Surviving or Thriving Through The Aliyah Journey

I spent shabbos with the Werners, close family friends who I’ve known since age 7. They had a really difficult aliyah, harder than most people can imagine. Everything unexpected that could have happened did, and there were many moments they thought they’d never find the strength to get through.

It’s been over 5 years since their move.

After shabbos, Mrs. Werner and I found ourselves chatting in the kitchen. “Do you still feel like you’re surviving, or are you thriving?” I asked her. She hesitated. “I think we’re thriving.”

I was awed, and a small tug on my heart challenged me to reply, “Me too!,” but I’m not yet there. I still feel chaotic, like I don’t know what’s happening tomorrow. I still feel exhausted from the emotional roller coaster I’ve been on since landing here.

There are things I don’t talk about. I don’t write sad songs, and I don’t write sad posts, because there is so much to be grateful for, and because I’m living the life I chose!

But last week, I left school and stood outside crying. I had gone on a date that lasted way too long and then spent 4 hours in an Israeli classroom trying so hard to stay patient with myself as I stumbled over my Hebrew and pushed to communicate.

And every so often, I allow myself to wander back to where I was a year ago. I had no job and no idea where I was going to live or what the future held. Before that, I didn’t know what depression was. I could not get out of bed. And when I finally did, I bought clothing and ate junk food. I remember leaning my head on the Western wall and asking Hashem to please give me answers or just take me back to Him. The sense of purposelessness overwhelmed my logic. I could not let go of the darkness.

When, through the mysterious ways Hashem helps me, I found a job and an apartment, some semblance of normal came back, but I was dulled. I couldn’t write songs anymore. Talking to Hashem was harder. Keeping in touch with my family was harder. Everything was mundane.

The longest I’ve lived in one place since coming here is 5 months, and in these past 5 months, I’ve been able to think about more than just survival. I’ve been able to hang up my guitar and make some paintings for the wall. I am finally able to host people, which is high up on my list of priorities for a fulfilling life. It’s such a blessing.

Last week, I began a new job, with hours from 3-11pm. This new transition means a completely new schedule, and having to miss out on many of my friend’s nighttime celebrations, but I love the job, it gives me financial predictability, and I know others have done it, so I’m trying to learn from them.

I ask myself the same question; Am I surviving or thriving? The answer comes with a bit of an ache in my chest. I’m still surviving. With each day, I’m coming closer to thriving, and with each week, I’m learning more about myself, adulting, and the world than I would have ever known staying in Baltimore.

I guess, sometimes, I sugar coat things, because I don’t want people to be discouraged from taking the same path. Making aliyah was one of the best choices I’ve ever made, and I would even do it again, knowing everything it entails.

Now I’m working on softening. I’ve become tough, because that’s what life asked of me, but now I’m asking of myself to be the little girl who wants hugs and a warm bed and knows that life is good in all its complexity.

And I’m learning that life itself is topsy-turvy and balance is a process. I’m learning that dreams morph and grow and shrink and move, and so do I. I crave stability, but in the noise, I’m challenged to find the quiet queen inside me who wipes my tears and holds my hand and has this deep, ageless wisdom that it’s all ok.

About the Author
Batya Miriam Perlman was born in Israel to American parents, and spent the majority of my childhood in Baltimore, surrounded by her 7 younger siblings. She grew up Orthodox, attending a small school down the block, but veered off the typical path by taking the GED at 16 and beginning college that year. Since then, she has graduated with a Bachelors of Science, fulfilled her dream of making aliyah, and currently attends Mayanot Institute of Alternative Medicine, studying Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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