Today feels like the beginning of a new chapter for me. A number of significant events have led me to this point. Join me while I reflect, pause and ponder.
My football team won the grand final for the first time in 37 years and I was there to see it. Being a Tigers supporter has been an infuriating, heart-wrenching, roller-coaster ride and it has finally paid off. I've cried for that club. Tears of pain, frustration and sometimes - joy - in which case the tears would barely dry before us poorly supporters were served up another demoralising loss. I've punched inanimate objects. I've snapped at loved ones, friends, smug supporters of other, more successful teams. Indeed, I've dragged a 5-month old baby across barren lands to have said baby scream for 12 hours and said team lose by 110 miserable points. This time, it was a 6 day turn-around to the other side of the world (from Paris all the way to the MCG). But now. Glory. Is. Mine. Yeah the players worked hard for it and all that but it was my yelling, swearing, cheering, bitching and moaning that has helped that club get where they are today without a doubt. My favourite football writer (absolute king of sarcasm and indirect truth speaker), Titus O’Reilly, sums up my sentiments perfectly when he writes about a Tigers fan who still doesn't believe they've won, despite watching the replay 37 times.
I surprised Mum and my sisters by walking through the front door at 8pm on a Wednesday night. It was seriously the best. Just for the look on their faces, the hugs and tears afterwards. I hadn't been home in 2 years so I had a lot on my 'to-do' list. I took advantage of being kid-free, and Mum zipped me around in her VW visiting here there and everywhere. It was like my old life on steroids. Everything seemed more Australian than it ever was, including eating the best bacon & egg sandwich ever on Swan Street in Richmond and slowing down on a country road near my Aunty's place to dodge a log-sized wombat. I sat with 100,000 football fans and we all cried like babies when the siren blew. I met my newbie niece and nephew, hugged my Granny, met more babies and got on a plane back to Paris. It was wild. Shout out to Dad for keeping the secret, organising tickets and picking me up at the airport. Hey Melbourne your traffic sucks.
Both of my babies are at school! The advantages and disadvantages starting school at 3 years old (exclusive to France) are many and varied. All-in-all, the French pre-school system has won me over, as I previously discussed over at Mama Loves Paris. It is not without some sadness that my youngest child has begun school. A certain phase in our lives has come to an end, but I'd be lying if I said there weren't a few bonuses. Firstly, the kids are bilingual and are better integrated than us adults will ever be. They are proud of themselves, and we're proud of them. Secondly, personal time spent avoiding pigeon poo at the playground has at least halved. Thirdly, time spent walking down the street not lugging a screaming toddler has increased. Within school hours, I walk at whichever speed and whichever direction I choose and this is truly liberating (and at the end of the day I feel much more able to deal with meltdowns that still, inevitably occur).
We had a magnificent summer holiday in Sicily. Really, this was the best family holiday we've had so far. The post-holiday glow is still there, somewhere. I didn't get around to blogging about it, so here are some snaps instead.
I can finally say “I speak French.” Settle down everyone, this is a statement that comes with several disclaimers and footnotes. ⁽¹⁻³⁾
- Comprehension is limited in situations involving telephones, fast-talkers and background noise. The French speaker must speak slowly and not object to repeating what they just said (several times).
- Yes I can speak French but it is littered with errors and mispronunciations and,
- Do you mind if I switch to English every now and again, please don’t frown at me like that.
- Yes I know you can speak English better than I can speak French but let's just pretend you can't while I make a fool of myself!
So yeah, I can speak French *to a degree. I'm constantly feeling a combination of elation (when I get something right ) and frustration - when I'm unable to express myself, or when someone is saying something that is supposed to be simple and my brain is blinking like a fluorescent light that needs replacing. I'm coming to accept this is a semi-permanent state for me.
I’ve learned to stand up for myself if attacked on the street by people who think I should be doing a number of things differently, whether it be stopping to make way for people who aren’t looking at all where they’re going, or simply walking through my children as if they're not there. I’ve decided not to bother remaining polite (as I did on the bus that day). They are not being polite so why should I? If someone chooses to berate me or my children they will cop what I call an almighty Australian spray. Arguing in English ensures that the winner of the argument is me. No one beats me in angry English (on the streets of Paris anyway). It actually makes me feel rather French as I’m now part of a culture where random kerfuffles break out and then and we all carry on as before.
I’ve recently come to accept that I will not be able to work as a registered nurse in France. I've sent letters, and wasted time and money on translating documents not valued by the French registration body. This leaves me feeling a little unhinged, a little liberated, a little scared. A friend and I have a little project on the go which involves teaching CPR and first-aid skills to English speakers. So far so good! We are teaching skills that (in my belief) absolutely everyone should have. It's nice to be able to draw on knowledge and experience and know that we are making a positive difference. I guess nursing hasn't left me yet, huh.
So what is next for me? I’ve facilitated setting up my family’s life in Paris and I’ve done a pretty good job. But what about me? Is being up to date with house-hold tasks, writing a blog every now and then, working on my French and doing my little First-Aid project enough? It’s certainly enough to keep me busy but where is all of this taking me? At this point I’m not exactly sure. But I do suddenly feel like I can take a moment, to breathe, to take stock. I’m doing that right now. I'm drinking creamy flat white (yes Paris has those now) and I'm revelling in the fact that one can get their trainers whitened for only 20€ at a dry cleaners down the road. I plan on booking my dirty white Chuck Taylors toute de suite.
I'm revelling in Autumn. Leaves are turning red and yellow, there is cause to 'bring a jacket' and I've dug out the hats and gloves from last season for that first day when the kids squeal "my hands are cold mummy!" Winter is coming on this side of the world, and the unusually warm days of this current week are teasing but I'll take it!
Also, pompiers. The firemen of Paris are local heros in their respective arrondissements. If you're lucky enough to catch them on their daily jog, you'll see kids jump excitedly and wave bonjour. You'll see smiles and nods of respect from every walk of life. You will marvel at their fitness, their physique and their super-human abilities to save the world, your life, your cat, your morning.
I’m ready for the next chapter. I’ve got a few ideas. I'm not sure if I should share them on this blog in case a potential employer reads it and says - so you wanna be a rock-star? You're in the wrong place! Next!
Tell me your secret dreams and ambitions. I'm all ears for inspiration! And don't forget to subscribe here. I'd love to stay in touch.