Mirelle Guiliano, former CEO of champagne label, Veuve Clicquot and author of the best-selling book, “French Women Don’t Get Fat” has a quote that I love:
Always strive to be bien dans sa peau, that is, true to your unique, outward self in addition to your inward, emotional self. Develop your own style; a look and manner that feels comfortable and right to you and that you present to the world.
So today’s post is about being true to one’s self and going after what you truly want. I’m hoping this post will help those who are younger than me, figure out what they want to do in life, because, I have made mistakes in my career but in the process discovered my true love: France. Here are some lessons learned in a nutshell:
I never thought enough about who I was,
wanted to be , and wanted to do
Falling Into A Job
A few years ago I retired as Principal of an elementary school in Toronto. I fell into the job. After graduating from University, I worked in advertising and promotion with some multinational companies. After 8 years, I decided to go back to school and become a teacher. I wanted to help young people and although I took a great pay cut, the job was much more gratifying. I was helping children and not trying to pitch spaghetti sauce. The first number of years were tough and I thrived on the constant learning and challenge of helping students learn and fit in.
I taught 4 year olds to 14 year olds and also did guidance counseling. There were many days when I said to myself, “I love my job!”. I loved the people I worked with and making connections with the kids. Every Friday, I used to block the door and tell my Grade 8 students that I loved them. I really did. I took on many leadership tasks without the title and had no problem volunteering to do workshops and conferences.
Then one day, one decision changed everything. The school’s Vice-Principal got promoted and there wasn’t anyone in the board who could move in to do the job, so they asked me: “Jan, would you like to be acting Vice-Principal?”
Up until this point I had always said, “If I ever say that I want to be an administrator, slap me”. Guess what? There was a long line to slap me. Ego took over and I went for it. I became acting Vice-Principal and then went through the promotion process and eventually became Principal. In all respects I fell into the job. It grasped me and took hold of me. I was swept away by money, power, and prestige, but in the end, it was not sustainable. It was a career mistake.
For 13 years I was an administrator in some very difficult schools (tough for various reasons). The stress was unbelievable and the fit was wrong. The beginning was great because I was learning and because of the people I worked with. I won’t get into all of the problems; however, I was never fully comfortable in the job. And I wasn’t happy. I could do the job well, but most days it felt an uphill battle. As in life, many parents, teachers and students were fabulous: supportive, reasonable, and effective in what they did. But there were also the “nuts’ and the school board bureaucracy. I felt like I was banging my head against the wall all the time trying to help my students.
Since retiring, I have been trying to find the right “fit”, trying to find my journey and what I will do for the rest of my life. While I have always loved France, it has only been in the past 10 years that I have truly gotten obsessed with travelling there. I suppose it began as my oasis, an escape from “the maddening crowd” (work). I have been told by friends that I am a different person in France. I know. France was a place where I could be “bien dans ma peau”.
Lessons Learned For Others
In retirement I have found some new passions: writing, learning about creating websites from scratch, blogging, and discovering more parts of and experiences in France. Most importantly I am doing the one thing I have always loved: helping people. I created this website to do just that: help others discover France and be captivated by it, like I have.
I wish I could say I don’t have any regrets, however, I do have advice for those who are younger:
- Try not to be swayed just by the money of a job. I know you have to support yourself, but I also believe that if you find something you love to do, the money will find you. There were times when I was in advertising and teaching when I actually said to myself, “I love this job so much they wouldn’t even have to pay me”. I felt very fortunate to have been able to say that.
- Try not to be swayed by flattery. Early in my career the “big boss” was encouraging me to go for promotion and become a Principal. Once again, it was easy to be swept away by what other people wanted vs. what I really wanted.
- Find something that you become immersed in….where time flies by because you love what you are doing. I have found that with working on my website, writing and planning trips to France.
- Titles and power are nice, but that’s not who you “are”. After you’re gone, people won’t remember you for your title, they’ll remember you for who you were….what type of person you were.
- In your current job really ask yourself how happy you are doing the things you are required to do. Are you doing these things because you have to or want to? Sure all jobs have certain requirements; however do they outweigh what you want to do and feel comfortable doing? It’s being “bien dans ta peau.”
Some will feel I am being very idealistic. I guess I have the liberty to do so since I am now retired. So where do I go from here, early in my retirement?
Living it. Breathing it. Writing about it.
Experiencing it. Helping others experience it.
I know I am not alone.
There are others who LOVE France as much as I do.
You might also like to read my post Retirement Advice Isn’t Always Right.