Totally Frenched Out

From the blogger formerly known as Samdebretagne

Sunday, March 8, 2009

I walked over to Montparnasse this afternoon to see "Marley and Me", and on the way, I listened to "This American Life". The topic "Plan B", once again struck a chord with me. At the beginning of the episode, he asks people to think about what they thought their adult life would be like and how it compared to where they were actually at today.

I pressed pause for a bit and thought about that for a few minutes. If someone had told me ten years ago I'd be living in Paris (or even in France), I would've laughed my head off at them. I didn't speak French, had never been to the country and had no desire to live there. Finland maybe, but France? NO WAY. Yet here I am. Living in the heart of Paris.

So what was my Plan A? Up until I decided to move to France with Fab, I was a career girl. Working three different jobs, probably 60-70 hours a week. Before any Frenchies out there gasp in horror, let me clarify - I was working each of those jobs by choice. I wasn't doing it because I had to, but because I loved all three of them. I was doing whole-grains research for General Mills, which appealed to my orderly, scientific side. I was developing recipes for Land O'Lakes, which appealed to my creative side. And I was still working as a manager at my college job, at the University student center, which appealed to my social side. I was very lucky - I loved getting up and going to work every day, and a lot of people can't always say that.

But then I decided to give France a try for a year - I figured "Hey, I'm young, even if it doesn't work out with Fab, I'll have at least traveled some and (hopefully) learned a new language". But somehow, I never left and it became my Plan B. I tried my best to make a life for myself in Bretagne, to find a way to deal with the eventuality of spending the rest of my life in the countryside. And that's where I thought I'd spend the rest of my (semi-miserable) days.

As we all now know, it just wasn't meant to be. Thank God for that.

So here I am, on Plan C. Living in Paris. Alone for the first time in my life. With a very strange yet cool job that I also love, and no plans to go back to the US in the immediate future (at least not if I can help it). But is this the final plan? Somehow I doubt it. I'm young still - and most of the people interviewed on the show were on Plan D, E, F or G. And I guess I'm okay with that. Right now, for probably the first time in my life, I'm not trying to plan. Just taking things as they come. And why not? Things on the whole are good right now. I like my life, so besides trying to save to eventually buy an apartment, I'm not actively working to change it.

But I'm curious - where would you all be today if you'd stuck with Plan A? Or even plan B?

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26 Comments:

Blogger Wendy said...

Stuck in a miserable marriage in a boxy house in the 'burbs, with a gaggle of children. And a deadend job.

AAAGH!

Plan B, C, D, E....they all caused some grief and sacrifice, but how much richer has my life been because of all the sideroads I took?

Immeasurable.

And heartache really does make you stronger. :)

March 8, 2009 at 8:59 PM  
Blogger TreeFeathers said...

Well if my plan A had worked out, I'd be sitting somewhere on the Left Bank writing best-selling sci fi novels... *sigh.* Instead I'm on plan C or D by now, sitting here in NM gluing thousands of tiny books together. I always knew my future would be books, I just never imagined THIS! :D

March 8, 2009 at 11:09 PM  
Blogger L said...

Hmm, possibly working for a museum somewhere in New England. I almost ended up married to a solider in Alaska though. That was a plan B I decided to ditch though. My plan A did involve several years of living the high life single and fully employed (Alley McBeal style), and that certaintly didn't happen.

March 9, 2009 at 12:06 AM  
Blogger Alisa said...

Hmm.. I think I'm still on plan A, kind of. Well, I would have liked to still be in France, but that's still a (complicated) possibility. Weirdly enough I have never really been concrete when making plans for my life, instead just kind of seeing where things take me... so far it's worked out pretty well I thought.

And hey, at least neither of us has discovered that we're awesome at telemarketing, right? *g*

March 9, 2009 at 12:27 AM  
Blogger Julie said...

If Plan A'd worked out I'd be a nurse but my parents said I had to go to uni so my plans shifted.

March 9, 2009 at 6:53 AM  
OpenID giftsofthejourney said...

Plan A..If I hadn't run as fast as I could muster in the last six weeks before the wedding, I might be living in ratty tatty old trailer somewhere in the American south, divorced, with three of four children, no education and bad teeth.

I am so thankful I switched to plan B and all before I turned 18.

March 9, 2009 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger Ken Broadhurst said...

I just turned 60 years old. I have a hard time even remembering Plan A. Oh, that's right: I would have been teaching French in a university in the U.S. Thank the heavens that there were just about no such jobs available when I was finishing up the last stages of my graduate studies. I abandoned the plan, gladly.

