Weekend street market in Lyon. (Photo by Rachel Young CC by 4.0)
Live to Work or Work to Live?
by Rachel Young, FIU Honors College
Here are my thoughts on varying lifestyles and their effects after having lived abroad in France for a month.
It was a Friday evening and I was sitting in a mandatory study abroad meeting to go over all the technicalities of traveling and the university regulations that would still apply to all of us once we were on French soil. After hearing about what we should and should not do while abroad, we turned to something hardly any of us had thought about; adjusting when we returned. We were told there were stages of adjusting. We were told we would feel out of place returning. We were told it would be a process. Months later I’m struggling to recall how I once lived the way the majority does here in the States, namely Miami.
Spending a month in France challenged me, both physically and mentally, and truly changed who I am and how I see myself and humanity in every light. From hiking the French Alps to drinking wine with a holocaust survivor to sitting in a park eating falafels in the Jewish-Gay Quarter on Bastille Day, I realized that there is more to life than the mundane. My time in France allowed me to compare the typical lifestyle in Miami to the typical lifestyle in Paris. For one, I found that the majority of people have a firm grasp on what it means to enjoy life and most importantly enjoy your life. I emphasize the idea of the self because that is a very vital aspect of French culture. Though they have collective tendencies and are a very resilient people, they live their lives the way they wish to live them, without fear of judgement; something I admire and aspire to incorporate into my day-to-day life. The French have a deep understanding of the difference between working to live and living to work. What drives us is what we should be questioning.
Rachel Young and her France 2016 class of FIU Honors in the Jewish-Gay Quarter in Paris. (Photo by JW Bailly CC by 4.0)
The sense of growth that I feel is something I want to preserve and I’ve been finding it difficult to do so given the atmosphere I’m in. Though it is difficult to strip France of its beauty to try and figure out why the quality of life seems to be so much more enriching, I’ve tried with every ounce of fiber in my body and I’ve come to the conclusion that it simply has to do with the environment one is in. I’ve encountered maybe a handful of South Florida residents that maintain this European mentality and they usually grew up elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, South Florida is rich with culture, but pales in comparison to the history and resume that France has. How can we even compare?
I guess what I want readers to take away from my experience and my words is, take a step back and evaluate how you’re living your life and don’t feel discouraged to question societal norms and more relevantly, regional norms. It may seem like a daunting task, but every journey begins with the first step.