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Panic Attack

This is going to be a brutally honest post.

The blog so far has been seeing Paris from rose-coloured glasses. Our stories since March have been mostly upbeat about traveling, seeing the world, and loving life as unemployed people. What I haven’t really talked about is the financial stresses that have come with this huge life decision.

Ah, financials. It’s a very private matter, of course, but today I feel I need to be honest so as not to mislead anyone about how it feels like to be us.

To recap, Alex quit first and started working on Mobywan, and I quit almost 9 months later. In that time, we went from a very comfortable lifestyle with dual income, to a very cramped living situation living on just my salary. We scrounged and saved and didn’t dip into our savings account, which was mostly proceeds from the sale of our beloved apartment.

Then we used our savings to pay for our trip – flights were the big thing, and really, traveling in India and SE Asia was not that expensive (actually, Bali was, but that’s another story for another day). We further dipped into our savings to pay for the wedding, with some help from the gifts we received from family and friends. Let me just say, and this is totally super honest in keeping with the theme today, I wish we had gotten married at City Hall. We had an amazing few days with friends and family, and the wedding turned out exactly like I had envisioned – I just still cannot agree with the costs to validate something that’s supposed to come from the heart. Alex was a little crushed to hear me say this, but it is how I feel very deep down.

Anyway. So we’ve paid for traveling, paid for a big hoopla, and now…now, we pay an even bigger amount to be here in Paris, for me to attend Le Cordon Bleu. The tuition is no secret, it is listed on their website. And housing in Paris isn’t exactly cheap like we’re living in Windsor or something. So…

I had a full-on panic attack last night. My first one ever. I felt so constricted inside. I wanted to throw up constantly. I briefly considered running away and taking on a new alias elsewhere.

IT’S SO MUCH PRESSURE. I love that my husband is incredibly supportive. I feel like I have so much responsibility to love this program, to commit to it 100%, and to make sure it better damn well be good for something, that I am not sure I can imagine enjoying it. Truthfully, I can’t muster up the energy to get super excited about the first day of school because of all this pressure. Yet, I know I love baking, and even thinking about working with pastries and being covered in flour all day makes me smile. It’s just – at what cost should this joy be obtained?

Am I being completely ridiculous by making us move to Paris and live here and spend money on this program?

I am very, very aware of the even more ridiculous fact that it is a little too late to be pondering these questions, when we’re fully unpacked in this apartment and my tuition is fully paid.

You may notice the trend that we don’t tend to over-think / over-discuss things until after the fact (see example from India). You know, I like living impulsively, but I’m starting to realize I’m not mentally built for it.

So. After a long, long discussion (fuelled by jetlag) Alex is trying to help me make peace with our decisions so far, and I’m working on not feeling so nauseous about it all so I can ingest some food. I hope I’ve made my point that this year has been the most difficult for us, personally, in our adult life. The decisions we make now may or may not have a huge influence on our future, and we have no idea what’s in store for us. It makes me so very nervous. Perhaps spending all this money won’t be a big deal to us in 2017, when we’ll have been back at work for 5 years. Perhaps we’ll be the people you pitifully throw quarters at near subway stations in 2017. Perhaps it won’t be the money that leaves a lasting impression, but the experience of it all — and we’re staying optimistic that that’s the case.

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Carli Sunday 28 August 2011, 18:31

    Sandy, thanks for the post. If it makes you feel any better, I am feeling the same way! But you are doing the right thing, and money will always work itself out (at least that is what I keep telling myself). Life is all about the experiences you have. Money schmoney.

  • Jenn Stark Sunday 28 August 2011, 18:33


  • BrendaBall Sunday 28 August 2011, 18:33

    Sandy: I am sure that my words will not reassure you at all but trust that I know a little simply because I am older :-)
    I think it is great that you are brutally honest. I had essentially a “city hall wedding” (well, mine was at Lighthouse Park in West Van, but same diff) and it was good for me (we spent all of our money on the honeymoon :-). I have spent my entire adult life scraping together every cent to invest in my travels and my brainthirst and every penny has been well spent.
    So, my old age wisdom tells me that you and Alex will do fine because you are smart and talented and who wouldn’t want to hire either of you! (once you want to start working full-time again that is). So what if you are temporarily poor. It won’t be forever. And when you get into the “poorer” side of living groove you will be shocked on how little money you need to survive and be happy. Trust. It is all good. And every pain chocolat that you make for your friends in the future will remind you of 2011 and the time you lived in Paris. Savour it like a Proustian madeleine. Here’s to being poor (temporarily). A votre sante.

  • Suat Sunday 28 August 2011, 21:28

    You’ll have a million stories to talk about. Most people don’t… And don’t worry, you’ll have money, too. The chances of you starving is less than coming across a polar bear in the middle of a desert. Did you read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? DON’T PANIC! Seriously ..

