more money to survive, I will not simply take any old job in order to satisfy other people’s need for order in the universe (there is so much strife in the world that my search for a purpose should be the least of anyone elses concerns!). But I will search carefully for something that has meaning and value to me, which is slightly difficult in a non-English speaking country. But its not impossible and that’s the exciting thing. There is a world of opportunity waiting for me to discover, and thats a journey I’m happy to go on.
I do realise how privileged I am, to have a husband enlightened enough to simply want me to be happy in life. Even if that means we are living on the bones of our butt, living with second hand utilities, shopping for bargains rather than quality products, and are not even in sight of the Jones’ coz we just couldn’t keep up. He is happy if I am happy. And for that, I am eternally grateful. I also know that we are privileged enough to be in a position where I don’t have to work. But once again, we’re happy, which is one of the most important things in life. So I dont apologise for living a life of perceived privileged. This all comes with the territory of being in a cross-cultural relationship, as well as when a couple allow one partner to focus on their career, sacrificing that of the other. It really is like being the wife of a diplomat.
I know more than anything that life won’t always be this carefree, and until this year it was nothing of the sort. I spent far too long worrying about what ‘could be’, how horrible life in France would be (the reality is far from it!), concerned about upsetting others, and on arriving in France, I worried about integrating successfully into French society. But in the time that I have had to ponder life and all its wonders, I have come to realise that worrying incessantly about ‘stuff’ doesn’t get you anywhere, especially when the concerns are not yours but those of others. It is precisely because of these revelations that I have come to indulge in the present moment and to enjoy whatever each new day brings me.
So if all I shall receive on any given day is jack sh**, I’ll take it with a truckload of gratitude 🙂