Some of the so called plans I had in Shipped off to France Part 1 like changing majors, finishing school early, moving to Europe etc.., actually did happen, much to the astonishment of many friends and family. We all know that love can make you do absolutely bat shit crazy things, so I wasn’t even phased when I took on 24 credit hours for two semesters. This consequently meant moving to the library permanently, changing to a liquid diet of energy drinks to stay awake (Monster anyone?), and living in old sweatpants with my greasy hair hidden under a baseball cap. To be honest, sweatpants and greasy hair is kind of the uniform of college kids in the Midwest, so I probably shouldn’t consider that a consequence of the double workload.
All my work paid off when I graduated in 3 years with a degree in French and Business. Though, that wasn’t really the shocking part for everyone. What really made all my haters cringe, was that I had actually managed to hang on to the relationship with my French boyfriend from Pau, Pierre! No one saw that one coming. To be fair to those negative nancys, it was probably a realistic assumption. Cultural differences in a relationship can really blow sometimes. Long distance relationships blow almost all the time. Put the two together and then just throw in a large age difference to the mix for fun and you can imagine the explosions we had sometimes. Especially since this was the first time I had dated someone French. I didn’t understand that certain behaviors , like not even acknowledging my graduation day, even though I basically hadn’t slept for 547.5 days for us to be together, could possibly be a cultural difference. Welp, Pierre and I somehow managed to hang on and at 21, I packed my bags for my great European adventure.
My first stop was actually not going to be France. Pierre was an engineer and his work had actually moved him to Aberdeen, Scotland. I didn’t know anything about Aberdeen and my only preconceived notion of Scotland was that it was socially acceptable for men to wear “skirts,” aka Kilts, commando style. It’s pretty frigid in Scotland, especially Aberdeen in the north. I naturally, and correctly, assumed that any population of people that didn’t mind frostbite on their crotch would be a jolly fun bunch to hang out with.
I headed to Aberdeen the summer of 2009. Keep in mind that I grew up in a house with 4 women plus my father. Household chores had absolutely no gender affiliation, changing a tire or cleaning the grill were as important as learning to mop the floor or do a load of laundry. I can say with complete confidence that even after all the efforts made by my parents, when I left for college; I was a shockingly pathetic homemaker. I mowed the lawn diagonally leaving patches of grass uncut, I flooded the laundry room when I wouldn’t take the time to measure the soap and I continually snuck food in my room and would only bring the plates back downstairs weeks later when they were moldy. I was honestly a hot mess to live with and I still beg forgiveness from my parents and sisters.
When I arrived in Aberdeen, I moved in to the free apartment that Pierre’s company provided for him. Holla for those expat contracts! It was a fancy, brand new, modern, 2-bedroom apartment in the city center. Looking back, I was so excited to see my goal for the last two years finally achieved, that I never even considered that I would be living with the opposite sex for the first time. Let alone with a 28-year-old French man. Unfortunately, that lack of understanding on both our parts quickly destroyed what was left of our relationship.
My plan when I got to Aberdeen was to get a job. One thing my parents managed to instill in me is a kick ass work ethic. I’m a hustler and right away I got some small part time administrative jobs. Nothing was full time yet, so I decided that I could spend my free time “taking care of the house.” Even writing this is making me wince. I had the best intentions, but it was disaster after disaster. Some things were one-time disasters and I quickly learned from my mistakes. One red sock can turn an entire load of white laundry pink. Bleach should never be used in the kitchen or one will be accused of purposeful poisoning. If the foil is too big in the oven it will catch on fire. Side note: standing in the kitchen and screaming doesn’t stop the flames, so be more proactive than that. And finally, a good life lesson, never open a bottle of wine if you don’t know the price of it. There actually exists bottles that aren’t the same price as Barefoot Wines. Who knew?
But some more repetitive tasks were also a complete fail. My ironing skills were apparently lacking, so even when I spent two hours ironing Pierre’s button up shirts for work, he would come home and redo them. I never managed to get all the crumbs when I vacuumed and there was at least one dust streak on the windows that I had missed every time. Pierre was trying to help me, but when he pointed these things out, it made me feel like a complete and utter loser. Like an imposter trying to play house. The problem was that I became so insecure that my already sensitive personality was on high alert. I could not handle any criticism.
P-“I would love to take you out for dinner tomorrow night. Would you like that?”
K- “EXCUSE ME? Is that because you didn’t like what I cooked for dinner tonight?”
You get the picture. And as you know from my “what I wish I knew before dating a Frenchie,” constructive criticism is part of life with the French. But I didn’t know this at the time. What I did know, was as a 21-year-old graduate who had only ever lived at home or in a dorm room, I wasn’t up for this challenge anymore and neither was Pierre. We both jumped ship December 2009.
This was my first adult heartbreak and I was absolutely shredded. I naturally spent a couple weeks crying to my mom, my friends, and two embarrassing episodes with my dentist and a worker at the corner Tesco. But one thing was very clear to me. I actually hadn’t completed my goal to move to France. While I can’t gush enough about how warm and fun the Scottish people are, I didn’t literally almost kill myself from exhaustion to not do what I had said I was going to do. Plus my visa would expire next year if I wasn’t with Pierre so I couldn’t stay in Scotland anyways. 🙂
One of the positive things of breaking up before Christmas, is it gave me just the amount of time I needed to apply for the 2010-2011 TAPIF program in France. I incessantly harassed my college professors and managed to get all the recommendations in time. I sent off my application and crossed my fingers that my next move would be teaching English somewhere in France.
I wouldn’t find out if I was accepted until April and since the program started in September, I still had 8 months to do something. So I threw out the empty ben and jerry’s containers and started searching for an apartment in Aberdeen. I had 8 months to live it up as a single lady and I wanted to experience everything Scotland had to offer……
*If anyone is considering applying for the TAPIF program, don’t hesitate to reach out to me via the contact form. I would be happy to answer any questions for you!