When I showed up at work to pick up my last pay check, after coming back from South America, most of my co-workers stared at me, slightly bewildered:
— You look… different.
My boss even told me that “I looked healthier and happier than everybody even though I had just spent a few months traveling in third world countries“.
Sure, it might have been because I was still tanned. But I’m not anymore and yet, people keep on commenting on how happy I look.
I had time to think. A lot of time, if you consider we bused 13,000 km in total. I opened my eyes, I looked around me, I went wherever I wanted to go. We had ups and downs — it’s not like we were doing an all-inclusive trip. Hell, most of time, the only things included were mosquitoes and skipping meals. But we don’t travel to relax. We travel to see and experience the world.
When I left last December, I was tired: tired of my job, tired of Ottawa and tired of people in general. I had been working full-time for four years, since I graduated from university in 2005. And before 2005, I had been studying full-time for four years, basically since I graduated from high school. I can’t complain since we traveled a lot in between, but still — this doesn’t leave a lot of time to think.
So as we were traveling, I was thinking of my… my future. Oh, what a grown-up word!
I realized that even if I loved teaching, I just didn’t want to teach full time anymore. Teaching thirty of forty hours a week is crazy. But, since we are paid by the hour, it’s the only way to make an very average salary. So our classes are scheduled back to back and we are exhausted by the end of the week. In the worse case scenario, we don’t have any patience left, and no interest either since the work is quite repetitive (“je suis“, “tu es“, anyone, anyone?).
Before I left, I started thinking of another career. But I was just clueless. Should I aim for a career in the federal government, something everybody in Ottawa dream of because it’s steady and well-paid? Should I go back to university? My French university degrees usually leave all the potential employers perplex and confused (duh, I studied Chinese language and civilization, and my four years degree doesn’t exist anymore thanks to a reform!). Deep down my main problem was that I wasn’t sure what I would like to do. And even though I learn fast, I wasn’t really trained for anything specific, other than speaking foreign languages and talking about “farmers and communists during the Chinese revolution“.
I got most of my answers when sitting in long distance buses in Latin America. No, I didn’t feel like working in a small cubicle for the government, just because it was well-paid and steady. I wanted to do what I loved.
Writing. Taking Pictures. Creating. Seeing the world. Talking to people. Learning from the world.
Yeah, yeah, call me a dreamer.
As I have already mentioned, my father is an artist. Let me break the news gently: when you are a full time artist, you are not rich. In fact, you don’t even think about money. You just create, forget to eat and hope for the best. As my mother would say, you don’t choose to be an artist, you just are… and she would know, being an artist herself and a researcher.
Don’t get me wrong, my parents are not poor. But they aren’t rich either and I think their banker hate them. Most of the cutlery they have at home was stolen from the university refectory when they were both studying arts, just to give you an example. It’s also probably a good thing they are not very materialistic because they don’t own much. But they are relatively happy and satisfied with what they achieved.
I had sworn that I would be different (don’t we all be different from our parents, no matter how much we love them?). I would be down-to-earth, realistic and practical. Yeah, right.
My genes have caught up with me. I just want to create beautiful stuffs, write about the world and take pictures. Oh, I know I have a lot to learn… but I came to this conclusion. I want to do what makes me happy. Doesn’t mean I will live like a dreamer. But I will have my eyes wide open to every opportunity. I’m still teaching but only part-time, so that I am more relaxed. I can’t afford full-times studies now but I signed up for a class at the University of Ottawa this summer. I’m taking time to update my resume, to meet new people and consider opportunities. Little by little, I hope to do more things I love.
I sound like a hippie, yet so far, I’m happier.
Maybe it’s just the post-traveling withdrawal. Or maybe I’m just a little bit closer to find what I really like. Anyway, these long distance bus rides do wonder — you should try.