On a warm Paris evening in July, right in the middle of the Summer Olympics in 1976 my mother started feeling labor pangs, but Nadia Comaneci was up and there was no way she was going to miss that performance. So she ignored the increasingly insistent contractions and stayed put until my father hauled her out of her chair and dragged her to the hospital. Or so the story (as told by my father) goes. I was born shortly after and the rest, as they say, is history.
What? You want to know the whole story? I can’t skip? So demanding.
Fine. Read on.
We stayed in France until the eve of my 7th birthday when my parents moved me and my two sisters (one older, one younger) to Rye, NY where I discovered the joy of being a kid in a typical American neighborhood. There were snowball fights and sledding in the winter and lots of running around in bathing suits in the summer. It was heaven for a kid like me.
Right after I turned 10 we packed up again and moved to London, England, which took a little more getting used to than American suburbia. London is a pretty big city and I was a pretty sheltered kid. I attended the American School in London with a ton of other sheltered American kids. I learned about cliques, rich kids, and true friendship while I lived there. I also learned my fair share about xenophobia. (Some of those Brits really have it in for Americans, but I really hope that the guy who spit on my 11 year old self and called her a “dirty capitalist” found peace later in life. Or that one day he picked on someone old enough to kick his ass.)
London wasn’t the last stop on our journey. The summer I turned 13, despite much crying and gnashing of teeth on my part, my parents packed us up again and we headed back over the Channel to Paris, France. I cried for weeks, but I finally realized that a) it wasn’t doing any good and b) I was tired of all the tears and so I sucked it up and dealt with the move. Good thing, because that was our last stop.
I went to a bilingual Middle and High School. I stalked all the American expat and military students, and finally realized I had to make friends with locals too. Having to make new friends every school year got old really fast.
Sometime in my senior year of High School I realized I had given absolutely zero thought to what I wanted to do with my life (Something remarkably easy to do in France where college is subsidized by the government and applications are a formality.) and I scrambled for a bit. In France, unlike the States, there is no “undergrad” period. You graduate from High School and go straight into a specialty. Want to be a doctor? Go to straight to Med School. Lawyer? Ditto. Don’t know what you want to do? Oops.
I gave into peer pressure and went to Med School. No, I have no idea why. Was it a good idea? No. Sometime in the middle of the extremely competitive first year (Only the top 10% of the class pass the end of 1st year “contest” and graduate to the 2nd year, 4% of those go into dental. The other 90% either try the first year again or go on to do something completely different. You’re only allowed to take the “contest” twice so many people don’t take it the first year around, take it their second first year, fail and try again a third first year. The competition is pretty stiff.) I realized that I didn’t even like sick people, I sucked at both physics and chemistry, and that maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a doctor.
I coasted through the rest of the school year, going to the movies with a pal when my other friends were studying like crazy, and enjoying the time “off.” I failed my end of year exam miserably, but I learned a lot about the value of just listening in class vs taking feverish notes without paying attention to the teacher. Amazing what you can pick up.
At the end of the year, still without a clue about what to do, I followed the advice of some family friends and enrolled in Law School. I lasted two years. Two first years. I flunked Intro to Economy and History of Law that first first year. I know. I know. What’s a lawyer to do without those key notions? Oh the horrors. Whatever, didn’t like the Law anyway.
Lucky for me I was doing a dual Law/English program and I was able to switch to a purely English track. And that’s when, three years after starting my college career, I finally discovered something I was really good at. Phew.
I got the equivalent of a BA in English Lit and headed to NYC for a summer internship in a marketing firm. While I was there I met M during a weekend excursion to Boston and I decided to stay in the States for a year. My goal was to do an overseas Masters, but I quickly realized that working 40+ hours a week didn’t leave a ton of time for a full unguided courseload. Not for a lazy butt like me.
I convinced M that a year in Paris would be super fun and we headed back together. He went to work and supported me while I went back to school. Actually, he paid for my year in school. He got a kick out of signing a tuition check for $200 that covered the entire year. I aced my year and delivered a brilliant thesis on Children’s Literature at the Turn of the 20th Century.
We packed up our tiny Paris appartment and flew halfway accross the world to Silicon Valley, CA where the post 9/11 economy was in the process of imploding, leaving us with no jobs and no hope in Hell of getting any. We lived in his parent’s pool house for two years, bouncing from temp job to temp job.
I gave up on any lofty advertising career ideas and took a job as an administrative assistant, he gave up on a job in finance and went to Law School. We moved into a cute little house of our own and life as we know it slowly began.
bullied gently talked M into having first one child, then another. He graduated from Law School and became a Personal Injury Lawyer working to help the little people. I kept plugging away at my unthrilling job and dreaming of a day when I would be free of the tyrannical photocopier. And then we did the math and realized that the day had come. In July 2008 I quit my job and started a career as a freelance writer. Then, a year later, I went to work for Tiny Prints as blogger outreach coordinator and social media marketing associate.
That lasted two years and now we’re right back to where we started. I’m freelancing again.
This time though I’m doing more than just that. I’m taking what I’ve learned over the last three years and I’m starting a company with some amazing friends. It’s going to be a wild ride!
And that’s where we are today. Tightening our belts and hoping my new business takes off soon. Enjoying our kids and our busy lives. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it, and the harder bits make for great blog stories.
What? You wanted a shorter story? Dude, make up your mind already!