Hello Internet Peoples! I hope you’re feeling good today.
I’m writing this at twenty past five in the morning. I can’t sleep, I’ve been pacing my room for the past three hours, but I have something on my mind, and I want to write about it. It’s kind of random? But I don’t care. I want it to be here for the next time I have an awful day, or for someone else who needs to hear that things can turn around for them too.
So, France. Year Abroad. It’s so so hard. And I don’t think any other assistant would dispute that. Don’t get me wrong, there’s amazing moments too- I’ve seen Paris and Amsterdam, I’m surrounded by a language that I love, and this experience is such a blessing. And that’s what you see on Facebook, and Instagram, and wherever else. The highlights. But what you don’t hear about is the wee 2am crying sessions, where everything is so difficult and you would give your left arm to be cuddled up with your boyfriend, or chatting face to face with your mammy. But I’m here to be honest about that- I want to be honest about all of my experiences here- the highs and the lows. Because that’s life, is it not? Highs, and lows too.
Tuesday night saw me in a very difficult place… I don’t really know what happened. I had a long day of class, plus tutoring, and then my auntie Skyped me. When she went to hang up, I had to stop myself from saying “Please, don’t go, please,” because it was just so nice to have someone to talk to for a while. (Don’t get me wrong, Chris talks to me every night before bed, which I appreciate more than anything, but I can’t expect him to be on the phone to me 24/7). She hung up, I chatted to Chris as per normal, and he went to sleep. And I was a million miles away from sleep, as well as being a thousand miles away from home.
Then, overthinking kicked in.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I spent my holidays feeling very lonely. I sat in my room, I opened the shutters in the morning, and closed them at night. And I watched the sun come up and set again, a little too closely, to the point where I stopped opening the shutters, because daylight was just annoying. There was no one around, there was nothing to do, and so I just sat there. In my bed, I just sat in the same place, alone. I’d message my friends back home, but everyone seemed so busy and had so much to do, I didn’t want to be a burden.
Now I know how pathetic this must all sound- I feel pathetic just thinking about it. But think of it this way. If I was sitting for a week’s holidays in Belfast alone, it wouldn’t be a big deal- I know the city, I’d head outside for a good walk everyday. I know so many people there, I could call someone up and they’d be over that night. I could talk to my parents for five hours straight without thinking “Oh, I have to use Skype because X, Y and Z don’t work” or “I wonder how much this is costing my daddy?!” It would be okay.
But that’s the thing about being away. All of that is inverted, and when you feel a bit lonely, that’s because you are totally isolated.
So, Tuesday. Chris and my parents were asleep. And I was awake as could be, left alone with a million things running through my wee head. Unwanted thoughts, doubts, thoughts that said “You can’t do this”. And of course, I completely broke down. I literally cried for an hour straight, messaging people I thought would be awake who didn’t reply, trying so hard to find someone, literally anyone, who I could talk to even for a distraction. But there was no one. Eventually, I rang Chris (at 2am) and bless him, he picked up and stayed on Skype with me for hours, calming me down and talking me through everything. I say this and mean it completely with all my heart- I couldn’t do this without him. He has been the biggest support I could ask for.
So, after crying my eyes out for goodness only knows how long, I said a wee prayer. I always say a prayer before bed. And I was still crying, and I wasn’t asking for anything; all I could say was “God, I’m so lonely. I’m so lonely” over and over again. It had been a long time since I’d felt so low, and I was honestly scared that I was heading back to the same dark place I found myself in in first year at uni. It terrified me.
The next day, I had class, so I couldn’t just lounge around in bed all day. My heart felt completely broken and empty, my body felt numb, but I had no choice. So I trudged to class, and started work at 10.
I take this class once a week, where all the students are the same age as me. It’s people who have decided to continue their English before deciding whether or not they want to go to uni. Class went surprisingly well- the first student I had was so bubbly and cheerful, it was hard not to smile along too. I was telling them at the end how good their French was, “Much better than my English!” and then out of nowhere, they said “Oh, you can practice your French with me sometime if you want? I’d love to help you out. Maybe we could meet up and just chat sometimes, and I could help you out!”
