When I started blogging consistently four years ago, I promised myself that I would not become one of those (well-intended) TAPIF blogs that starts off really strong, and then tapers off somewhere after Christmas. I wanted to create the blog that hadn’t yet existed- an ordinary TAPIFer who gave valuable information about bureaucracy, teaching, traveling, everyday insight into life in France, and was there until the end. I wanted to inspire people to live out their dreams, to think outside the box, and to not be afraid to try new things. I also wanted to get people coming back.
And I feel as though, for the most part, I have done a pretty decent job at doing that. I try to keep it as real as I can on AsToldByDana. Over the years, I’ve blogged about street harassment and sexual assault. I’ve blogged about my frustrations with TAPIF and France and the struggles I’ve had when figuring out my career and future in this country. I’ve blogged about love and heartbreak and I’ve blogged about travel and I’ve blogged about everything in between.
And as the years have gone by, I have started blogging less and less, even though I still try to maintain the “Quality Over Quantity” rule. That is to say, I feel as though I’ve still managed to publish a fairly decent amount of good posts over the past year. However, as of lately, I’ve started to dwindle, and to be honest, I’m not really sure why.
For starters, I’m not longer a TAPIFer— and a huge chunk of my audience are past, present, or future TAPIF participants. I partook in the program four years ago, when it was not possible to neither renew nor extend your contract, and the cut off age was 30 years old. Although many aspects of the TAPIF program have remained consistent, the program is constantly changing and developing, with new rules and regulations and participants. In other words– I’m old and outdated, as is perhaps some of the information and experiences of this blog. There are new TAPIF blogs which pop up left and right every year; inactive TAPIF blogs are scoured by eager participants for information but are then forgotten and replaced by younger, newer, and more eager TAPIFers. Older dogs like me try to keep up, but as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder.
Furthermore, Im beginning to discover that as my personal life and my professional career in France continues to change, so do my priorities. My first three years of living in France (ages 23-26) were filled with travels and experiences; with carpe diems and alcohol and all-day picnics. And it was wonderful. But, I turned 27 last week; and I’ve begun to realize that my priorities are changing. My priorities now include making sure that my Terminale students pass their Baccalauréat exams (with honors, of course). My priorities now include using my extra monthly income to build savings, and make additional student loan payments and retirement contributions, instead of always using it for travel. My priorities now include more frequent visits home, instead of always visiting new destinations; crazily enough, my priorities now include investing in things— in clothes and furniture and artwork and yes, therapy.
At 27, I’m realizing that I am beginning to become that person I was trying to avoid and run away from when I left the United States four years ago.
And that’s okay.
When I left the United States at 23, I didn’t really understand the desire to want any of the things I currently desire: stability, savings, an apartment to call my own, filled with things that are mine. I was afraid of commercial items and any sort of investment that could or would “tie me down”– a car, a steady teaching job, expensive furniture, a relationship. I wanted to travel, see the world, and live abroad so badly— at any cost. And because I had never known anyone personally who had traveled extensively at my age, I was so, so afraid I wouldn’t, or couldn’t get there if I had any of those things. I became completely obsessed at making sure it would happen, that I would become easily angered, agitated, or dismissive when anyone suggested anything but the path I wanted. (Although I cannot help but wonder, would I be where I am now if I hadn’t have been that way?)
My parents tried to convince me to leave France after after year 1– it was enough, and it was time, they said, to start living in reality and joining the real world. I could come back to France later– try again later, they said. My relationship with my parents has always been a bit complicated, but like many, has improved with age. I know they meant well in their advice, but the truth is, their advice was not what I needed or wanted to hear at the time– I wasn’t ready and needed to get there in my own (and even now, my situation still doesn’t look 100% like what they probably had had in mind, but this is my life, after all.)
At 27, I’m still so, so young, and I have so much left to learn, and so much experience left to embrace. But I am equally happy that I arrived here, to this stage, on my own terms, and on my own time. (My only regret: Ever feeling guilty about wanting what I wanted, and living my own life, in the first place. Plus, I reserve the right to change or forge paths at any time I see fit.
After four years in France, I can’t help but wonder if I need to start searching for a new niche in regards to this blog. It’s beginning to become not Dana’s fun and exciting nomadic life abroad, but Dana’s semi-ordinary life on the other side of the world. In a nutshell, I work, I sleep, I exercise, I eat, and I pursue my interests and passions. I’ve also found that I’m not fighting the same battles as I was when I first arrived– I know and am familiar with the French language and culture; I’ve become much more comfortable in my own skin; I’ve embraced my American-ness; and after three years of non-stop traveling, I have begun to figure out how to balance– and more importantly, to accept– all aspects of these intricate parts of my identity.
I’m not really sure where to go from here. I want to keep writing. As long as there are people who want to read, I will want to write. It’s just that lately, I’m not always sure what to write about anymore.
So, is this what it feels like to be just three years shy of 30? Am I having a quarter-life crisis? Regardless, I’m looking forward to seeing what unfolds.