(Actually, my first Plan A was to be a zoologist, marine biologist, or a naturalist, but that one was more a pipe dream than a real plan, so I'm skipping it.)

Plan B was a life in France. I tried that for 8 years in Paris way back when, and loved it. But I was too poor and too footloose. Can you say précarité?

Plan C, a career with retirement benefits, beckoned. That was in Washington D.C. and lasted just 4 years. Fascinating but not for me, a career as a civil servant during the "Reagan Revolution."

And then came Plan D, a move to California, to do who-knew-what. There, I had Plan D.1, editing a nerdy computer magazine, and plan D.2, working for several different software companies for a dozen years. By then I realized that I was working to live (later), and not living for my work.

Now, finally, Plan E, early retirement, has kicked in. Living the life in Saint-Aignan is a success, for the time being.

As a younger person, I would have been unable to imagine living out in the countryside, far from the bright lights of the big city. Paris was where I wanted to be, or à défaut Washington or San Francisco. Now I can't imagine living in the city. Too crowded, too noisy, too expensive.

Part of me wonders if there will be a Plan F, and part hopes that there will not be one.

March 9, 2009 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Rochelle said...

Since I was 13 Plan A for me was to be a rockstar, lol, or at least a struggling musician, which I did do for awhile.. Plan B was to become a psychologist. Then I just had no plan at all and then finally came up with Plan C, which was to move to France :) I'm currently reworking Plan C which involves getting out of teaching English and going back to school.

March 9, 2009 at 10:58 AM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

Like Alisa, I just kind of let the winds take me to my next step. I just read something about concentrating on the eternal present and it's something to keep in mind. I'm really excited for you that you're fully in the present and happy and not being like "when x happens i'll finally be happy" which is the mode you were in a lot of the time in ole bretagne. now to attend to my present sniffles, blech!

March 9, 2009 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

I love This American Life, in part because the stories are so well told and in part because it starts conversations like this. I met my now husband while pursuing Plan B (since my Plan A -- being a Rhodes Scholar -- didn't exactly come through.) No way that Paris was ever in any plan. I think I might be on Plan F or G at this point and all I can say is bring on Plan H.

March 9, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger Mrs V. said...

If I had gone with plan A I would be stuck in the South (which I hated) in a miserable marriage with a northern boy that started to say y'all after 2 months of living in the south. UGH. Plan B was my Boston days - working my a** off, making money, living the good life. Plan C was my marriage to the most wonderful man in the world and building our lives together - which brought us to Switzerland. Since Switzerland I have been floundering. Trying to find my niche - not working - not having a plan - happily pregnant but lacking something that gives me self fulfillment. Still searching for Plan D (which is incorporated with plan C).
Isn't it funny that we can actually look back and categorize our lives by plans numbered by letters???

March 9, 2009 at 5:56 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

ohh, i cant wait to listen to that episode!

i guess im married to my plan A in terms of career (i was going to be a physics professor, instead got the phd and married one), which is interesting in that i will see it.

my career, im onto plan B (consultant), dont know yet what plan C will be...

March 9, 2009 at 8:06 PM  
Blogger Ksam said...

Yuri, your comment is so right-on! But looking forward to "X" was the only way I stayed sane in Bretagne - it was the only way I was able to stay hopeful that one day things really would be better. If I'd ever stopped believing that, I probably would've gone and jumped straight into the Golf!

March 9, 2009 at 10:34 PM  
Blogger jonnifer said...

Finishing my PhD at Columbia and probably freaking out about the current state of the job market. And always wondering what it would have been like to move to France...

March 10, 2009 at 2:02 AM  
Blogger Nikita said...

Plan A was to become a lawyer (but couldn't bother with all those years of school) or a broadcast journalist (but the biz is too hard to break into). I was an Economics major in my first year of university, but hated it.

Plan B was to switch to a French major in 2nd year, move to France for two years (studying French and teaching English) and become a teacher and dreams up ways to move back to France on a permanant basis.

But then I truly, truly fell in love with travel.

So Plan C came along and took me to Mexico for a year to teach... then back home to Canada to reflect and possible change careers.

But I'm still in love with travel, and teaching abroad seems the best way to do it.

Soooo... Plan D is taking is me across the world to Hong Kong (for at least 2 years) so I can teach French to Canadian expats! The irony... I am packing up my life (for what seems like the 1000th time) and trucking off to Asia in August. Life is crazy!

Can't wait to find out what Plan E is going to be!