It was so out of the blue, and I felt so surprised. Someone was offering to help me? It was kind of unbelievable.
I spoke to the teacher after the class had finished, and out of nowhere, he said “So, have you made many French friends then?” It was a little bit like a kick in the stomach, because that’s one of my biggest hang ups about being here so far- I have not. And I said that, and he said “But this class! These are adults, Amber. You’re free to befriend them. They’d love it. You’re here to practice French, yes? They want to practice English, yes? It’s win win. They wanted to take you to lunch last week. Go, go with them! They will be your friend” I laughed. It’s what I wanted, but I couldn’t believe he was saying all these things.
A few seconds later, the guy who owns my building walked into the room. He was putting up leaflets about a little soirée that was happening that evening for anyone who lived at the school, and was saying “Hey, you know about this? You’re free to come!” And I smiled and said yes, knowing that I totally wasn’t going. I’d decided that night, I was going to crawl into bed and be alone as per usual. I didn’t want to be among people I didn’t really know, pretending to be okay when things weren’t really okay at all.
I got home, and after a nap, I Skyped one of my best friends from home. We chatted for almost two hours, and honestly, it felt like medicine to my soul. She has been here, done this before, so she understands a little better than other people do what I’m feeling. And once again, when she went to hang up, I had that pang of “No, please don’t!” in my heart. Half way through our call, the same man I’d met earlier (the one who owns the building) had knocked at my door, saying “Hey! This event is about to start” but once again, I had no intention of going. It was only when Laura hung up, that one of the other assistants messaged me saying “Where are you? Aren’t you coming?” and I was about to type “Nahhh” when she sent me a picture of the champagne flute she was drinking from. I’d meant to go into town that week to get some white wine, but this? This attracted me. So I threw on my shoes, I grabbed my coat, and I walked towards the building where the little event was.
Now, I’m going to be pathetically honest about something else. I saw everyone standing inside the room from a distance, and I got scared about going inside. I was outside in the dark, and I was watching them in the light, laughing and joking. And I was paralysed with fear about walking into that room, in front of everyone, feeling like I wanted to burst into tears and jump on the next plane back to Belfast. But I kept asking myself “Do I want to do this? it’s either this or be alone in your room…” And so in that moment, I got this wave of courage through my body, and I marched towards the light, and into the room.
When I got in, I apologised for being late, but everyone was like Meh, no big deal! I was immediately offered a drink, and it wasn’t long before I was chatting away with the other assistants and the headmaster. The other assistants told me about their plans to go to Paris at the weekend, and Strasbourg in December- two things I’ve been dying to do- and they said I was invited. We chatted in French for an hour and a half, and it felt amazing. I had violet champagne- violet is one of my favourite flavours. Everything felt very right. But yet again, when I saw everyone putting on their coats and getting ready to go, I felt that knot in my stomach of “Please, please no. I don’t want to go back yet!” When suddenly, one of the assistants said “So, we’re meeting this new German assistant in a wine bar for some drinks, would you guys like to join?” I think you can guess that I jumped at the chance.
The wine bar was amazing. It was just France, inside a little tent. And I loved it. We spent the evening sipping rosé and chatting away, and it was amazing to have company yet again. When I got back home at half 11, I didn’t even mind being alone any more. I skyped my parents, and then I skyped my boyfriend, and I felt wonderful. And it wasn’t just the rosé!
Why am I typing this? Why was this so important? Well, it’s hard to explain. I felt so low, and so impossibly miserable, and then just like that, all my wishes came true. In one day, I had talked to so many people, spent the day in good company, and been invited to go to places I was dying to see. Someone upstairs had clearly been watching me, and decided it was time to intervene. Everything turned around after I’d felt like everything had gone beyond repair.
If you’re reading this and you’re having a bad day, just know that it can get better. I’m not saying it’ll happen as quickly as it did for me, but I promise, things can and will get better. Always!
I’d also like to do a special shout out to Chris, who has literally been the best human imaginable this whole time. Your love, care and patience don’t go unnoticed little pal. 43 🙂
So that’s what I wanted to say! That’s what’s been on my mind. I love you all, thank you for sticking with my blog, and remember how loved and valued you all really are ❤