Thursday, March 17, 2011

I'm getting vieille

Well, it's official.  I'm 28.  Yesterday was my birthday.  I just keep getting older, and I really don't like it.  It was fine when I was younger, trying to hit that ever-important 21, and it was even ok up until 25.  But since 25 it just keeps getting more and more depressing.  And now I'm 28, two years to 30, and what have I got to show for myself?  Not much in my opinion.

Sure, I live in France, next to Paris (practically every Americans' dream), but I'm not particularly happy about it.  As a result I work a job I HATE and as each year goes by I wonder when I'm going to get to start my career.  You could argue that, as an English teacher, I have started my career.  But I'm not talking about just any old career, but MY career, the one that I WANT to do, the one that makes me happy.  I want a job that I enjoy.  I'm sick of dreading going to bed every night because that just means morning will come and I'm tired of literally forcing myself out of bed every morning knowing that the day is just going to bring the misery of teaching some more stupid, pointless English lessons.  I can't stand the fact that the only thing that gets me through each and every week is the fact that the weekend will come and that the only time I feel even remotely happy is on the weekend, yet I still manage to spoil half of the weekend thinking about work. 

Basically, I just thought that by 28 I would have started my career.  I would be done doing jobs I didn't like (or in this case truly hate) and I would be doing something that made me happy, regardless of the amount of money earned.  Instead, yesterday I realized that I am still in a thankless job that makes me more and more miserable every day and I find myself actually longing for the days of pizza delivery when I was in school.  Perhaps it's not the best job in the world, but I sure was much happier when I was doing it and I didn't feel depressed every day of my life.

Maybe my expectations were just too high.  I thought that if I worked hard, got the degrees, got good grades and dedicated myself to different projects that I would be assured of having a good career by this time.  Of course, I had never factored a move to France into my equation, but I can't imagine that this country is all that is holding me back.  So what is my problem?  Why do I feel like my life is so much more of a failure at 28 than at 22 or 23 or 25 even?  I mean I live in France, I'm married, I have a nice (by Paris standards) apartment, I have an adorable cat, I have friends (of course, most of them reside in the US), I have enough money to live decently (though not extravagantly by any means, but we aren't in the poorhouse either).  But for some reason, with all of that, my life at 28 feels incomplete and I know it is the career that is missing. 

Most of my friends in the US are already well established in their chosen careers and I have nothing but a job I despise.  And now that I'm almost 30, I'm really starting to feel that all hope of starting my career is gone, that I will still be dragging myself through metro tunnels and around Paris lugging a heavy Longchamp full of books to various companies 20 years from now, and that is a future that makes me feel sick.

I know I never really seem to be that positive about France and about living in France, and I think that the biggest reason why I'm always depressed and down in the dumps about my life here is my job.  But who knows, perhaps today I'm down because of getting older, but maybe 28 is when my career will really start.

And, on the slightly brighter side, though we didn't do anything special for my birthday yesterday because I was gone for work from 8am-8pm, Lionel did at least get me some flowers:

And he claims there will eventually (maybe this weekend) be a present, which I'm guessing will either be a new Longchamp since my old one is definitely feeling the pain of lugging those books around Paris, or a Blackberry.


  1. Ya know, Crystal (goes to Europe) is going through some of the same stuff right now and is going to get her equivalent diploma so that when she quits her job, she can start training to do a different job. I agree that if you aren't a teacher and if you don't want to be a teacher, the job would quickly get very unrewarding, exhausting, and pointless. I obviously don't know your financial situation, but maybe it would be worth it to you to quit or take a leave of absence, and train for another job that you might appreciate more? Life is too short to be miserable and you're still too YOUNG to be at such a dead end. Take the bull by the horns and make your life what you want it to be. Worst case scenario? You go back to teaching. right where you are right now. From where I'm sitting, it looks like you can only go up :)
    I hope you'll get some sunshine this weekend and that you'll be able to do something special to celebrate your bday!

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  3. Whoooaaa.... somebody is midly depressed....

    Get drunk, make an irrational decision and seize the day. Screw English... you know what you want to do... go do it.... (after you sober up.)

  4. I hear you dear - this was how I felt all those years living in Bretagne, at least until I found The Company.

    But now that I'm in Paris, it's different. There are so many more options here for foreigners. Everyone I knew in Bretagne taught English because that was the only option, but only one person I know here in Paris does. Other people are accountants, graphic designers, administrative assistants, tour group leaders, writers, book store employees, etc. So I guess I don't understand the "English teaching is all I can do" mentality in the capital.

    What was your degree in? Maybe you're just not looking in the right places? I'm pretty good at helping people find jobs, or at least pointing them in the right direction, so if you let me know what your field is, I can keep my eyes open for ya...

