My French is now a at a first, perhaps second, grade level. A very solid step forward from my kindergarten French. Everything is still in a time delay. It takes me 5 or 6 seconds to understand what someone has said but I’m no longer translating word for word what I hear. I actually understand. This is huge, satisfying, and down right exciting. I still feel shy at times about speaking but each day less and less.
School started two weeks ago. They were not kidding when they called it basic intensive pastry. I’m in school between nine to thirteen hours a day six days a week. I love the intensity in the same way that I loved being a busy waitress. You have to stay present but with your peripheral vision in the next step or two ahead. You can’t think about the past except for, again, peripherally keeping track of time. As in, I put my cake in the oven twenty minutes ago. Any further thinking about events past will only trip you up. If you messed up your tart dough (as I am known to do) or a table you waited on was rude or annoyed at you. You can not dwell on it too much, you can only remedy it and move forward.
When I’m at school I like to imagine Julia Childs there even though I’m pretty sure the Cordon Bleu she went to was in a different area and building. I like to think her spirit and that of the fictional Sabrina roam the halls, much like Wim Wender’s angels roamed the library in Berlin, and watch over me. There is something very stodgy about the school and all the recipes we are learning, cakes made with flavorless candied fruit, tarts filled with too much cream and tinned pears but it’s a base and I’m learning. I’m learning that I have so much to learn, and in making yet another variation of a pastry filled with almonds and raisins or syrupy cherries I am tightening a lot of loose screw in my skills. It’s not the filing but the container, and thus my pate sucre and my laminated doughs are becoming truly mine. There is something about the blandness of the sweets that is making me explode with ideas. For so long I didn’t know who I was. I often felt like dormant, errant potential, and now it no longer feels that way.
Some days I think I want to do another chunk of time there and others I want to step out and learn another way. I’m torn about signing up for the next level. It’ so expensive. A big decision is coming up for me. If I don’t do the next course chances are I won’t be able to stay in France for the time being. I have been putting off thinking about my visa. I told myself I would wait until January but January is here. Before I know it I will need to figure out what is most important. I always wanted to live in Europe. Now that I am here I feel it suits me but, BUT I have some very big decisions ahead of me. All of them are good and exciting and all of them involve giving something up to get something.
I don’t know where I am going or how I am getting there but I feel a sureness in my steps that I have never felt before. I feel that things have unfolded exactly as they needed to. This is a very recent thing, this feeling of confidence in the face of the unknown. I keep thinking of this scene in The Golden Child. My brother and I used to watch that movie all the time when we were growing up. In this scene Eddie Murphy has to step into the abyss and if it turned out that he was indeed the chosen one in the void a path will appear. Right now things feel that way. I have no idea where I am going but as I keep following the direction that I feel I am meant to the path is appearing. Out of the not knowing a clarity is emerging. This may sound ridiculous but I feel now, at 39, that I have finally grown up.