A Different Perspective

How often we go through life and make assumptions before really taking a step back to look at the other possibilities. I can say that I see myself doing this quite frequently especially since I am experiencing so many new things. Like a lot of things in life, first impressions are important BUT not always correct.

Today I had the pleasure, and yes I really do mean pleasure to babysit for a family in the center of Paris. It may have been my day off and I may have had to get up at 6am this morning, but I figured that if nothing else it would give me a chance to see a different Parisian lifestyle.

Once again an opportunity was presented so I took it. Also I had one of those “I feel like my grandmother Cress” moments and saw a way to make a few extra dollars to be stashed away for a rainy day.

Quickly enough, I realized that I had based my outlook on Paris simply on my perception of one family’s lifestyle. Today that perception changed.

I’ve realized that,

Living “in” Paris is not the same as living 10 minutes outside the center

Not everyone gets the pleasure of enjoying their weekends off like I previously had assumed, hence the fact of why I was babysitting on a Saturday

Not all french kids are brought up spoiled and fortunate as it may have come across in the beginning. I think this has to do with the area I am currently living in as well, as it’s a wealthy community.

As much as having the ability to buy fresh produce, cheese and baguettes from the market is amazing, it actually isn’t feasible for everyone to do.

The best part of my day was by the far the least expected when I had initially made the choice to babysit.

It came when I realized how much of an impact simply making a child smile can be. When the child begs you to stay and wants you to come everyday and be their “nounou” simply because you played soccer with them and showed interest in their happiness; That’s better than any kind of money can buy.

I’ll be honest, I saw that there was a family needing a babysitter and since I was free, I figured hey! It will be a good way to get some extra cash” when the end of the day came, the money didn’t matter.

The fact that I had made a child happy was more than I could have asked for.

It’s not about having time, it’s about making time.

Every day on my way in and out of Paris I pass the many homeless people along the streets and I simply pass them by like the many others do. I bypass them all, as if they don’t exist not because they are any less important, but because I hate the realization that there are people out there living in such hard situations. The sad truth is that they’re are people in need and even if I want to pretend there isn’t, nothing will change unless I make the choice to do something about it.

I’ll admit, there’s been plenty of times when I could have given someone change and I didn’t, and I have no excuses as to why I chose not to.

Today I did something that I haven’t done in a long time; too long to be exact. I chose to make a change.

I woke up this morning without a plan for the day which is an uncommon feeling  for me as I`m a constant planner. I did my daily Facebook check and found a notification for an event that I has been invited to a month or so before, but had completely forgot about. I`m not one to make rash decisions, in fact it usually takes me a day or two to make a final choice but this was different. Within 30 minutes of waking I was on my way to the local grocery store to pick up supplies to make as many sandwiches as I could.

I got some pretty strange stares from the family because to them, the best help you can give is money. Money can do a heck of a lot don`t get me wrong but it almost seems like the easy way out.  Anyone can give a few bucks away but not everyone is willing to give time.

Not even a year ago I would have done things the easy way and donated and not thought twice about it. This is where its truly evident how much this year abroad has changed me as a person.

I showed up to the meeting place which ended up being a Swedish church in the north of Paris. I had no idea what to expect , only that I was giving my  Sunday to helping as much as I possibly could.

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I ended up chatting with a few other giilrls while creating sandwiches with baguettes and cheese. Then I heard an Americana accent so I turned around and said my go to phrase “you’re Canadian or american am I right?”

988474_10206255761856188_8985002146296347539_n Sure enough he was from Portland Oregon! We did our introductions and I found out he was on vacation for two weeks visiting the city, enjoying the couch surfing activities and apparently helping out the locals. I was shocked to say the least, that here was someone on vacation in Paris at that, and donating their free time to wander the streets of Paris for hours giving away as much as we could.

I almost felt guilty questioning why this man was spending his time doing what we all should do. Why is it that being a good citizen has become something so uncommon? I’m not going to lie, I feel amazing after once again stepping outside of my comfort zone but it’s almost pathetic that it’s taken me this long of being in Paris to volunteer my time. 10989125_10206254892794462_5182212868713125330_n (1)

This whole experience today was life changing, to be honest. It opened my eyes to a global crisis that I bypass every single day. It’s impossible to help everyone in need, but even just by donating a couple hours of your week, you can make a small change in someones life.

We often take for granted the things that most deserve our gratitude

We as humans complain, its natural.

Au pairs, myself included complain a lot. Once again natural, especially in our circumstances. It could be the smallest thing but yet we still have to let the world know that it’s bothering us. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather bringing me down but lately I’ve noticed a higher level of negativity towards not only my job but life in general. When I sit down and actually lay out exactly what I do have in my life, not only physically but emotionally as well, i’m beyond blessed.

I’ve decided to create a list of the things I take for granted to really show how fortunate I am to be in the situation I am in currently.

