Lately, life has been a dark room with hundreds of red lasers creating a chaotic web of traps. You know, the ones in spy movies where one wrong move, one slip or one shake makes the alarm start blaring. Game over. These past six or seven months have been exactly that — a seemingly impossible situation with one hurdle lined up after another, knowing that I need to get to the other side but not knowing exactly what it is.
I’ve been waiting to get official clearance to apply for a visa to teach English in France and got the green light at the end of August to move to Marseille. Today I officially submitted my visa application.
Last summer, I decided that I wanted to move to France for a year after college graduation. In October, I started my TAPIF application and pressed “submit” in January. In March, COVID shut down the country and most elsewhere. Acceptance emails were due in early April, then delayed multiple times until the end of June.
On June 23, the email came: accepted — but Americans still are unable to get visas. Grasping the relief I craved was like chasing my tail. Sparse emails and endless news scrolling peppered the next couple months: you’ve been placed in Marseille, but you still can’t enter France. Cases are rising in America, cases are down in France — okay, actually now they’re up — but also stats might not be reliable — maybe it’s a conspiracy theory — also Fauci — p.s. Kanye is running for president. Hi, we’re excited to meet you, when can you come? I wish I knew …
Tight chest, restlessness, inability to focus, lack of dreaming, never at rest yet stuck. I’ve always been the girl with a plan, the one who always has her ducks in a row. And if they’re not, I work overtime and bend over backward to make it happen. But these past few months have put my Type A nature through the ringer.
The waiting game
The limbo is supposed to be a fun party game for kids, but now that I’ve been living in limbo for nearly six months, I’m here to tell you it’s not fun. The girl who always had a plan had to sit in — nay, marinate in the “I don’t know” and “what if.” And to me, that’s scarier than rejection and failure.
All that to say, my Enneagram 3-self struggled these past few months. I graduated with two degrees and Latin honors from one of the top journalism schools. Yet I moved home to my childhood bedroom that I shared with my younger sister and returned to my part-time job from high school. I love my family and have found such joy in these moments at home, but this is not what I planned or expected after college graduation.
I juggled part-time jobs and reconnected with childhood and high school friends. The words “I don’t know yet” became a part of my daily vocabulary. For more than a year, I’d been planning to teach English in France, but acceptances were delayed nearly three months. And even when I received my acceptance in June, a pandemic ravaged the world where both fear and travel bans surged. My mind whirled with anxiety: But I’ve told everyone about this plan to move to France, and even more than that, I really do want to go.
During my senior year of college, I became disillusioned with the journalism industry, and to be frank, that feeling only has increased in the recent months. This burnout led me to decide not to go into a traditional journalism job right after college. But at the same time, I didn’t know what was next or even what I wanted to do with my life. (Spoiler alert: I still don’t.)
Over the years, one of my French professors sprinkled in mentions of this program of teaching English in France. I had brushed it off for a long time. I’d already mapped out my climbing of the journalism ladder in New York and beyond. I didn’t want to be a teacher, and it was a long time to be away from home.
But the more I climbed the own ladder in my head, it never was enough. And I was tired of constantly striving. Someone always had more bylines than me, more stories above the fold, a higher position, a cooler internship, better connections, more impressive GPA.
And it was never enough. I was tired of sacrificing time and energy to climb a ladder that existed only in my head. Success is entirely elusive and relative. I decided to take a different path than the one I’d planned on for literally years. My hope is that this year will give me clarity on what I want and where I’m gifted. All that to say, I’m excited to see what lies ahead even though I have zero idea where I’ll be in a year.
Why I have hope
This world is riddled with uncertainty. It always has, but it’s more apparent these days. I really don’t know what this next year will hold, but I have hope. The application process has been a doozy, but God has provided every single step of the way and in ways I never expected or asked.
In the time of waiting, He provided friends in my hometown who walked with me and encouraged my torn, tired heart. He provided a handful of friends who applied to the program, too, with whom I could vent, gush, dream and cry. He blessed me with these friends who reminded me to take a deep breath and helped dissolve anxiety.
In the time of waiting, He provided several part-time jobs to meet financial needs but also give me a sense of purpose in the waiting. I had the privilege of nannying two sweet boys who reminded me of God’s love for His children, helped me giggle when I cried the night before, and showed me how to live in the moment. I was sprayed with a hose, had dirt stuck under my fingernails, sang all of the Veggie Tales songs, played with worms and dripped sweat. But I wouldn’t trade a moment because it’s exactly where I was supposed to be this summer. He provided wise counsel through those around me and through encouraging podcasts. God provided sweet respite through long walks and the ability to exercise.
God blessed me with my first choice in school region and then again with my city placement. He has provided a place for me to live and the financial means for this adventure. And He has blessed me with a handful of familiar faces joining me on this journey.
Throughout this process, I’ve learned better what it means to hold an open posture: France or no France. And it wasn’t easy. I’ve learned how to be still, not because I chose it but because there was absolutely nothing I could do to change the situation. All I could do was wait. For me, that is one of the hardest places to be.
What lies ahead
At this point, everything is out of my hands. I’ve submitted my visa application, which should take two to three weeks to process. I still don’t know what schools in France will look like during a pandemic, and they probably don’t either.
My feet haven’t even touched French soil this year, and the adventure is already in full swing. And more than ever, I don’t know what this year holds. But I believe God is present and hears us. In Acts 17, Paul writes about how God has set apart our appointed times and boundaries of our lands. In Psalm 139, the poet writes that God has ordained all of our days before one even happened.
I don’t know why I’m living during COVID, and I don’t know why God got me through the laser-filled that is these past few months. But I do know He has a plan and a purpose for my time in France. And I am beyond exhilarated (okay, maybe a bit nervous, too) to see what this next year holds. Here’s to preparing for takeoff in an already turbulent world.