Today marks two months in Israel. I thought hitting the one-month mark was really something, as I had been battling the highs and the lows. October has certainly been much smoother than September was. Now that I have finally settled into teaching, I have something that truly keeps me going.
If I was in Massachusetts right now, there would be nothing for me there. Apart from some friends and the children that I nannied and babysat for, what did I have in Massachusetts that would have made me stay? I don’t have a boyfriend, fiancé or husband. I have no children. The only things I really left behind were the English language and a living wage. I can deal with that. Being in Israel allowed me to get away and to make good choices so that I can try and improve my résumé when I go back to Massachusetts next June. I know that the choice to give up my somewhat cushy life in the States has meant that I have had to take risks and be different than the way I was in college and in London. This is something that I think about constantly and am aware of since I moved here.
I moved to Israel so that I could stop being me. I needed a fresh start where I could be anyone or anything that I wanted. No one in Israel knows where I came from or who I was before. If I so choose, I can be a different person every week. But what could I possibly have to run from?
This was me my junior year of college in 2010. The ceremony was for my induction into Pi Gamma Mu, the international honor society in the social sciences. Admission into PGM requires a certain GPA in the social sciences, a certain GPA overall and a commitment to community service and social justice. On this day, my best friend, Cassie had spoken to my father about her experience studying abroad in Spain the previous summer. Whatever she said convinced him to allow me to start the application process to study abroad in London for the upcoming semester. While I am proud of myself for making it into PGM and eventually getting into a study abroad program in London, these accomplishments—to my college, anyway—meant nothing. For a college that was founded as a school for kindergarten teachers, the focus on education has waned. Academics meant nothing at my college. Making the Dean’s List a whopping three times (and later graduating with a 3.63 GPA), while balancing work as an Assistant Teacher at a daycare and as an intern at political organizations, was fruitless in the end. Being smart did not get me the job as an Orientation Leader, Writing Consultant (twice), Summer Bridge helper, Resident Assistant or any of the other various positions I applied for in college. Image was the only thing that mattered and the image of the skinny, big-breasted bimbo who lived off of Daddy’s money was not something I could attain. I thought that things would change in London, but they didn’t. Being educated about children and their well-being was lost on the interns in my program. Caring about issues that had no effect on my life made me sound crazy. I eventually just tried to make myself as small as possible.
It’s always seemed like I’ve never been good enough for anybody, be it my immediate family, the administration at my college or the interns in London: not skinny enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not chilled out enough. I am tired of not being enough. I need that part of my life to be over. At least here in Israel, there’s nothing that will make me feel like as much of a failure as I felt during my four years of college, my one semester in London or during the past two years of working as a nanny where I’ve been told from some people in my family that I need a “real job.” Israel has allowed me to start over.
As I think about how I’ve knocked out another month, I am reminded of the many things that I have seen, done and learned since I hit the one-month mark. I went to my first Bar Mitzvah. I can read eight Hebrew letters now. I continue to learn more Hebrew from my students and from Israelis. I am always in awe of Israeli hospitality and have experienced it many times. I had my first Shabbat dinner away from my apartment and it was a terrific meal that was hosted by one of my students. I have lost eight pounds through eating better and walking. I continue to learn more from my cohort and I hope that they are learning from me.
I may have gotten through another month, but I have to keep telling myself that this experience in Israel is not a race. Even still, I am interested in winning this new life. I win the shortest-commute-to-school race. I win the writing-for-an-Israeli-blog race. I win the Wi-Fi-actually-working-in-my-room race. When someone else appears to be winning, things don’t seem like a race at all. For me, at least, being kind is even better than winning and I hope that I’m planting ideas into my students’ heads that will become their own inner voices.
I spend my days now trying to hear my students’ voices, the ones that, when I feel like I need to hurry, tell me that I really don’t need to. Today is rarely a race.
I will admit, though, this experience still leaves me wanting to cross the finish line.