March 10, 2009 at 3:43 AM  
Blogger Leesa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 10, 2009 at 9:44 AM  
Blogger Leesa said...

If my plan A had worked out, I'd still be single... I never wanted to get married again after the first marriage (which wasn't a good one) and was enjoying single life, until Alex came along and stole my heart!!!
Plan B... I don't really have one, because I don't like to plan ahead... I'm such a procrastinator, it's hard to get things done as it is!! In fact, the ONLY 2 things I DO like to plan are social gatherings AND travel!! hehe...
Well, I had always dreamed of living outside the U.S., preferably in France or another French speaking country (since I was in high school) - So, I guess I'm living my "life" plan... : ) And, I do LOVE living in France (Europe) and OUTSIDE the U.S.!!!!!!!!

March 10, 2009 at 9:49 AM  
OpenID americaninparis42 said...

Plan A was I was going to go to graduate school in California to get my PhD in Clinical Psychology. Then I met a French boy who was studying at my University for the summer. I came to France not really knowing what I was getting into, and then realized previous plans would not work in France. Plan B is I am currently teaching English and then I plan to go back and get my masters in International Relations. But I do relate to the "I never thought I would be in France" thing. Funny where life takes you.

March 10, 2009 at 10:35 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Its funny how we make plans on how we think/want life to turn out.

I always had plans/career paths as a child/young adult - writer, vet, hairdresser, doctor.

Career path or serious interest picked out at 13 when a volcano erupted and covered our school in ash - I was sold on volcanology. Kind of continued along this path but thought do volcanologists really get jobs? Veered off to environmental science, but took earth science and environmental studies as followed boyf to uni with no environmental science.

I guess plan A truly was to study earth science related stuff, I've just gone an odd way to get there. Perhaps plan A.1, A.2, A.3. Didn't think I'd study more than bachelors, then more than masters, now PhD!

But I think France is plan C (with A.something for the same study choice)... didn't man, different life and I didn't imagine France AT ALL! Could imagine UK or Aussie but not France.

I'm looking forward to plan D! 15 months to go!

March 10, 2009 at 11:52 PM  
Blogger poppy fields said...

Arghh...stuck in the midwest, married to a highschool boyfriend...working in a local hospital. Never in a million years had I thought France was in my future.
Somewhere after plan C or D, life gets interesting...just ride with the tide, make a few plans but be ready and willing to change them...
You are leading a very cool life, Sam!

March 11, 2009 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger MISS YURI said...

it's funny how so many Plan A's are "stuck in (location) married to (person)"

March 11, 2009 at 3:49 PM  
Blogger Megan said...

I guess I am on Plan C by now.
Plan A- be a Naval Officer;
Plan B- work for some secret government agency.

March 11, 2009 at 8:22 PM  
Blogger La Framéricaine said...

I have always admired your social skills and the fact that you found satisfying gainful employment in France about which you were really enthusiastic.

It is so interesting to learn about your 3 well loved jobs in the US before you magically ended up in France. I too am excited for you about the prospects for your future. It takes conjones to walk away from an unfulfilling personal relationship and launch one's self into the unknown. You are an excellent role model for those dreaming of change. Your story makes me feel that maybe my own Plan B #56 will work out for the best. And since I am trepidatious, I need all the encouragement I can get!

Thank you for this wonderful post. Now I'm going to go find the "This American Life" episode to which you were referring!

March 12, 2009 at 2:06 PM  
Blogger Rebecca said...

I never realized I had a Plan A until I realized I'd abandoned it and was already onto Plan B. Plan A was a little more exotic, a little more academic, and a little more American. I still sometimes don't realize how fully I'd planned things out--I'm completely unable to articulate what the Plan A actually was--but now and then something hits me as untenable, or unexpected. Things I took for granted as being in my future (writing a book, the way I would decorate my house, finishing grad school, the kind of car I drove and expected I'd always drive...) haven't happened, and I'm occasionally surprised to find that I'm no longer on the road to making them happen. Funny, how that works.

March 12, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Cécy said...

If I stuck to Plan A... (aka not meeting my husband) I would be either somewhere in Europe working in tourism or pathetically jumping from poor uninteresting jobs to uninteresting jobs in France.
You know what? I love plan B.

March 13, 2009 at 3:50 PM  
Blogger Kathy Hwang said...

The funny thing is ... I am 27 years old and this is the first time I've ever started even thinking about a Plan. hahha. I've been winging it all this time!

July 17, 2009 at 5:42 AM  

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