The other day, I found a photo of the pro-con list I made regarding the four job offers I was contemplating at the end of my TAPIF year: ESL teacher at an American school in Shanghai, Study Abroad Ambassador for Stanford University in Paris, Lectrice d’anglais at the Université de Valenciennes, and High School French Teacher at my high school Alma Mater back in Wisconsin. I was lost.
Looking back, I can’t believe the stress I put myself under– and I can’t believe how unsure I STILL was about my decision until I arrived in Valenciennes last September. But now, as I sit here in Slovenia more than a year later, I can’t help but throw my hands up and laugh.
This is it. This is my life. I chose France, again. I’m still here, I’m still traveling, I’m still doing what I said I would do. Choosing France was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
When I look back at all of the paths I could have taken, and the paths that I actually took, I realize the direct outcome includes all the people I’ve met, the experiences I’ve had, the friendships I’ve formed, the places I’ve traveled to, the students I’ve taught, and the memories I’ve created.
Equally, I realize that with just a change of my mind– by simply having made a different choice, my life, as well as the lives of many around me, would be completely different. Nothing that exists now would be as it is.
It’s scary in a way, to think about the what-ifs; my Ghosts who took different paths and made different choices.
There’s Dana who turned down TAPIF, and who never moved to France because she had a great job offer in a great school district. Then, there is Dana who moved home to teach at her former high school after TAPIF instead of staying in France to be a lectrice, because she felt guilty about her grandfather being sick and about not having enough money to adequately support herself. And then, there is Dana who moved to Shanghai. Is she happy there? Does she like her job teaching first graders? Has found somewhere she fits in?
I think about Dana who never got over that guy, Dana who didn’t study abroad in France, Dana who didn’t change her major, Dana who decided to stay home and make money instead of going to Japan that summer, Dana who transferred schools instead of giving her university a second chance, Dana who didn’t join the sorority, and Dana who quit gymnastics and joined the soccer team like everyone else. What is she up to now?
Finally, there’s the Dana who exists now. And this Dana isn’t perfect. There are things she’d like to change and things she wished were different, or just a tiny bit better. But, she knows that she doesn’t need them to be, because this life, this path, is exactly where she is supposed to be, right now.
I’m glad that this Dana is the real one.
We all have “what-if’s” and wandering souls. Where are yours?