When I loaded the web address of this newly created blog, WordPress’s default message inadvertently gave me the idea for the title of this first post: “Nothing Found.” For most of the year following my college graduation, this described the state of drifting restlessness in which I found — or rather, didn’t manage to find — myself. While my peers continued on to graduate or professional school, or otherwise ascended the rungs of corporate ladders, I struggled with transforming A’s in the classroom to A-Job. The challenge? Finding one with a major in French.
If this story sounds familiar, here’s the twist: I also majored in economics. Mixing Moliere and monetary policy, Sarraute and statistics, I thought I could feed both soul and wallet. I had spent two summers interning in finance and was set up to be hired into a cushy position as a financial analyst upon graduation. Then I studied abroad in Paris the fall of my senior year, and my pecuniary aspirations melted like so many nympheas on a Monet canvas.
It wasn’t even a fair fight. I met the city and she wooed me. I met my boyfriend, Z, and he wooed me (I might also have been guilty of some reciprocal wooing). That semester, I finally let the syllabus take a back seat to my surroundings. From dizzying evening promenades with Z, to cooking meals with the retired yoga instructor who hosted me in her apartment, and countless solitary strolls … my experiences cemented my relationships within the city and my relationship with the city itself (or “herself”, as I came to think of Paris). After having moved six or seven times in my life, I unexpectedly came to feel at home abroad.
Despite my growing attachment, I knew that I couldn’t stay without finding work. I started to wonder: was it possible? As an adolescent, I’d dreamt of being a teacher abroad. It was a vision I’d had all through secondary school, daydreaming through class. It had also seemed a naively romantic reverie, the kind that called for a reality check. As a result, in college, I studied something “useful” in addition to literature, accepting that work with numbers was more valuable than work with letters. My parents, assured of my pragmatism, sent me abroad as a once-in-a-lifetime experience before expecting me to settle into a gainful career at home.
But I started to waver.
I had heard of a program which placed Americans in French schools as teaching assistants — the Teaching Assistant Program in France, sponsored by the French Ministry of Education — but I had let the deadline slip by. Though it sounded interesting, I still felt I owed the corporate route a shot.
After graduation, I struggled to find a job which would be renumerative and which would satisfy my interests. While visiting Z in Paris the summer after graduation, I even interviewed at a few French companies. Initially promising leads turned into dead ends as company after company declined to sponsor a work visa for me. I returned to the States and continued interviewing.
Finally, that fall, I moved to New York City for a job as a project manager at a large, international translation company. My parents were ecstatic, and I thought it would be a terrific fit for my background in language and business studies. I couldn’t have been more wrong; the intense sales and price pressure of treating language as a commodity quickly grew intolerable. Despite overseeing some quality translation projects, I left the position after a mere three months. During this time, I decided to stop denying the direction I really wanted to take. I applied for the Teaching Assistant Program for the 2012-2013 school year.
Last week, I received an e-mail that addressed me as “Dear Future Teaching Assistant.” It informed me that I was accepted as an English teaching assistant in the Paris school district for the 2012-2013 school year. I would be teaching middle school and/or high school.
Where am I now? I am still in New York. I am temping as an administrative assistant at a recruiting company located on Wall Street. I like to joke that “I work on Wall Street” (to the chagrin of my mother, who is still making a valiant effort to come to terms with the fact that I will never be an investment banker). I am living on the Upper West Side and trying to take daily walks in Central Park. I am rubbing the petals of cherry blossoms between my fingers, enjoying the change of seasons and the warmth of spring. Come fall, an ocean will separate me from this amazing city, another place I have come to treasure.
But I like where I am now because I like where I am going. I don’t know my ultimate destination, but — nothing ventured, nothing found.