A few days ago it hit one month since we landed in Paris. I think we have nearly settled in, and now we are knuckling down into trying to make this place more of a home than a holiday. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m emotional and sensitive and that I cried in Ice Age (and once today, while watching La La Land, but that time was a bit more appropriate because I realised I might never dance with Ryan Gosling).
My focus has been on finding work. In the first week we were at the bank trying to open an account (another 5 blog posts could cover that) and the two men helping us, Victor and Morad were lovely enough to start reviewing the resume that I had been giving out. Within seconds of them looking at it they leaned back, and I was told, “Bon. In France, we need the resumes to look beautiful. We want to want to read it’. Of course that’s what they bloody want. Probably on 100% Savoy Natural White cotton cardstock that has a slight texture to it, and as my cousin said, sprayed with just the right amount of perfume.
I can speak French at a decent level, but applying for a job involves communicating certain nuances, and not necessarily just skills (especially with the cover letter). I asked and received help from the bankers, from Ed’s Swiss family and my friend, Clemence, with whom I did French exchange with when I was 15. And it’s a good thing they helped too. There’s one small section where I discuss Beurre in the cover letter, and I described it as a ‘petite entreprise’, which is a small business. Fun fact. There is a classic French song by the same name, which figuratively discusses sex, and when a French person hears this term, all they think about is this song. So 11 would-be employers received that not-so-nuanced version! What a happy moment that was! FFS. One day I’ll laugh about it. For now I’ll just pretend it never happened.
In any case, those people were an unknowing team of angels and they all helped to rehaul my resume. I’ll stop eating croissants for a day if it’s not the equivalent of the Kerry Washington of resumes; intelligent and hot. I’ve applied at 28 places now. That has involved mustering all my confidence, and going into patisseries, application in hand, asking for a job in French. I’ve been met with glares, blank stares, a blanket ‘nope’ (that was v. fun, FYI), and I shouldn’t forget the two lovely smiles. More than that, it’s a male dominated industry, and there’s no way around that. At the Coupe de la Monde, of the 88 odd pastry chefs, 5 or 6 were women. I expected this, so that’s the upside. Of course this will be beyond difficult; no one in their right mind would think otherwise. And it’s only one month in! The downside is that it’s still hard to pick yourself up from the floor every single day.
We tell ourself that things will be better tomorrow, sleep on it, etc. I was feeling low the other night, and I had just emailed a friend of Ed’s friend who is a pastry chef, asking for advice on what I could do to get myself hired here. I went to bed and woke up to an email from him explaining that the hierarchy in French kitchens is very real, and before you, there is someone who has been working in that kitchen for a year in some cases, waiting for this position. That’s what I’m up against, amongst not being fluent in French, and a host of other things too. So no, I didn’t feel better the following day. On the other hand, I did have some excellent context and some valuable insight into how it works.
I generally prefer to focus on the negative because everyone knows that this is the recommended way to live a healthy, content and fulfilling life. And my way of trying to create some perspective when I hit small speed bumps (not getting dream jobs) and large speed bumps (depression) is to remind myself that I am physically healthy, that I have been blessed with two arms and two legs, that I have a loving family, that my friends are amazing humans, that I’m not, for example, on a plane holding a green card because I’m trying to escape the living and breathing hell that is a civil war, only to be told that I’m banned from entering a country.
Perspective. It’s a fabulous thing to have in one’s toolbox (or pastry tool bag, if you will). So my version of reminding myself about the P word, is to loudly exclaim (inwardly, definitely not outwardly because then people would know for realsies that I’m a crazy lady), ‘NO. YOU ARE IN PARIS AND YOU WILL SMILE’. So any time I started doing my black hole spiral dance in my brain, I’d push myself to say that phrase. And it works, because you remind yourself not to be a little ingrate, and instead enjoy the amazing life that you are very lucky to be leading.
My theory works well when I step outside of the apartment to take a break from sending off online job applications and making google maps loops on where my next physical cold call, resume in hand, will be. It works perfectly, in fact, because you walk past the Seine, and it looks beautiful. And then you see Notre Dame, and it’s surreal. And then you notice a gilded feature on a building, and it’s honestly stunning. But then I walk back into the apartment and immediately feel like I have stepped into a pothole. The reality is that I’m here to find work because I want to improve my skill set. I want to be able to experience what people talk about, when they say that their greatest triumphs have come from their greatest challenges. I want it so badly it hurts. I want it so badly that it’s all I breathe and think about. In fact, the words I blubbered out to my psychologist before I left were, ‘Everything else I do in Paris is fluff because it’s not The Job. Everything else is second to this one goal’. And she surprised me, because she said that yes, it is all just fluff, because yes, the end goal is getting that job. But until then, there is Paris.
And that’s where I’ve realised that I need to switch my thinking. Telling myself ‘BE GRATEFUL BE GRATEFUL’ isn’t going to make me feel better. It only creates guilt. And hey, I’m pretty sure that one, let alone 28 stone cold, constant rejections is a universal feeling of shittiness. So here’s the new approach. It’s not just about being positive. Obviously that helps too, otherwise Tony Robinson wouldn’t be where he is. Leaving Melbourne wasn’t the hard part. That bit is happening right now, in trying to build a career in a new city. It’s about recognising that sometimes there will be obscenely soul-flattening days. Embrace that because they are, without a doubt, going to happen. Let yourself feel like a piece of choux pastry that was ready for the next exciting step of being built into a croquembouche, only to fall off the tray and be stepped on. Acknowledge it in all it’s lousy glory. Cry! Salt water is the cure for everything. THEN remind yourself that you get to live in Paris, that you have already done so much travel in 30 days, with more to come, that you get to taste amazing desserts, and that you are privileged to have already have more than you need in life. Move on from the grizzly, go for a walk, stare at your heavenly surrounds, and get back in there, maybe with another layer of skin.