1. I have a safe roof over my head which I actually look forward to coming home to.

2. There is always more than enough food to eat and a variety at that.

3. A job that may not be what I want to be doing for the rest of my life but for now this is what I have chosen.

4. A beyond kind and caring host family. I may be 21 but it’s still nice to come home to a family that considers you their daughter and treats you as one of their own.

5. I get paid always on time or in advance which is something that the majority of my fellow Au pairs are having issues with.

6. I wake up in the morning and I’m alive and breathing.

7. Technology. t’s crazy how much I rely on it for the majority of the things I do throughout the day. I can call my family in Canada in the matter of a minute, or message my friends with a few swipes of my finger.

8. I have an abundance of clothes to wear and to keep myself warm. If you’re friends with me you’ll constantly hear me complain that I have too many clothes and I’m not going to be able to take them all back with me to Canada or I will have to take another suitcase. I’ve decided that the clothes that I don’t absolutely need I will donate before I leave instead of creating more stress than I need.

9. I’m not cheap, I’m just frugal. I’m fortunate that this was something that I acquired from my grandmother Cress, who can make a dollar last longer than anyone I know.

10. I have a voice. If you know me well enough I’m not the type that let’s things pass me by and always speak up when I am not happy with something. I know for a fact that my other grandmother Chute gave me this attribute and couldn’t be prouder.

Hearing the stories of my friends and their current situations within their families really makes me appreciate what I have. I’ll admit, there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t want to pack my bags and head home but what I’ve learned in the past is that running away from a problem never solves anything. I’m fortunate enough to have a close enough bond with my family here where we can openly discuss issues that come about no matter what problems arise. I’ve come to the conclusion that living a life of perfect happiness may be acquirable but unrealistic, for me anyways.

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I’m in France, essentially living the dream and how many people can say they’ve done that?

Without struggle there is no progress.

Not only is it the phrase that gave me strength to be the woman I am today but it will be on me until the day I die.IMG_1017

We often reflect on the hard times in the past and see them as negative, which is the obvious response when we experience things we’re not particularly happy or fond of. What about if those experiences shaped who we are today and are the reason for the current lifestyle we live. I know that would change my thoughts on my past completely.
Would I be living this life in Paris today if I hadn’t of gone through what I have in the past few years of my life? Probably not, actually no there’s no probably about it.

I’m here in this city because of those times but now I no longer see them as being bad or unfortunate for happening. At the time yes, when things wouldn’t go as planned and life seemed to change directions every single day, I felt a sense of failure almost. Failure in the sense that I didn’t know what was next; unprepared even.

I’m 21.

I’m not perfect.

I’ll never be perfect,

but i’m me.

I need to continue to remind myself this each and everyday. Being a perfectionist I always feared doing the wrong, but what truly defines the wrong when you are the only one who can decide where your life goes. I definitely am not eager to come across failures in my life but I do believe that with every negative comes an ever larger positive. Of course as anything it all takes time. Did I wake up the next morning after deciding that I needed a fresh start and know exactly what I wanted to do? Nope, but sooner than I thought life worked it’s way out and lead me here.

As my mother tried to instill into me when I was young girl, and still to this day reminds me of, “life is not perfect”. Of course I took the hard way and didn’t listen but I learnt from it and I truly believe that much stronger from the struggles I’ve faced. As much as we want our plans in life to pan out the way we foresee them, sometimes obstacles may open more opportunities that wouldn’t have had.

You decide your own destiny

People are going to talk, no matter what you do in life so please, don’t allow comments to dictate your life. What I’ve learned is that it’s your life, not theirs. Truth be told it took my 20 years to figure this out, but I`m finally at a point where I`m confident in myself enough to trust my choices in life.

In the past I always had a figure that I followed for everything I did in life but this time was different. I needed a fresh start, a new beginning and an adventure of a lifetime.

A common response I heard from people when they heard of my decision to be an Au Pair was “You’re just going to throw away your education?” I’m not quite sure how to exactly throw away my education considering my diploma isn’t going anywhere nor is everything that I learned throughout my years in school. There’s nothing saying that I can’t go back into that career field later on in life but for now, this is what I want.

Before I moved abroad I had many people that made comments on my ability to follow through with this. Fast forward to today, those same people have approached me a second time, but instead with a more encouraging outlook as they’ve been able to see how positive this experience has been for me. For 21 years I was always given a choice but a guided one with support in how to get there. Making the decision to change my life completely like I did was all made by me. Did I know what I was doing? Nope, but that’s why I’m here to learn more about myself and what I actually do want to pursue in the future. Maybe I`ll end up wanting to be a nurse or an entrepreneur when i`m done here or maybe I still won`t have a clear idea by the end of this journey. Finally I am able to accept that it`s okay not to know exactly how my life is going to plan out tomorrow, the next day or even the next year.

You’re only young once so use the opportunity before you have reasons not to.

Travel allows you to step out of your comfort zone

How many of you wake up each day having a pretty good idea of what the day will entail. The food you will eat, the people you will see, the breaks you will take. This is what is called our comfort zone.

