To My Dear Sons,
Lately, young people have been asking my advice, as if I knew something. (This cracks me up. As you get older, the wisest thing about you is that you realize there’s a huge pile of stuff you don’t know.)
How can I possibly know what choices a college kid should make for a future that changes as quickly as spring weather?
Usually, their questions come in the form of a dilemma between this choice and that: Shall I go back to America and finish my degree, or take a two-year course in Israel getting to know the land? Should I choose Psychology (which I think will earn a living) or Art (which I love)? What if I make the wrong choice?
I really only have a few pieces of advice — and no answers.
- Apart from certain decisions (that still have the value of teaching you something), there are few “wrong choices.”
- You are young. It is a good time for experiments. You can always change paths. Very little is written in stone when you are twenty.
- Your particular mission on the Earth is designed just for you; and your special talents and interests will be part of its successful fulfillment.
- Think of ways to combine the various things that you are good at. Especially in the “Wild West” of Israel, it is still possible to build a brand-new profession for yourself, combining your talents. People might just say: “Wow! How did we ever do without an English-speaking nature therapist?”
- Do what you love. I can’t promise you that the money will follow. But I can tell you that you will probably be happier spending eight hours a day doing something you truly enjoy for less money, than you will be doing something you loathe for more. Your work day is a third or more of your 24 hours. Make it count.
- Ask G-d’s opinion. There are great benefits in remembering that you work for The Front Office, no matter what is your job. Be proud of the path you choose. Find the mitzvah inside it.
- The most important piece of advice I can give you is to adamantly refuse to give up on your dreams, no matter what the naysayers do to convince you of their impracticality.
When your father and I first visited Israel in 1991, we met with a representative of an aliyah agency. He counseled us: “Don’t even think of making aliyah unless you have a hundred-thousand dollars cash!”
We didn’t. Not being terribly brave about uprooting our lives, financially-wobbly as they already were, we stayed in America. We struggled to pay American tuition, to pay our mortgage, to find meaning in our lives. I know that Hashem wanted us there those 16 years. No experience is wasted.
But we often wonder what might have been had we not listened to that particular dream crusher.
Sixteen years later, we made aliyah without $100,000. We have learned what is important to us. We have tailored our still-meager income toward the things that truly make us happy. And neither of us is doing what we trained to do back in college. But we are doing what we love.
Our mistakes were life lessons, without which we couldn’t give anyone guidance, and without which we wouldn’t know how very happy we are. Our choices, collectively, helped to make us who and what we are now — and we like to think that our unique blend of talents has added to the fabric of our beloved Israel.