I go back to Boston in less than one month, but I am conflicted about returning home. As thrilled as I am to have things like a landlord who actually fixes things when they break, cigarette smoke not constantly being blown in my face and earning a living wage, I will miss the weather, my students and the sense of community and love that Israel showers me with on a daily basis. But when I think about what I am going to miss the most, I can say that, without a doubt, what I will miss the most in Israel are my Fellows.
I remember last summer, poking around on my cohort’s Facebook page and looking at the faces of these strangers I’d be living, studying and working with for ten months. I imagined telling them my deepest, darkest secrets. I imagined delving into the things that I still have trouble talking about out loud, even with the people back home who know me best.
Just the thought of that made me tremble.
Talking to my Fellows meant letting walls down that I have done just a terrifically, wonderful job of building up over the past several years. Talking meant laying myself bare, opening up the wrecked mess that is my soul and allowing it to be completely vulnerable. Now don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I didn’t care about my Fellows enough to let them in, but the things that have happened to me in the past have left scars that are much too deep to be healed. I wasn’t about to go around and leave them bare, ready to get hurt again.
Because of the Dandelion, I knew what it felt like to feel broken when the people you care about most are not around anymore. At least with my Fellows, even when they aren’t physically here, they’re still in my heart.
This past Friday and Saturday was the final of the three Mifgashim seminars I had been attending since March. Just like after the pain I felt when I had to leave Meitar after the last seminar (see my post “Falling Tears Post Meitar”), leaving this time was not any easier; in fact, it was much harder. Ever since leaving Tel Aviv this past Saturday, loss has announced itself through shameless novelties—the pictures on Facebook or laundry from the seminar hanging around my room. Like a deep bruise, reminders of Mifgashim shock me when I bump against them. I guess they always will. Group discussions are no longer a prelude to long days and without the fabulous people I met through Mifgashim, my heart is empty. There have been subtle changes too, like less of a spring in my step or the absence of a song from someone’s cell phone I’d only vaguely been aware of.
Nostalgia pulls me into Mifgashim joy as I view the pictures one of the girls there took. Anxiety pushes me hard into tomorrow too, and I miss the improv sessions in Tel Hai, the amazing Shabbat hospitality at the second seminar and playing Ride That Pony on Saturday. Currently it feels as if I’m living forward and backward at the same time, excavating details from the past while trying to figure out what to do next and barely being able to think clearly at all. I am paralyzed by simple decisions, confused with easy directions and forgetful of important details. And I can’t stop thinking about the fact that I do miss these people and knowing that I will probably never see the majority of them again.
Add to all of this with the very unyielding realization that when I feel like I might collapse from the pressure of another day, I know it isn’t wise to add to the heft of tomorrow’s sadness. And yet, I do.
I ran for the hills after this most recent Mifgashim seminar because I was getting emotional. As I was in Tel Aviv, I managed to find a bus stop that would take me to Netanya once I hit the main road. As I was waiting for a bus, my Fellow, Shelly, showed up. I was surprised to see her as I had thought she had been getting a ride to the train station nearby. She said she wasn’t sure where I was and if she was supposed to wait for me. I told her I left because I was emotional and she asked if I was still emotional. I began to cry. Shelly hadn’t seen me cry since September, so I felt a bit embarrassed. She knew what was wrong—even if I felt what I was crying over was stupid—without me saying anything. She talked to me the entire bus ride home and she helped me calm down considerably. She understood my concerns, said what I was feeling was normal and that moving forward was the right thing to do. After getting back to Netanya, I bumped into my Fellow, Scott, and he asked me if I wanted to watch my “Daria” DVD’s. I was tired, but I needed a pick-me-up. Watching “Daria” helped me immensely and took my mind off of my sorrows. As much as I wanted to desperately talk to three of the five Fellows who were still away in Poland on a Masa delegation, I knew that even without them in Netanya, I could use their lessons to help me persevere through the pain. I still use my Fellow, Josh’s, three-day period of grieving over events that leave me broken and have found that to be a workable amount of time to mourn. I know that without that advice, I wouldn’t be able to pick up the pieces.
Each of my Fellows brings something different to the table and all twenty-five of them have impacted me in various ways. They are not perfect—I’m not, either—but without them, I could not have made it this far. There have been arguments and tears because of them and even though I have times where I dwell on the tough aspects of this ramshackle building that we live in, I mostly remember the good that they all embody. I know once I go home that I’m going to be gloomy because it will be hard to find people like them who can give me the kind of happiness that they do.
I think about Debbie helping me to run, Sam’s knowledge of lacrosse, Ethan’s passion for Bruce Springsteen, Josh’s tough love, Gili’s translations, Shelly dealing with my tears, Megan’s boy advice, dinners with Mhaya, Lauren checking up on me when boys have too much chutzpah, Alisa’s financial help, Brandon telling me to teach him how to Taylor, Brian for taking my students when I need a break, Jade for chatting with me when she’d rather be sleeping, Leah for her Google help, Samantha for being my gym trainer, Aliyah for going out of her way to knit two blankets for my Katniss Everdeen Barbie doll, Yana for the hand-me-downs, Dascher for being a ray of sunshine, Stephanie for the krav maga tips, Sara for her humor, Michael for the literature help, Scott for watching random shows and movies with, Zach for dealing with the stray cat that refuses to leave our building, Seth for his songs and Sally for being quiet when I’m sick. I won’t take these memories for granted.
My Fellows are awesome. And not in the casual way it gets tossed around, but in the truest sense of the word. AWESOME. It has been nothing short of amazing to witness them grow and to see them blossom in ordinary, yet marvelous ways. I catch myself wondering whether, all along, they had been sitting out there in my future, waiting for me to find them. I’m so glad I have my Fellows. They have helped me spend life smiling.
*November 15th, 2013, Jerusalem*
My Fellows bring out the best in me. And sometimes the worst, too. But I will skip past the stones and get to the gleam, because life with my Fellows is shiny and good.
If my Fellows cannot see, I’ll smile at them anyway.
If my Fellows cannot hear, I’ll sing to them anyway.
If my Fellows cannot understand, I’ll explain to them anyway.
If my Fellows cannot hug me, I’ll cuddle them anyway.
If my Fellows cannot call me Taylor, I’ll be their Tay-Tay anyway.
And when the Fellows have to leave, they’ll be with me anyway.