Many of us go through life never stepping outside of that bubble, that we’ve become so accustomed to simply, because we are unaware that there’s more out there to explore.

Image found on Reallifecoaching.net

Photo: for a state of happiness

Upon graduating high school I thought I had my whole life planned out, which turns out wasn’t what my life had in store at all. I acquired a daily routine upon starting college which continued even when I began working. My life was far from bad in any regard; I had an education, an apartment and a job; but was I truly happy?

Maybe, maybe not. The only way to find out was the explore my other options, and essentially starting fresh.

What better way to commence a new beginning than across the ocean in a completely different continent. I bought a one way ticket to Paris and became a part of a new family, fully immersed in the french language and culture. If any of you know me well enough you are aware that I come from a very athletic family. In fact, all six of us are still to this day involved in playing a variety of sports. Okay, maybe I’m lacking on my athleticism here in France but i’m just doing as the Parisians do and fully immersing myself. The word sport in this new household meant a 10 minute walk to school and back which to each their own but it was a rude awakening for me. They are by no means lazy but their activities are just different than what I’m used to and involve playing music, chess, and painting.

Art has never been a huge part of my life. Growing up it was always sports no matter what I did. Since being here in Paris I’ve noticed that art is a huge part of their culture whether it be in the form of physical artwork, architecture or dance.

My host family purchased a years worth of tickets for shows ranging from theater, dance and story telling. You know when you receive a gift that you really hate but want to be kind so you put on the most appreciative face you can? That’s exactly how it felt when they presented me with the bundle of “gifts”.

This is too good

My expectations were very low considering my interest in art has never never very high. Last weekend I experienced my third show and I must say this whole artsy lifestyle is really growing on me. I’m not going to ever be able to give up my love for fitness or sports but there’s non limit to how many interests you have.

How many times have been completely against something despite the fact that you have never tried to essentially like it?
We often have negative opinion on certain things in life, simply because we’ve never been exposed to them. I grew up in a family surrounded by sports. My parents were involved in them growing up and passed not only their athletic ability to their children but the love for the game. Art was never frowned upon in our household but it also was never emphasized as being important.

Travelling has exposed me to a whole new lifestyle that I wouldn’t have seen if I had of just stayed in the comfort zone I was living in. Stepping outside of what we know and what we’re comfortable in isn’t easy nor is it always wanted.

How I know I’m doing the right thing

When talking to people, and i mean literally anyone in general, the majority of them will say their biggest regrets in life had to do with either not travelling or  taking opportunities when they were presented. Let’s just say I didn’t want to have those regrets later on in life where it would be impossible to reverse my decisions.

Currently I’m at a point in my life where:

1. I don’t have kids
2. I’m not married
3. I don’t have a career

For me, it seemed like the perfect time in life to travel and see places I had anyways dreamed of but never had the opportunity to go. Typically travelling abroad for a year isn’t just a decision you make in the course of a second, but for me on the other hand it was pretty instantaneous. I had nothing holding me back.

When I originally told people I was going take a break from “the real world”, whatever that may be, I had a lot of people that doubted my decision to travel for the year. They would say “but you are throwing away your education” or “Why aren’t you going into banking, if that’s what you took”.

First off, my education isn’t going to be magically taken away from me and will still be there when I get back. Second, I’m only 21 years old and I don’t know if that’s even what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

A spontaneous decision like this required me to make sure that it was a smart one before leaving for a year.

Smart meaning

  • I will have enough funds to get me through the year
  • I will want to travel which also requires money
  • I want to pay my student loans off before I leave
  • I’m going to get something out of this year

Of course there was more, but mainly I wanted to make sure I felt comfortable while being in France, and for me having financial security is a huge comfort blanket. Something that has been instilled in me ever since I was a young girl, was to save money for a rainy day; better said by my grandmother who I know is where I get my frugal habits from. I thought that maybe this experience would be that rainy day that I had been waiting for all these years and that’s exactly what I did. I didn’t come here without financial means in order to support myself as I knew that it is impossible to live on an Au Pair salary. Okay maybe not impossible, but in order to actually experience Paris and Europe in general to it’s full potential, 90 euros a week wasn’t going to cut up. I mean, this girls gotta eat too somewhere in there and we all know food isn’t cheap.

Before coming here I was surrounded by my peers and often felt a sense of having to do as they were doing; as in follow the path of school-university-career. Once I finally made the spontaneous decision to make a change in my routine life, I saw that there are other paths and options apart from the one we all think is the “normal” or “safe” one. So many of us choose to remain in the same lifestyle for so long for the purpose of what? There’s so much out there in the world just waiting for people to discover.

I also believe that you learn so much while travelling, or at least I know I have already since I’ve been here these short 3 months. I don’t just mean that I have learnt another language either. I’ve had the chance to figure out more about myself than ever before through travelling, meeting people, being immersed in a french lifestyle and discovering independence.

 

What have you learnt while travelling?