I’m often asked, “So, how’s the return going? Not too hard?”. Many ask about my condition for this return to reality.
Is it hard, a little, at times… But do I regret, no.
The cravings of before
Before leaving Australia, I missed France terribly. I dreamed of returning and had my heart set on doing many things.
First, I wanted to see all of you again, not to forget anyone. I had faith, to go around to all the thatched cottages, to visit each of the people I had missed.
I dreamed of having an apartment again, a place of my own. After 15 months of living in a dormitory, with my beautiful orange suitcase as my only dressing room, I was drooling over a little place of my own… Just like before.
And then there were the easier, more achievable desires. Drinking a good tannic, oaky wine, biting into a baguette, feasting on a superb cheese platter, and letting my taste buds gorge on all those French flavors.
Of course, I also dreamed of meeting my friends again, of having drinks late into the night, of getting back to the offbeat, serious and funny discussions.
The fears of before
Of course, before I came home, I had fears too.
I was afraid to return to a France that I would not recognize . I was also afraid that I had been forgotten. I was afraid that my relationships had changed.
I have sometimes left some people without personal news for over 15 months. Will they hold this against me?
Will everyone have moved on? And will I be the only one starting from scratch? Will I be on the same page?
Will they find me changed? Will they still make me laugh? Will my niece recognize me?
The questions danced in my mind. The only answer I was sure of was, “Yes, I want to go home.
No jumping to the next world
I was so afraid to leave an Australia with almost no restrictions to enter a France where masks were going to be mandatory.
I was already planning an article along the lines of “A leap into the next world… “, tadadada…
And finally, between the few masked periods at the end of the trip (the 30 hours of masked travel, the two weeks of masked waitressing, etc.) and the loosening of restrictions in France, it’s easy, I was hardly out of place.
Ok I admit, I always forget my mask on the way out, and it’s not uncommon for me to have to turn around to go to the supermarket. But otherwise overall, I came back at the right time.
On my first day, I was happy to stick to the 7pm curfew and rest from my trip. The second night on the other hand, I took advantage of the reopening of the terraces, and continued to get drunk with my friends, enjoying sausage and cheese! France, in all its splendor !
The cover-what? Coming home at almost midnight, I quickly realized that the curfew was a small and easy obstacle to overcome. An Uber and bang!”
Finally, the world after quickly became my world before. The terraces, then the restaurants reopened, the mask became optional in the street, the gyms reopened, the cinemas too… In short, except for the few transports (the 3 hours of train, it’s hot anyway!), the interiors of restaurants and stores, globally, I find an almost normal life…
Friends and Family on top
Before even the cheese and baguette, the ones I missed to the point of being an idiot were my friends and my little family.
I’m so glad to be back!
My niece didn’t even charge me for my 15 months of absence and within 20 seconds, I was the beloved auntie again. After more than a week of babysitting her, I can confirm, I will always be a part of her life, near and far. She will have to deal with her aunt, and I with her tyrannical character!
What a pleasure it is to be back with my buddies, my friends, and to realize that everything is so natural. It’s like I never left. Everyone picks up their share of discussion, the delusions are recreated.
Oh sure, everyone’s lives have changed, moves, breakups, reconversions, purchases, babies, but in the end, no one is all that different from who they were before! Some are happier, some sadder, some more jaded, some more serene, some fatter, some more wrinkled, some more beautiful, some more fulfilled, but all have the same humor, the same interest, the same soul as when I left them. If their lives have changed, their essence has not.
Recovering the joy of feasting
I think the most painful part of being a waitress was watching others do what I used to love doing so much.
So I might as well say that once I came back to France, once the terraces of the bars were open again, I only wanted to enjoy them as much as possible. Terraces or aperitifs at some or others, I found this French tradition of making it last and last…
At my father’s birthday party, I rediscovered this pleasure of talking with people of all generations. 13 at the table, barbecue, salads and wine at will, crossed discussions, frank laughter, I spent a happy moment, where the moment and the ethanol fumes blew a wind of freshness on my worries. The guests arrived at 12:30 and left at 7:00… A real good birthday meal!”
Then there were the evenings at the chalet near Annecy, or my weekend storm with the jerks. Moments of sharing, of freedom, where once again, nothing mattered but the present moment.
