Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Finding Yourself

When I was 19 I went to France. With my best friend.
She was working there as an au pair in the South of France (I think) - I traveled to meet her. After recovering from jet lag, and having a few days with the family she was with, we traveled together to Paris.
Picture it if you will. Two almost-19 year old girls. Together. Alone. In the City of Love.
We had life figured out.
Our trip was an adventure. We had a guide book that I was intent on following, and a couple of days in we decided to take a break from my plan and discover Paris. We found markets and we walked over bridges. We went to underground restaurants and sipped wine. We grocery shopped and ate red meat when people were stressed about mad cow. We made friends with people in the hostel and let some lovely Irish boys cook us dinner. We decided to forego taking the elevator up the Eiffel Tower and walked. We had sketches made of us that looked NOTHING like us and laughed our asses off. We spoke French (Susie did a much better job than I did) and we bought a whole tonne of Eiffel Tower crap at ridiculous prices.
When we were on the plane headed to Paris there were other young people - probably a little older than us. Different groups of people. And they all kept saying that they were going to Paris to find themselves. It became a joke between Susie and I. Whenever we left somewhere, like the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, one of us would inevitably say "wow. I just found myself."
I guess it sounds like we were mocking the people who had traveled there for that purpose. But more than that it was the sense of security that we knew who we were - that there was nothing to find - and as we later put it, nothing we had really lost.
Fast forward about 12 years and it's a bit of a different story.
I've been writing a lot about my love of the author Julie Powell (of Julie and Julia and Cleaving). It's interesting to read her books. In case you haven't read Julie and Julia, Julie Powell decides to cook her way through Julia Child's book "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" in one year. And she blogs her experience.
Though I'm not sure she specifically says the purpose of her year of cooking dangerously is to find herself, it's the same idea. Self discovery, overcoming a challenge, etc etc.
And, as I'm reading Julie and Julia I keep thinking about how in a way I'm in the same place.
I have moments when I gasp because something she says I so totally get. TOTALLY.
Which makes me think about that time in France.
Seriously. What happened? Granted when I went there it was just before highschool graduation. We pretty much knew where our lives were headed the next year (university) and I had it all figured out. I knew I would get married at 27 (happened a little earlier) and have a perfect career (I'm happy, but I had some miserable jobs in there) and have kids at 30 (ha. I had a 4 year old and newborn at 30). It never occurred to me that everything I was dreaming may not happen according to plan. And I really thought I had it figured out.
And now I'm 31.
I'm not where Julie was at when she turned 30. Our lives are remarkably different. And the same. But that feeling through the book - the feeling of wondering whether you're living life completely, getting the most out of it, making a difference, following your dreams ... I get that.
I'm pretty sure I don't want to be where I was at 19.
I know that every day is not magical (despite what Disney tells us). I know that even the greatest things we wish for and get (marriage, family, etc) are not always as simple and perfect as we may have dreamed. And I think that's okay.
At the end of Julie's project she found out that Julia Child wasn't her biggest fan. And, I guess that's kind of life.
But it also makes me think about my own kids. How do I instill in them that feeling that they can one day own the world, that at almost-19 they can seize the moment, take whirlwind trips and know that there's nothing they need to find, and nothing they've really lost? Am I putting them in the right place?
Thinking back though, in a way I think we did find ourselves. Well, maybe I can't speak for Susie (trust me - the woman has no problem speaking her own mind!), but I can speak for myself. Maybe I didn't feel the need to find myself in the Eiffel Tower or under the Arch de Triomphe, but looking back I need to remember what that 19 year old knew. That life is an adventure. That as much as it's great to follow a map and a plan life is so much more fun when you screw up, throw out the plan and have an adventure.
Carpe Diem, people. Carpe Diem.
Oh, and since I've been asked ... yes, I love love love Julie. But, no. I'm not going to start cooking. That was her thing. I'm proud of myself when I cook a stir fry, or make roast beef. Or bake some cookies. I don't honestly get all these copycat people. That's her adventure. I will find my own. (My husband and children thank me, I'm sure!)

1 comment:

SciFi Dad said...

Honestly? Finding myself was never something I was interested in. Finding someplace where I felt like I belonged, however, was.