More than once I turned down the opportunity of fortune or, let’s say, a certain financial security. Here are three examples. The first was with Paris Vision. The owner, Mr. Georges, if I remember his name correctly, offered me a career in the company. With a little determination and my knowledge of languages I knew I could have become an excellent organizer of Paris Vision and earned some good money, but I turned it down. The second opportunity occurred in Australia, at the European School of Languages, in fact. The parents of Rebecca G. ( whose mother, Mrs. G., in order to get to know me, had attended one of my French courses for two years, even though she knew French better than me) wanted to marry me off to their only daughter, and if I had accepted, a villa and half a million dollars would have been included in the package. Rebecca, who taught English at my school, was apparently in love with me but I, unfortunately, was not in love with her. So I turned down this splendid offer. The third occasion also concerned my school. I had somehow, instinctively, turned into a miser, something which had always been totally alien to my nature but which developed once money started to fall into my pockets so easily. Then I would feel a greedy shiver, the call of money demanding more money. I no longer wanted to spend, I just wanted to save, pile it up, put money in the bank. I got to the point where I would even deny myself the purchase of a book that I really wanted! In short, I no longer recognised myself. So I sold the school, putting an end to the temptation to become yet another worshipper of the god of egoism.
How can I describe it? In those days everything came to me easily and naturally. Life just flowed along. I took certain decisions spontaneously and refused to do anything I didn’t want to do. I felt that I had to respect my innate need for freedom, for fulfilment, which meant so much to me; my equilibrium was essential to me and in order not to lose it, I had to be fair and honest with myself first of all, before I could be so with other people. And I managed it. It wasn’t too hard. When I looked at myself in the mirror I wanted to see my soul reflected cleanly, with no stains. This was my life-blood, this was what gave me light and strength, made me walk like my mother with straight shoulders and my head held high. So I made no compromises. There was to be no falsity, no hypocrisy.
However, my achievement was not acquired without costs. The first battle I had to fight was with myself. It was I who had to sort out my identity, I the subject-object that needed to be educated, understood. There is always a struggle between impulse and reason and I had to face this struggle first-hand from a very young age when I decided, first in my mind and then in practice, to leave my home and family. The battle with myself was long and hard. Later, when I began to see results, when I finally felt I was in control of myself, the rest was easy: society, how to earn a living, studying, were easily defeated enemies in comparison, not so tough, more acquiescent.
As for my work, I should say that before being employed at Paris Vision, I had done so many jobs that I lost count in the end. However, once I began to work as a tourist guide the jobs that I did afterwards -interpreter, translator, teacher, writer- stopped being jobs, at least for me. They were fun, a joy, a pleasant exercise of the mind, a continual cultural enrichment, a source of beauty and interest. When I was teaching I am sure I learnt more than the students did. In short, these occupations were more like a holiday than work. If I had had the money I’m sure I would have paid to be able to do them. To put it simply, once I started working for Paris Vision, my life was nothing but a holiday, a holiday that I am still enjoying today.