Salut. Ugh. Is it fall yet? Mon dieu. Could it be any more sunny out? Could it be nicer weather? No, we can’t go to the beach again. We just can’t. I can’t afford beer there without feeling like I should have a job, a real job, the old kind. The ones that told you exactly who you are. I can’t go somewhere and see people who know who they are in the sun.
I am from Buffalo. I want cold. I want the snow. I am not happy without frosted windshields. I want to wear gigantic sweaters. My summer clothes are horrible. My white t-shirts are no longer white. My black pants are covered in hair that is falling out of my head because I am so stressed. All I want to do is read and drink tea and not have to worry or alternatively have the most boring job ever. I feel so uninspired. I think only corporate boredom will make me feel inspired.
But, we must carry on, no? We must continue. Even though we are tired. We have stopped working at the Montessori school because we got sick every two weeks and then sicker and then overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion and then realized that our main purpose is life is to be a writer and not a Montessori French teacher and now we feel sad about this, even though when we started at the school, we thought we would be the secretary. Oh! How life changes. Oh! How we fall in love so quickly and then it is swept away from us because we are sensitive, like a little papillon (butterfly). An interesting fact, for all you French students in the audience, is that in French “On” used as the universal “we.” Like how we say “one” in English. Like, On est en route. We are on the road. Mais, ou est la route allez? (bad french that is trying to say, but where is the road going).
My doctors tell me I can’t work for six months, that I need to take a vacation. Mon dieu! A vacation! Give me an excel spreadsheet and tell me that I have to have it in by 3pm, don’t say a vacation! Give me a paycheck that says I’m moderately successful. Oh tell me where I fit in in this bizarre millennial social strata. What milieu am I? Don’t make me be an adjunct professor again and confuse all of us? Am I starving artist or an educated professor? I have no idea. I do know I can’t afford lunches out and I have to bring cooked eggs with me everywhere I go.
Allors, what I have taken pleasure in is going to the French Alliance happy hour and hearing about other people’s jobs: the more banal the better. I dream of cubicles. Of Keurig coffee. Of having an officemate named “Diane” and hearing all about her three children. One is going to Cornell. One is on the baseball team. One is allergic to nuts. This is all I want. Why do I have so much time on my hands and so much freedom? Why is it summer? Why do I have enough money to get by but not enough to shop carelessly? Why do I immediately feel guilty at this thought because I have a little narrator in my head named Ed Winston who is weirdly good looking and who says, “You are so bourgeoise.” And then he says “bougie” like a thousand times and tells me I’m not reading enough literary fiction and could I please buy him a pour over coffee. No, Ed Winston. I can’t. And, I don’t like your tattoos. I don’t care that you are cooler than me. Don’t post any more Facebook ads about refugees or the water crisis in India and make me feel like I should give as much money as I possibly can without using up all of my grocery budget for this week. Don’t make me feel bad because I don’t ride my bike enough, even though every time I do ride my bike I feel a sense of childlike joy.
My God, I am reading this and thinking maybe I am French now? This dissatisfaction, it is so French, is it not? Maybe it is not. Maybe it is just naive American. Is there a test for this? Am I closer to becoming a French citizen?
I am still an A2 French speaker but I have mastered the unhappiness. I think I am in the movie “Une Femme Est Une Femme.” I am Jean-Luc Godard. I am French New Wave. Maybe now I will wear only black and maybe even smoke cigarettes and cut my hair back into a pixie. Alas, I would love to smoke cigarettes but I can’t. I’m too much of a hypochondriac.
Oh but this writing is a disaster. This isn’t how I feel.
I am on my way to something but I don’t know what it is. Je suis en route. Maybe a job in graphic design? Travel writing? Layout at a magazine? I work on my manuscript every day and I love it. I drink 4 cups of tea. I gave up coffee. I run each morning. I mow the grass and talk jovially to my neighbors. I am reading all the books I never got to read before. I can stay up past 8:30pm.
I am a happy person. So happy that it is hard to even try to be unhappy, but I am left with a constant unhappiness about my own happiness.
This is an existential dilemma. A reader pointed it out and it’s true. I think I’ve done it. I think I’m A2 and a half, now. Not fluent in the language but in the ennui. I don’t know where I’m going but I know the world is moving along around me, sweeping me up in its wind.