I try to look on my time in France with a positive outlook. It was a big chapter in my life. I learned what it meant to grow up. To stand on my own two feet. Waking up every morning with purpose and a goal. What it meant to feel like nothing and still bounce back.
It’s the ‘nothing‘ part that gets to me. I’m terrified of being ‘nothing‘. It’s a big part of what makes me try. I try out of fear.
Naturally, I suffered a lot of setbacks over there. Shit hit me like a ton of bricks. I’m not afraid to say I crumbled a few times as well. I cried a lot. Gave up occasionally. When i first started my landscaping apprenticeship in Grenoble I doubted everything inside of me. Pascal was my boss. He told me to meet him on my first morning at the work base in a village on the outskirts of the city, the opposite side from where I lived. It was basically a huge farm house with all the equipment in it. He gave me the street name, no postcode.
I don’t know if anyone reading this has ever been to Grenoble but there’s a stretch of motorway ‘La Rocade‘ which is notoriously bad for busy traffic (unbeknownst to me). Maps on my phone showed it to be the quickest route. Nevertheless it stayed true to form. I was late for my first day. After that it was almost like I was doomed to fail.
That first morning on site ‘sur chantier‘ it was pissing down. Bucketing from the high heavens. I got out the van, he handed me a shovel and told me to start digging. To be honest I barely understood a word he said. It was an uncomfortable introduction. I couldn’t even share patter with them. No craic or nothing. What the fuck can you say to your new boss and colleague when your soaked, nervous, confused. Basically a fucking idiot.
Well things never did get any better. I couldn’t overcome my nerves. I couldn’t learn as fast as Pascal wanted (he was an impatient soul) and I couldn’t adapt as quickly as I’d hoped. It wasn’t through lack of trying. Fuck I tried so hard. Every night when I got home I was exhausted. I’d take a shower, make some food and lock myself in my room. I became a bit of a social recluse in order to try and save my energy for the next day. It still wasn’t enough. He used to say to me, in French of course, ‘you’re a fucking retard‘, ‘you have no brain‘, ‘you’re never going to make it in this industry‘. Now I know Scottish men are all supposed to be thick-skinned and able to take some flack. But the truth is I eventually folded. No matter how hard I tried I just wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t even straighten out a surface with a rake. I phoned my dad and asked him ‘how the fuck do you do that?’ and he thought I was taking the piss. I woke up one morning and couldn’t face the day. I broke down and cried like fuck. Then he sacked me. I cost him too much money. I still fucking hate that guy to this day.
I knew I needed a different environment. Another company who would understand my situation and give me the confidence to succeed. Who would work with me on a more consistent level. It was Damien who gave me a chance. I was so grateful for it. My confidence grew and I started to improve. I was getting somewhere. I could use a rake competently! And we had a good team. Damiens dad Christian, my big mate Chaon from Tahiti and my wee bro David ‘mon frère’. I loved these boys along with every day I worked there. I miss them all the time and I hope I’ll go back to see them soon. This is where I learned so much about life. What it takes to make it in the profession. About dedication. About family. About being happy. I developed a new work ethic. It inspired me to be better. My only regret is that I never had the chance to stay longer and learn more from them.
Unfortunately things broke down in my personal life. My relationship broke down. I was hurting a lot. Being alone in a foreign country on apprentice wages meant I couldn’t really stay. I wanted to go home. I had no car and would’ve ended up homeless. For whatever reason it just wasn’t meant to be.
It’s been seven months now. A long and slow rebuilding process in my mind, within my surroundings and in my work. But I’m on the right track now. I’m back at college. Continuing my landscaping studies albeit on a more theoretically based course. There is some practical work however, and I’ll be doing my own work on the side alongside that. I’m getting my own van soon. My own equipment. And I met someone too. I’m smitten. What a darling. She’s helped me to realise its okay to take the foot off the gas once in a while. To relax. Easier said than done putting this into action but it’s a working progress and something I dedicate some effort to every day. All I know is it’s all just a part of bouncing back. Showing that French tadger Pascal that I am going to make it.. That there is a brain in here.. and it’s getting stronger. Ready to succeed.
Ciao for now.. Troops X
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