Life might be difficult for a year or two, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once.
Life might be difficult for a year or two, but I would tough it out because living in a foreign country is one of those things that everyone should try at least once. My understanding was that it completed a person, sanding down the rough provincial edges and transforming you into a citizen of the world. I didn’t see this as a romantic idea. It had nothing to do with France itself, with wearing hats or writing tortured letters from a sidewalk café. I didn’t care where Hemingway drank or Alice B. Toklas had her mustache trimmed. What I found appealing in life abroad was the inevitable sense of helplessness it would inspire. Equally exciting would be the work involved in overcoming that helplessness. There would be a goal involved, and I like having goals.
Because it was a beginners’ course, the characters on our tape generally steered clear of slang and controversy. Avoiding both the past and the future, they embraced the moment with a stoicism common to Buddhists and recently recovered alcoholics.
Still, there were moments when, against all reason, I thought I might be a genius. These moments were provoked not by any particular accomplishment but by cocaine and crystal methamphetamine — drugs that allow you to lean over a mirror with a straw up your nose, suck up an entire week’s paycheck, and think, “God, I’m smart.”