If you didn’t know already, I am currently a language assistant in the south of France. I sometimes wonder how I got here, and what on earth my purpose is for being here. I’m definitely living out that very confused post-grad life, trying to figure out my next steps and whereabouts for happiness and success. Anywho, I’ve been going about my days, weeks and even months here all too quickly, letting it pass by me and not ceasing the moment that this time in my life deserves.
Today as I made my commute between the two schools I teach at on Thursday’s, I decided to take a small detour. I have unfortunately been lacking inspiration, passion, and all my wits about me lately that make me who I am. As I looked around me, I remembered something I read the other day that I’ve always known to be true. To get inspired, take a picture of something that stands out to you, that takes you aback in a kind of intriguing and exquisite way. In this instance for example, I felt taken by the brilliant blue sky, palm trees, and Mediterranean style architecture.
Something about it spoke to me and I followed my gut as if it were a fluttering butterfly. The child in me, chasing this butterfly, this essence of a good feeling, found myself taking a new direction by walking around a charming neighborhood near the school. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of what I was seeing before me and wondered how I had not taken notice of it before.
The air was crisp and pleasant and the sun shined down on me in that perfect way you only get at noontime. I was alone in the streets, all to myself; there I stood in a little suburb on the southern tip of France. I was struck by the gorgeous stucco houses with their red shingled roofs, elegant patios, and French shutters. The design was simple yet sophisticated, refined yet very humbling.
France has a way of letting you slow down because of it’s slower paced lifestyle, old-fashioned ways, and utter simplicity in all forms. Nobody was out and about and now I realize it was probably because everyone was in their homes either preparing or eating their lunch. Noontime in France has no other purpose, why would you possibly be doing anything else?
Well, there I was, the foreigner in their streets, my iphone in hand, taking pictures of what I deemed to be special, interesting, and beautiful. And it all truly was. I was amazed at how this brief detour from the habitual sparked a little light inside of me. All it took was a turn or two around some French streets and there in the midst of it I found a little bit of myself again.
Why did I return to France? What in the world was I doing here again? Is this where I’m supposed to be, and if so what for? I may still be asking myself these questions, but I’m already farther along in my journey than I may think.
Well, Mikaela, first of all you returned to France because you think it’s fascinating. I mean why else would you be walking around a random French neighborhood aboslutely delighted to just be among it all? Second, you are in France as a teacher. You teach young French kids the colors, animals, and parts of the body. They look up to you as a teacher, a foreigner, and an overall very intriguing human being. You enter their classroom once a week for a quick 30 minute lesson that you often improvise on the spot and do your best to portray American culture and teach the English language. They really don’t know anything about you and are still at the young age of six or seven which makes them excited about just about anything. You have a fun game? You say a word in a funny way? You drop the eraser on the floor? Well, they aren’t hard to please. Your job is to have fun with these kids and enrich their lives through a different culture. What could be more gratifying than that? So, Mikaela, you ARE supposed to be here, in this Mediterranean bliss of yours. You are a gift to these children and maybe neither of you even realizes it or takes it for granted. As for your future life, there’s no doubt it will surely carry you, with all the tools and surprises it has given you, to wheverer you are headed. You’ve already learned a lot: whether it be about the French school system, French bureaucratics, or yourself. You have an important job to do right now that will likely bring you an abundance of opportunities afterwards (and precious memories).
Anyways, why did I just bring you through this long melodrama of a story of me walking on some French road and apparently finding myself? I basically want it to show you the power of the slightest change in your daily schedule. You’re likely caught up with so many things that you briskly charge through life without stopping and -don’t make me say it- smell the roses. Way too cliche but there, now you see the point, and it’s a little more than that too. My advice to you is to always keep your senses open to something in your path that catches your eye. It’s in this vulnerability that you may see something that changes your perspective and takes you a different way. For if you get too stuck up on your current path and don’t look around, you may surely miss something unbelievable. And by unbelievable this may be mediocre, it may not be everything you’ve been hoping and dreaming for, but it’s special to you in it’s own way. So follow where the gust of wind blows that leaf, chase that butterfly fluttering in the sky, pursue an unknown and scary beaten path because it’s undeniably leading you to something or somewhere you were meant to find and discover. Don’t convince yourself to stick to what makes you comfortable. When you feel something that unleashes your spirit, leads you down a different road, and/or completely makes you feel alive- don’t push that feeling away. Don’t let the moment pass and continue on your way. Let this rupture in your daily life consume you for a second and see where it leads you. Just for a second, take a chance and let go. At least for me, whenever I feel or see something significant, I capsize on that moment. For every time you say no to your heart, you are just letting yourself down and your potential. So in less elegant language, next time you want to explore a new side of town, do it. Next time you want to take a picture that speaks to you in a specific moment, take it. Next time you want to try something new, go for it. For I believe in this sacred moment of raw curiosity, suspense and wonder, you have an opportunity to grasp something that’s tugging at your inner heartstrings and pulling you toward the treasure that you seek. Each step in our life journey should start like this, start in the form of this intense desire to know and understand, this inquisitiveness that holds the key to finding our deepest of passions, desires, and happiness. So don’t give up on that prospect, don’t shoo away that voice in your head telling you to please slow down and check out whatever is pulling you in a new direction- for you’d likely be giving up on something that is integral to your growth, meaning, and purpose in life. Life is entirely about change, so embrace it and be adaptable to those not-so-hidden paths that present themselves, sometimes in the most random and indiscreet of places.
Mine happened to be under the Mediterranean sun. <3