On the way back from school today, I was walking with my two youngest boys, and we came to a crosswalk. We stopped, looked both ways, and I stepped out first with them following. While they happily scampered across the street a car came speeding down the road, slamming on its brakes last minute when it saw me there, standing in the center of the crosswalk waiting for my kids to get across. I eyed the driver defiantly; because do or die, I was not moving until my kids were safe.
This isn’t the first, or the last, time that something like this has/will happened. As an au pair it’s my job to protect and take care of my kids and that’s what I do, even if it means risking my own safety in the effort. First and foremost it’s my job to make sure they come home safe and sound at the end of the day.
But, you know what? They don’t know that. In fact, I would go as far to say they don’t have a clue.
Sure they know I feed them, and pick them up from school, and that I take them to the park. But while they’re happily crossing streets, they have no idea there are cars narrowly missing them. And that’s okay. They’re kids and being oblivious to adult responsibilities is part of the package deal.
Today, though, I started thinking about how I cross my own streets in life, all the time, with God standing guard. I am the kid walking across with little to no idea of the protective measures going on around me.
The only difference is that my crosswalks are life choices – things that might seem scary or unknown, or downright insane. The other side of the road doesn’t always look like a nice and visible place to be. I get distracted by the fact that I can’t see what’s on the other side, or that I’m crossing alone and no one else seems to be walking in the same direction; I get nervous because I don’t have a plan after I cross, I don’t know who or what I will become when I reach that point – and that is terrifying. All I can think about is the other side of the street, but if only I would take the time to see the protecting guidance of my Father I would know better than to fear.
Lately I’ve had a lot of people ask me what it’s like to be an au pair. People have sent me messages saying they’ve thought about doing it, and they want to know if I think they should. I’ve been really careful replying to these messages, because I know giving “advice” on life altering decisions is very serious. And being an au pair IS a life altering decision. You will not come back the same.
And I don’t mean that solely in a, “you’ll have such a larger perspective of the world” way. Yes, you will gain amazing skills such as viewing people different from yourself, new friends and experiences and most likely have a more open mind. BUT you will also have battle scars and wounds from your time abroad. You will have situations that you wish you could have avoided, and problems you never thought you would overcome.
You’ll probably spend time crying – a LOT of time crying. You’ll wonder what the hell you’re doing there. You’ll feel like you’re wasting valuable time in your life, and that you could be doing something more significant. You’ll feel like you’re suffocating, like if you missed places and people any more your heart would implode.
That. That is what it means to be an au pair. And I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking that you won’t feel like giving up on a regular basis. Because the reality is, it’s an extremely “unnatural” feeling to be living in a stranger’s house in a strange land with strange surroundings and nothing and no one familiar in immediate reach during your rough moments.
You don’t get to go home and vent after work – your home is your work. You don’t get sick days to stay home and marathon Netflix, you go to work every day, regardless of your state of health. Your schedule is not your own, you get woken up by screaming children and have to be quiet at night so you don’t wake them. Sometimes you’ll wonder if it’s worth it – or whether you should crank your music so loud the walls shake just so you’ll remember that you are there. And you are. Even though sometimes it feels like you’ve melted into an emotional pot the family has forgotten to stir – some kind of strange substance floating on the surface.
Let’s face it, sometimes a lot of the time you will want to give up. A lot of time I want to give up.
But I was raised to keep running a race until I reached the finish line. Whether I have to run, walk, limp or crawl there – I will cross it, and hold my head high.
Being an au pair is hard; it has stretched me in ways that I never knew I could be stretched. It has emboldened me in ways I never thought possible, and it has cut into my heart, replacing pieces I never wanted to admit were rotting. I’ve overcome things that I never would wish for anyone else to experience, stories I’ll never tell to anyone but those who are closest to me.
It has been painful and difficult and crazy and confusing.
But every now and then I’ll catch a glimmer. A faint light shining amidst the chaos that this life brings, and I’ll remember; the life I was called to, to run a good race, to push forward even when absolutely everything is pushing me back. I’ll remember that even the darkest rainstorms result in beautiful color pallets painting the skies.
And maybe that’s what this season is about. It’s a season of stretching. A season of building the muscles that will carry me across steeper roads, higher mountains and deeper canyons.
It’s not easy. Not one day since I’ve been here has been easy. But there have been times when I’ve smiled more genuinely than I think I ever have before. And I guess that is what truly marks a great adventure. Not that it’s a leisurely stroll. But that it’s a trek that leaves you scratched up, worn out and ready to drop at the end – but with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment.
We did it.
None of us leave this life unscathed or unaltered. The real question is whether the wounds we acquire have stories that are worth telling for generations.