As I ease myself back into blogging after a year-long absence, I realized one of the big reasons I was so discouraged from writing was that I dreaded having to write all the "catch-up" entries... A daunting task to be sure, especially after the events that have colored my ever-evolving life in Toulouse. My solution to this problem is to chronicle my "lost year," but in one single entry, in bullet form, no frills, no fuss (that's really hard for me to do!) Here we go!
My 2011 and early 2012 (abridged version)
- I'm now officially a songwriter after meeting an up-and-coming French soul singer Laure Milan. Not only have I penned the lyrics for 5 songs on her upcoming album (sung in English), I've also done a fair bit of design (illustrations for one of her music videos, photography of rehearsals and concerts in Paris, graphic design for posters, web and CD covers) This gig literally fell from the sky, and not only have I been working on some great creative projects, I have found a tremendous friendship in Laure and her entourage.
- I worked. A lot. As much as I would have loved to chronicle my "American girl teaching French people" moments (gems which never fail to scandalize and delight,) I was simply too busy living my teaching experiences to write about them! Living in downtown Toulouse isn't cheap, even when you're teaching 17 classes a week. For two semesters, my life was literally "Wake up, make photocopies, teach all day, come home, prepare tomorrow's lessons while eating what's left in the refrigerator, falling asleep in the process, repeat." On top of my teaching responsibilities, I was also bombarded by freelance design projects, many of which were for the university where I teach.
- I reawakened my creative spirit, not just in my design work for others, but for myself. I painted several watercolors, and launched my new art portfolio website: www.jamiealexander.net
- I was supported by the tremendous presence of my marvelous friends in France. They made the good moments unforgettable and the bad moments bearable.
- I traveled a bit to preserve my sanity.... (Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, Italy, and pretty much all over France (lavender fields in Provence, the Basque country, the Loire Valley châteaux, the Alps, Le Périgord, etc.)
- I discovered my inner strength. Losing a close family member, separating from my fiancé, and being unable to visit the United States for a year and a half did wonders on my morale and self-esteem. I was forced to pick myself up from the depths of despair and start again. As time passes, I am more and more convinced I am where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing, and should make no apologies for daring to live my dream.
- I spent a life-changing New Years 2012 in Paris. If ever your life is turned upside-down, I suggest a week in the City of Lights. Monuments, museums, strolls in parks, red wine, champagne under the Eiffel Tower at Midnight....being carried home from the Eiffel Tower after too much champagne... It was a desperately needed escape from Toulouse, and reality for that matter. While there, I was reminded why I was living in France, and that I was exactly where I needed to be. Of course the company didn't hurt... see below...
- After 2011 had finished collapsing on me, I very unexpectedly fell in love with a Frenchman, despite the fortress I had erected around myself. He is a major reason for my positive start to 2012. I am starting to believe that I deserve to be loved again. Most importantly, I can laugh with him, which is something I hadn't done much of in 2011. For the first time in a long time, I feel like I can construct a future with someone.
I see change within myself. I'm for the most part more serene, back in control of my life, which for several months seemed out of my hands. My parents told me a few days ago that this is the happiest they've seen me in YEARS. As I reflect, I realize they're right.
In the US, I never experienced anything like what I've been able to live on a daily basis here in France. I feel like I have started to come into my own here. As my mother would say "blossoming." France has taught me that nothing is impossible. How else could an American graphic designer become a law teacher, songwriter, illustrator and world traveler?
It does not mean I'm not scarred or terribly saddened by the difficulties I've experienced. But it shows that I have hope, that things are gradually turning around for me, and that with each passing day I have every reason to smile.