Memoirs of A French Au Pair: 1 Year Back In The U.S.

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This time last year I was packing my suitcases and planning on getting the hell out of France. I was so over it. I was over my job. Over my living situation and over the idea that I had made the right decision moving there in the first place. In short, I was over it (and everything that ‘it’ encompassed).

If I sound like an angsty teen here, I apologize. And then I unapologize. Because life is hard sometimes, and we have a right to look up to the heavens and shout, “WHAT WERE YOU THINKING BRINGING ME HERE!?” There was a lot of that when I lived in France. And that’s okay. Because I don’t believe that God wants subservient robots and I strongly believe that he likes us having real dialog with him. Even when things are hard. Especially when things are hard.

When I moved to France I thought it was going to solve all of my problems. I was sick of seeing people get engaged/married or posting baby pics on Facebook and I decided to DO something with my life. So I quit my job, bought a plane ticket and went (way harder than that, but you get the point). Then the first bad thing happened… and then another. And another and another and another and finally I started to wonder if I had made the right decision? Had I done something with my life, or had I ruined the perfectly good life I had already had?

Risk.

I’m not usually a very risky person. In fact, I would go as far as to say I adore being comfortable and secure. I don’t gamble. I don’t really like taking chances. I’ve ordered the exact same flavor of bubble tea at the exact same place for six years. It’s who I am. I like knowing what I’m getting into. So when I felt the extreme push in my life to move to France, I felt so certain that it was a divine intervention. Let’s be real, it pretty much had to be.

Fast forward nine months and my little idealistic dream boat had been battered and thrown into the shoals. It wasn’t painted and glowing with idealistic promises, anymore. That shit (sorry, mom) was borderline Titanic-post-iceberg status. All I wanted to do was to run away. So I did. And I’m okay with that decision, but I what I did next was wrong.

I tried to ignore and repress and never ever ever think about France.

In fact, I can honestly say I’ve been almost entirely removed from my experience up until the last couple of weeks. It’s very rare that I’ll talk about my experiences there. In fact, I basically don’t talk about that year, at all. At first I told myself that it was because I was too busy or that I had too much on my plate. But the reality was that I didn’t want to have to think about the fact that I had failed at something (or, at least, my definition of failure). France was not magical, fun, beautiful, a fairytale or anything like Audrey Hepburn described it. That’s a tourists dream. Not this expat’s reality.

And at the end of it all I’m still not sure that I have an answer for, “What I learned.” I know that I’ve become a much different person, because I can see it in the reflection of the people who were closest to me, before I moved. Since those changes were gradual they’re much harder for me to personally distinguish.

But I have changed. And I can feel it.

This year back in the U.S. has been one of the most hectic and crazy that I’ve ever had. At times I’ve felt like I was drowning in an ocean, too overwhelming to overcome. Other times I’ve felt so overwhelmingly loved and supported. Overall, this has been a year of drastic highs and earth-shattering lows.

I can’t even believe that one year has already passed. On the one hand it feels like no time at all, and on the other I feel like five years has passed in the course of one. Such is life.

It’s taken almost the entirety of the year for me to finally start having some pieces fall into place. A lot is still up in the air, but things will hopefully click, soon. Over the past year I’ve been bouncing between more jobs than I can count, I’ve moved four times, and I’ve been dutifully pay off the debt (Paris is hella expensive) that I incurred while living abroad (halfway done!) in addition to my student loans (also halfway there). If there’s one thing I learned in France, it’s that I NEVER want to have to think about student loans again, and the sooner they’re gone the better. I hate how “normal” it is for people my age to have tens of thousands of dollars in debt before they really even start their adult lives. It’s basically nonexistent in so many European countries, and I cannot wait to be done with them for good.

The highlights of this year? I’ve gone to three conventions, which was something I had placed on my bucket list while I was living in France. I’ve taken one trip out of the country (Scotland, Ireland, England) and three smaller trips (soon to be four) within the U.S. I’ve seen Riverdance (twice!) and Lord of the Dance, I started a Star Wars painting that will someday be awesome, and I started the process of writing/putting together a comic book with one of my friends. All in all this year has been so incredibly hard, but I’m so thankful for the friends who have held my hand, wrapped me in wool blankets with cups of tea and given me comic books to help me through.

Moving back from France was a really hard decision. It was a hit to my pride (because I honestly didn’t think I would ever come back) and it was a life lesson in how much I actually do need others to make it through this crazy circus called life. Today I was looking at pictures from just two years ago and it’s insane to think about how different things are, now. I was a completely different person. From my ideals, to the way that I approach life, I can honestly say that basically nothing is the same. Maybe this transformation will prove beneficial in the upcoming year. Maybe it won’t. But the point of this long-winded tale is: Fail you might, but try you must.

So here’s to one year of making shit work (sorry for the swearing, mom). The past few years have been just about anything other than what I thought they would be. And that’s OKAY. I give you all permission to be confused, and angry, and elated and to feel torn in a hundred different directions. Life doesn’t have to be exactly what we plan, we just have to be ready to keep moving forward, not matter what is thrown our way.

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8 thoughts on “Memoirs of A French Au Pair: 1 Year Back In The U.S.

    1. The actual experience of moving there? There’s SO MUCH paperwork to get visas haha. Once I actually got there, there was a whole different variety of crazy to overcome. I was an au pair, so moving into a foreign country, in the middle of nowhere, with a strange family is definitely something I probably wouldn’t do, again.

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  1. I love hearing this reflection! It’s so cool to hear about all of your growth, and how you have kept pushing on and searching for adventure even when some of your adventures didn’t look how you hoped they would. You’re a strong, amazing lady, I’m so proud of you for going out on a limb and taking risks, but also being strong enough to know when it’s not working for you! I love hearing about your life! Love you Emilee!

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  2. Hi Emilee. I stumbled across your post on Twitter. I’m sorry you had such a rough time in France as an au pair. Believe me (sigh) I can relate even though my experience was a long time ago. I think you might be interested in my memoir, French Illusions: My Story as an American Au Pair in the Loire Valley. Here is a link to my website if you’d like to learn more. http://lindakovicskow.com/

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  3. I’m currently an Au Pair in France, so I just HAD to read this post. And I am so thankful that I did! In fact, I can’t wait to read even more on your blog! So many times in my life I have had the exact same thoughts as you- and I just want to thank you for sharing your experiences, ups, and downs. I can’t wait to read more of your blog!

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    1. Thanks! I’m so glad that it struck home with you. I almost want to write a book called “Au Pairs – It’s Okay to Feel…” haha. The experience is so unique and it’s hard to relay to anyone who hasn’t gone through it.

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