Friday was a good day for me and I just felt a happiness that could not be destroyed no matter what happened. I really don’t know what it was that day but I just couldn’t stop smiling and I just felt superpositive about everything possible. I decided to take advantage of my mood by trying to start a conversation with the waiter at our usual café (yeah, definitely didn’t turn out too well) but it was really for the fun of it and even though he went up to our other waiter during the conversation while he was “thinking” of an answer to the question I asked him and they both started laughing, I think they both found me and Adriana quite entertaining. And even though we did make fools of ourselves with our horrible grammar, I’d like to think that we made their day complete. However, maybe we’ll stay away from that café for a couple of days… It was Friday that something happened that I’ve never felt before in my life. Back to when I first met Antoine and he would absolutely refuse to say “hello” to me or when I used to pick him up from school and he’d say, “You’re not supposed to be here, my mom’s supposed to get me” or when I’d try to play with him and he would totally leave me so he could play alone, I really didn’t care at all. I always thought, “Okay, I’m here to be in France, not to be best friends with a four-year-old. If he hates me, there’s nothing I can do about it. He hated his last au pair, how could I be any different?” But slowly, he started to respect me so I would return that respect. His family still had trouble with him; his mom always explained that his father was the only one who Antoine liked in the world so I still gave him his space. He started talking to me; he started answering my questions with answers other than no and hugs became a normal thing. Soon, Antoine and Alice always trying to fight against me turned to Antoine always taking my side against Alice, “No, Janelle gets to decide; she’s older than you.” I really did feel flattered because this little boy who wouldn’t let anyone into his own world was finally letting me see a part of it. The little things mean the most in life and it started with those random hugs. Last week at the dinner table, he said to me, “Tu es très belle, Janelle” and my heart melted. Friday morning, I was walking him to school and we were about a metre away from each other and a dog barked. He got so scared, ran and grabbed me. I was so taken aback that a little boy would run to me and depend on me to save him from one of his big fears; I mean, when you’re a kid, that could be the scariest thing in the world and you’re trusting someone else to keep you away from that danger. Something definitely opened inside of me at that moment. That afternoon, Antoine and I were doing puzzles and just really enjoying each other’s company and that’s when it really hit me. I was really starting to care for him and I felt it from him as well, an unconditional love. I know that mothers always talk about how you can never love your own kid more than anyone else and it’s a different kind of love, a love that no one else would understand. But that Friday afternoon, for a few split seconds, I think I felt it. I know that it’s probably a thousand times stronger when you’re actually a mom but I really do think there was something there. I know I’m making a difference in this child’s life and I didn’t think before I came here that the kids would really affect mine but you have no idea how much they have. To feel that these kids depend on you and want your approval so bad, it’s one of the best feelings ever. And then I wonder if they’ll remember me; I don’t remember much from when I was four and six, nothing of significance anyway. But really I guess from me being here, it could very well shape them into who they’ll be in the future and I really hope that I had an impact on that in a good way. That evening when Alice told everyone that a lot of times, Antoine eats in the cafeteria alone, I was concerned. I mean, I really am probably one of his only friends. Every time his mom asks who he wants to invite to his birthday party, there’s never an answer. How devastated will he be when in four months, I just pack up my bags and leave, possibly never to see him again? I am dreading that day; I really am. I mean, I’m of course still looking forward to coming home and seeing everyone but to leave these kids is really going to be so difficult. PS The only picture I have this week is of Elsa at 4 months old; she LOVES to smile! ☺
On Saturday, Adriana, Aimee and I went to Versailles to go to our usual Versailles spot (with the most magnificent 10 dollar chocolate mousse). We then shopped around the mall before realizing that we were all too tired to keep on going. Today, I went to church and then went out for lunch with a friend. Afterwards, we went to the movie Marley & Me and yes, I did cry. What’s with me and crying during every single movie possible these days? I went back to Rambouillet where I went out for dinner with Adriana (yummy ice cream) and now I’m here!
As of today, it’s officially been six months since I’ve been gone. When I first signed up for this, I really didn’t look into the fact of how long ten months would actually be. I don’t think I really realized what I was getting myself into. At the time when I signed up to do this, I really was a different person and I don’t mean that in a sense that I was different than I am now even though that is the case but I mean I really wasn’t myself. I’m not the type to share; I feel like I have to be strong in every situation so this is really something that many people who were close to me might have noticed or it could be something that many of you had no idea. Starting almost exactly a year ago in February 2008, something really took over me. I felt like I had lost everything, like nothing mattered anymore, and that I was really hurting those around me just by being there. I really felt like the worst person in the world and I felt like my nonexistence would be better off for everyone. Not only that but everyone who was around me always seemed to get on my nerves for even the littlest things and I hated myself for getting so angry. I knew that something was taking over my mind and my body but I really didn’t know what to do about it and really kept it inside which was one of the hardest things to have to go through alone. I mean really, I have a great family, great friends, I have joys and hobbies, I really was blessed with an amazing life but at that moment in time, I really felt like I didn’t deserve any of it because I was that bad of a person. I went through it for a couple months by myself, keeping everything inside and trying to appear like everything was okay but soon I couldn’t handle this monster that was taking over me. I confided in my mom and we went to the doctor twice where they did many tests and said there was absolutely nothing wrong. I wasn’t convinced at all. I researched and researched during my spare time and finally came up with the solution, showed my mom what I thought it was and we went back to the doctor. They did some more tests and the next week when I was in Quebec, my mom called and said the doctor called with the results. The doctor plainly said to my mom, “You have a very smart girl.” Turns out, I was diagnosed (or self-diagnosed) with something that had depression as one of the symptoms and it was completely taking over my mind and body. Obviously during that time, I signed up for au pairing in France; I really just needed to get away. It took four months of being here for me to feel like my real self again, to feel happy for no reason at all and just to know that people DO miss me, and I DO deserve that. To say something that only the very closest people to me know, and now saying it to every single person who reads my blog, it’s hard; it really is. I’m really not writing this for people to pity me or say nice things; I’m saying it because I thought it might answer a few questions and I feel like the people who have been in my life deserve to know. At this point in time, I can easily tell when it comes back and it tries to take over me but being here has just made me that much stronger and I now know how to fight back. You know, we’re all people. We all go through our ups and downs and nobody’s perfect. I know some of my closest friends noticed a difference as much as I tried to hide it and I really do thank you for understanding. I’ve been in France for half of a year. You take an 18-year-old girl who has family and friends that she sees everyday and put her in a new environment with a new language, new rules and completely new people and changes are bound to happen. I’m now so incredibly thankful for everything that I took for granted but ten months is a long time. I think my thoughts when I first came here were that I would live my life here while the rest of the world would just freeze until I came back home. That’s not the case at all and it really does scare me; I know everyone has changed in their own little ways but I think I could be the one who changed the most of all, especially considering I still wasn’t myself when I left. I am a strong believer of everything happening for a reason, as I know many of you are aware and really, if nothing happened to me during those long five months of last year, I most likely wouldn’t be where I am today. Many people have told me that they’re so proud of me for being so independent and that I’m brave and that they really look up to me but in all honesty, THAT’S something I don’t think I deserve. I didn’t do this to be anyone’s hero or to make myself seem like a strong or good person; I did it because it’s what I needed the most for me and me only. It’s been half of a year that I’ve went without seeing anyone close to me, except for the two weeks that my mom came in November. Has it been hard? Yes, in a way… The first two months were the hardest of all but now I’m at the point where it just seems right. I feel so blessed to have been brought here and I feel like it’s changing me, and my life, for the better.
Traveling Light – Joel Hanson & Sara Groves