It’s no secret, in the fable of the Cicada and the Ant, I was always the Cicada. I came back from Australia with a head full of envy, but a much emptier wallet than when I left.
I had come home with the idea of touring France, seeing all of you, crashing right and left, sharing drinks, good dinners and weekends… Except that it all comes at a cost.
After two round trips, several evenings, I saw my little savings melt away like snow in the sun. At this rate, I end up with an account in the red less than a month after my return.
I can tell you that it’s hard to restrict myself, to not board a train to Paris, Nantes, Lille, Montpellier and avoid drinks, even though I’ve been dreaming about it for the past few months.
Impossible for me to continue at this pace, at 31 years old, I needed to return to the family home to fatten my bank account a little.
The risk of falling back into your comfort zone
If I fled to Australia, it was precisely to learn to get out of my comfort zone, to accept sometimes to put myself in danger in the medium term in order to finally build my long-term happiness.
When I came back, I had a lot of ideas, a lot of desires… To become a teacher, to start my own website writing company, to write weddings, to finally finish my novel… And then, the prospect of living in the suburbs of Bordeaux at my parents’ house for a while, terrified me.
I dreamed of returning to a Parisian life, of having a home, my friends nearby… in short, my life as it was before, but not with the same job, not with the same professional aspirations, and not the same romantic aspirations.
Then ease began to creep in. I wasn’t so unhappy before, after all? What if… Well, temporarily, maybe… Go a few months, a year, at most… If I got a job similar to the one before. Oh, wouldn’t that be the bagne?!
My desire to return to this Parisian life that I love so much almost sent me back to my comfort zone immediately. No risk-taking, I quietly answered some Product Manager ads in the textile industry. That’s easy. In a few weeks, I should be able to find.
On the first phone interview, I realize: I have no motivation. Oh yes, I can do, oh yes, I would be an asset, but my only goal, find something else. Deep down, I know, I can’t go back. I’ve already jumped over the ravine that separates me from my old career, and if I jump back in, I won’t have the strength to leave it.
So I will have to take my pain in patience, live poor, dependent and at my parents’ house for a while, to mature a real project and finally move forward.
After a month of going back and forth between family and friends in Paris and Lyon, my wallet gave up the ghost. Back to my parents’ pretty house.
We get along well, life is simple with them, and they are lovely, feeding me, housing me and laundering me. We have good discussions, a little rhythm. I adapt to their schedules, their habits, and it’s natural.
I’m not going to lie, I miss having people around me, my friends, my busy life. I miss my independence too. But that’s just the way it is.
There are days when everything seems easy to me, when the good mood, the good conversations override the doubts. And then there are the times when I feel like I’m trapped, when I miss my freedom, when I miss a life of my own. Patience is also being able to be less independent today, to be more independent tomorrow…
I don’t like patience, but I am learning.
I returned to France, convinced that I wanted to become a school teacher. And then I talked it over, and realized that if I had considered the idea before and abandoned it, there was a reason. I was going to be deprived of freedom, confined to a role that was not dynamic enough, not crazy enough for me. I’ll come back to it, but probably in a decade or so…
I thought about going back to what I was doing, applying to more environmentally friendly, fulfilling companies, but basically, this job, I’ve done it all.
Now I’m a little ball and chain in French society on the RSA. It’s weird, I’ve always worked, I’ve always rushed to the first job, to avoid being unemployed. And today, I find myself here, with nothing, no unemployment benefit, no precise research, with 542 euros to live on…
Watch out, I’m not doing nothing. I’ve taken up my freelance writing jobs, and it’s a job I love immensely. But to make a living at it, I’m going to have to string some words together on the screen!
And then it came, just like that. I started wanting to learn to code. After all, web design and the web in general pay a lot more than SEO copywriting, so why not.
Counseled by friends, I am now taking several online trainings. I feel I will be able to express my creativity there, and complete my offering… Copywriting, creative and design… Maintenance too.
Once again, I have to be patient, I’m learning a little more every day, lining up html lines, playing with CSS and trying.
After a 3-page letter to the Pôle Emploi, I cross my fingers that the joint commission will support my project… And once again, I show patience…