  • spends 2 Much Sunday 28 August 2011, 21:29

    Now, I am not complaining about my life, but do trust someone PAINFULLY older than you- regret is a worse feeling than almost anything. If you had not taken this opportunity, but had instead continued your lives as usual, buying what you like, and banking savings, you’d always wonder… but you can’t go back, sweetie!
    You’ve been brave, and made a choice you were lucky to be able to make, so now it’s time to plunge into your life in Paris, knowing that all will be well.
    We are all brief blips of consciousness on this planet; how wonderful to use your time exploring the world and your passions. It took me a long time to learn that. Bon Appetit!!
    (and think of somewhere fantastic you’d like to go for dinner- we want to take you out to celebrate your wedding- all Parisian options are on the table, from Cafe de Flore to Le Grand Vefour (that one might have to be lunch, though!)

  • Kasia Monday 29 August 2011, 09:20

    Sandy I know how you feel – its how I’m feeling now too, trying to figure out what to do with my life…I’m desperately unhappy with the choices I’ve made (career-wise) and wish I had been braver in the past to pursue what I actually wanted deep down. And know that I’m going to try, seeing how much its going to cost – I feel worried that its unfair when I have a family and the sacrifices they will have to make just for my desires.

    But your and Alex’s bravery (as well as Carli’s) has inspired me to just try. Because I think that Lori is right – I think that regret would be way worse, way more painful in the long run that any debt (which I know you won’t really accumulate) or use of savings will be. To be honest, its the regrets I have that keep me awake at night, not the scary decisions.

    You will NEVER have to say or think “I really wish I had done that,” like so many people out there will and do. When you are eighty are you REALLY going to look back on your life and say “I wish I was married at city hall?” Life is about living in the NOW not the LATER. Which I know you know (because you do it better than ANYONE I know) – but I also know that sometimes you (and I) need to be reminded of that.

    Plus, all your friends love you – you have so much “friendship credit” out there you’re probably good till you retire any how :).

  • Tracy Monday 29 August 2011, 12:23

    Sandy-ji! I’m so happy to hear you’ve made it to Paris all married and safe. Take it from someone who just blew her savings to go to India to learn Hindi all for a job she was only sort of sure she could get (all with thousands and thousands of dollars in student loan debt hanging over her head)… you’re making good choices. They feel totally crazy and scary. And it’s ok to panic now and again. But truly, the scariest things you do in life are almost always the best. I totally get how the finances of it all can be crippling at times. As others have said, though, it will work out. You’re young and capable. And I can’t imagine that you don’t have a cadre of family and friends who would support you if all went to hell (which it won’t… but in the midst of panic it’s good to remind yourself that you won’t go homeless). I’m so jealous of this adventure you’re beginning! It’s going to be rewarding in ways you haven’t even dreamed of yet. :)

  • Jenn Stark Monday 29 August 2011, 14:02

    Sandy, so much of what you wrote is exactly what I would have written a few years ago when Dave and I were in almost the same situation…… like everyone has said, you won’t regret having done this, life is about living and the experiences, but I do totally understand the pressure of it all…… big hugs xoxo

  • mango Monday 29 August 2011, 14:08

    Wow, thank you so much everyone for your kind words! These words have helped me calm down, walk into Le Cordon Bleu today with happiness (and I discovered Blake Lively’s picture on the wall there. That’s another post for another day, but seriously!) and move past the panicky, constantly-nauseous feeling. It’ll be hard for the next year as we try to “re-join” society, so to speak, but your kindness in my time of need has made me feel much more confident about it all. I hope to share happy thoughts and good news here with you, from now on! :) Cheers!

  • Janette Monday 29 August 2011, 22:20

    If there’s one thing I know about you two, is that no one will ever find either of you camping near subway stations hoping for pitiful quarters! I also know as impulsive as your decisions have been, you did give it some thought and that’s really what savings are for! To do the things you want! Soon, in a blink of an eye, you’ll have all these amazing memories and the panic attack never happened!

    Sorry I didn’t catch you when you were in town, let’s catch up soon!


  • Karen B. Thursday 1 September 2011, 04:13

    Cool apartment. I just came back from a year in Quebec City. Not sure if you knew. I lived in Paris for a year in high school (the year before we met). Among other things that year was mentally anguishing for me too, but you know what? I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Chin up.

    Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse.

    Maybe we can catch up when I go visit my grandparents.

    You’ll do great.

    • mango Saturday 3 September 2011, 21:17

      Thanks Karen – you’ll have to let me know if you come out this way!!

  • Amy Saturday 17 September 2011, 06:35

    Hi Sandy,

    I think it is extremely brave of you to take a leap of faith to do something that you’ve been dreaming of. Yes, it is scary but most difficult things are. Not a lot of people would take such a gigantic step so take pride in that. Everything will work out in the end – you can always make more money. These memories will last a lifetime.

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