One of my favourite quotes reads “F-E-A-R has two meanings: Forget Everything And Run or Face Everything And Rise. The choice is yours”. These few words have stuck with me throughout my au pair experience because I find it relates a lot to many situations you go through as an au pair. It’s easy to read it and tell yourself that you would choose to face your fears, but the hard part is when it becomes a reality. You have to choose which path to take.
I remember standing at the airport gates like it was yesterday. I was hesitant to leave, and even though nearly every part of me wanted to just go back home with my family, there was one small nerve that was telling me to go. So, I went.
People always say life is like a rollercoaster, but they’re wrong. Life is one big carnival adventure with a variety of rides, some smaller and maybe less scary but significant nonetheless. Others, however, are big, like this one. It was scary and looked like something that I might not be able to handle, but a part of you will always want to still go on it. The ride starts off slow where you’re still trying to find your feet, you’re not sure what’s going to happen ahead. There’s no going back now. When you’re slowly reaching the peak, you feel the anxiety and the homesickness. That is the moment you want to get off the ride and go back to the security of your comfort zone, but little do you know the best parts are yet to come. You eventually reach the very top; from that moment, everything happens within the blink of an eye. You will feel the adrenaline and the excitement and the fear all at once, you will feel freer than ever before, and you will never want it to end.
There’s nothing perfect about being an au pair, you will make mistakes. There will be days where you’ll feel like you’ve cried more tears than ever before, but there will be more days where you will feel the most euphoric happiness. The best part about this journey is that nothing ever goes according to plan, it’s messy and unpredictable, but you will love it.
You will learn to realize that travelling isn’t about having a set schedule, it is about racing to catch trains and sleeping on a 9-hour bus ride. It is about staying in strange hostels and getting lost in unfamiliar streets. It’s the unique foods you learn to love and the foreign people you find connection with. It’s the fact that even though you haven’t slept for 24 hours, you still couldn’t be any happier.
However, like all rollercoasters, the ride eventually comes to an end. Once you’re home, you’ll be left with memories that will last a lifetime. You will find comfort in the fact that you have friends waiting for you to visit across the world. You will smile when you hear a song and remember the time you sat on the train travelling through the Netherlands and the sun came out for the first time in months. You’ll laugh when you remember the first time you sat on the beach again but this time in a beanie, scarf and three layers of clothing but it was still one of the best beach days. And when it rains again, you will feel the nostalgia of when you walked through the streets of Amsterdam in the unexpected downpour with nothing but a thin jacket and your earphones. You’ll be walking once again in your home town and remember the time you met a 70-year-old lady on the train and talked to her until you reached your destination because she was just as lost as you were. You’ll miss the rigged movement of the plane taking off and the anticipation when you land in a new country. You’ll miss the smell of your favourite bakery and the strong taste of the black coffee. You’ll read about history and think of the day you were standing in front of the Berlin wall and the pain you felt when you saw what was left of it.
You will have your morning coffee and remember the time you sat on the rooftop balcony in Prague in -1-degree weather, where the view was too beautiful to go inside. And when Christmas comes, you won’t care about the presents because you’ll be missing the Christmas markets in London and the festive feeling flowing through the city. You’ll miss the Dutch music that you never quite understood, but you danced to it anyways. You will be proud of yourself when you realize that you once thought every Amsterdam canal looked the same, but by the end of it, the roads felt a bit like home.
You’d think that the worst parts of this whole journey are the downfalls, the tough days and the intense feeling of homesickness, but it is not. The worst part is once you’ve reached the end of the road and you have to say goodbye to a host family that you have come to love like your own, the family that believed in you, the family that helped you grow, the family that made this entire dream possible. Although this ride is over, it’s only one adventure in an entire carnival, waiting to be explored and I can’t wait to once again choose to face everything and rise.
– Tristan Lee