  5. Keith mentioned you were on for rant of the week and as that is right up my street, i cam on by and I'm glad I did!

    Like lots of others I was in the teaching mouse trap for 4 years in France and I finally snapped as I couldn't take it anymore - exactly EXACTLY the same as you. It was hard to break the cycle but I did it. I quit it in June 2009, chomage followed, and I found a job a really like in May 2010. A year later my life has totally changed. I'm not 'qualified' to do my job but someone gave me a chance and it paid off. Take the leap, don't be scared of being unemployed for a while, it's not taboo here. You can always go back to teaching if you *need* to but I guarentee you'll find something if you take the leap. Nothing can be worse than writing a post like that the day after your birthday, right? btw, happy belated birthday! I'm 28 next month!

  6. Amber - Thanks for the advice/support/encouragement. I've known for a while now that I really need to change and that I should probably go back to school, but my biggest problem is deciding what to go for and (perhaps) justifying to myself taking the time to go back for a very low degree (like a BTS) when I already have a Masters. It's just been very frustrating for me to know that I don't have the flexibility here that I would have in the US. I've been debating the "back to school" question for a year now!

    Liv - Yes, I think there is some mild depression in there, kinda normal after a Parisian winter! Well, so far I managed the getting drunk part (at my bday party this weekend) it's just time to make an irrational decision (which I almost did when I was drunk when I seriously considered buying a one-way ticket to the US, and to seize the day.

    Ksam - I know there's no reason for the English teaching is the only option mentality here in Paris, but after spending 4 months searching for a job and refusing to respond to the English teaching ads, I gave up and did it because I had to have money. And considering the fact that I have only managed to get 2 interviews that were not for English teaching and I've already had 3 English teaching jobs, I'm starting to get worried, though I have to continue to hope there is something better out there for me. As for my degree, I'm afraid that is probably one of the biggest problems, which I why I'm almost convinced that I will have to go back to school...I have a Bachelors and a Masters in French language and literature. Not the best degrees to have here in France......It also certainly doesn't help that I don't really know what I WANT to do, only what I DONT want to do. But if you've got any suggestions, they would definitely be appreciated! I figure it can't get much worse than it is now so I'm willing to try almost anything!

    Emmy - Thanks for the encouragement and it's nice to know someone else has been in the same place...that I'm not the only one. I've been thinking a lot for the past year about quiting and going back to school so that I can change fields and go into something that doesn't make me miserable every day, I just have to decide what to do. Now if only I could have this much encouragement from my husband, it might make it a little easier to make that decision! And glad to know I had a great rant there!

  7. It might sound dumb, but have you been looking on Craig's list and FUSAC at all? I know a lot of people who have found decent jobs through those sites. is also another new one.

    A while back, I also heard of a new internet company who was looking for native English speakers to help them with their English website. It sounded like it was a good group of people to work with, so if you're interested, send me an email and I'll pass their contact info along!!

  8. ksam - I've definitely looked in FUSAC and at Craig's list...all the time. And I send my resume to a lot of those jobs, now if only I could get a response! Don't know, so I'm gonna check that out tonight!

  9. Hi Michelle,

    Long time, no see! (or rather, no visit from me. Thanks to Keith Eckstein I was prompted to come back today and say "hi" :) )

    Happy Birthday, a little late.

    Heheheheheheh -- okay, so imagine coming up on 43 and feeling like you do. Think it feels like failure at 28? Try 15 years later and feeling even more hopeless because now you truly ARE over the hill! Ohhh, that is just so sour and cynical of me though, isn't it. ;-)

    Let's see if I can put a little sunshine and light into things. Even for myself. Yeah, I think ksam is right: in a place like Paris there must be a way to reinvent oneself outside of the box of English teaching.

    I hope that you are able to find something else in order to get out of it. It's not fun being in a work life you hate. And trust me, it's gonna be a party to be in the same place 15 years later. :)

    Here's to reinvention!! *tching tching*

  10. Karin - I sure hope you and ksam are right about the possibility of reinventing oneself outside the box of English teaching here in Paris because I think I am going to crazy if I don't! Now that my friend who was visiting has left I'm going to become a CV sending monster in my free time as a change is absolutely necessary! Thanks for the support!

  11. hey, I was catching up on some blogs and came across this post which I could have written myself - word for word. I'll be 29 in a few weeks and if you've been reading my blog you know I've felt the same way about life in france and teaching for about 5 years. Luckily my husband got us out of here, but if he hadn't got the transfer, I think that would have been it for me. The idea of getting through a week of work is hard enough, let alone a life time.

    You need to exhaust all your options and get any other job you can in order to feel better. If you can afford it, go back to school to get a diploma in something other than languages/ know how the french are about diplomas. I know how you feel and I hope you can get out of teaching. Hang in there girl!