Picture it. Boston, July 4th, 2018. A hot day when transplants to Boston want to go out, get drunk and watch the fireworks which symbolize the United States escaping British rule. I, as a Bostonian, born and raised, take no such part in this revelry because no sane Bostonian would deal with those crowds if they could avoid it. As the (then) owner of a childcare business, I would be expected to work; Hell, I wanted to work. Getting paid to raid the fridge, watch TV and catch up on a book or grad school homework? No one would turn that down. The mother of a toddler I looked after, Ronan, had asked me if I would be willing to watch him and another little girl, Blair, who was the daughter of Ronan’s mother’s co-worker. I agreed since I wanted to work and the pay would be $30 an hour. I made my way to Boston from Somerville, trudged up the five flights of stairs, chatted with the parents and then they left for a party. I fed the kids and they played with toys. They made a mess. I changed them into their jammies. I put Ronan in the playpen to sleep and then put Blair in her crib. Eventually, they both fell asleep and now I could relax, or so I thought.
I started to read The Color Of Water, a book I had been required to read in high school. Now being older I could appreciate it more. I was fully invested in the book when I heard my phone ring. It was Dan, my boyfriend at the time. Anyone who has read this blog knows that Dan was an awful boyfriend. And while I referenced this night in my post “Towels On The Judaica And Dreams,” it was much worse than I wrote back then. Dan was slurring when he called since he had been drinking. I wanted the call to end because he said awful things while drunk and I also wanted to get back to my book.
Dan was asking if I would attend a rugby tournament of his in November. I never understood rugby and found it boring, but I did go to the games and afterparties out of support for Dan, even at the expense of time when I could have been working. I asked him where the tournament was and he said Chicago. I immediately said no. I had already been to Chicago before, I did not know my way around there and there would be nothing to do while he went off with his friends. Losing a babysitting shift for something in Boston was one thing; now to lose multiple shifts and pay for the airfare on my salary as an hourly worker and full-time graduate student? This was not going to happen. I also had a wedding to attend in Israel that same month for my close friend Adina and that was something that I had been saving up for since Adina had announced her engagement in 2017. I would not be able to even really enjoy the trip because I would have to leave on a Thursday evening, arrive the following Friday afternoon, be back on a plane Monday night and then would land in Boston at 6:00 AM on Tuesday morning and be at work for an 8:00 AM shift. This was the only way to do the wedding and not miss class. Dan kept asking to go to Chicago until I finally said yes, although I did not mean it; I just wanted the conversation to end. I told him I better not miss class for this since I already had to keep my Israel trip short for Adina’s wedding. And then he said the words that should have resulted in an automatic breakup, although I was too much in shock to say anything.
Your master’s degree doesn’t matter.
He hurled the words at me like handfuls of mud. I could have let the frustration and anger manifest itself in a sudden burst of my own irritability but instead I chose to keep quiet and let the words hang in the air so I could try and brush them off. Dan went on to say that experience mattered more to employers than a master’s degree, that I could miss class and “just get the notes” because no company in the world cared about seeing a 4.0 GPA. I truly do not remember who hung up first.
I could not concentrate on my book any longer so I did some extra housework and put away the kiddie toys. Although these kids and the other ones I watched were not typically siphoned in such a calamitous style, my job as a domestic operative always left me without one spare atom of energy; however, minus the absolute exhaustion of the job, of keeping kids alive, doing chores and dealing with request after request, the domestic dash was always marked by wonder. I remained calm with the thought that the kids were almost always well-behaved for me and that they were wonderful. They were curious and smart and healthy and sweet. These kids kept me from sinking into the place where I would wonder if this job was destined to be my life forever, instead of achieving my dream of doing something in Israel advocacy. After my shift ended, my clients paid me well and expressed their thanks. But I am pretty sure I should have been thanking them.
Life went on. It was only a few weeks after that awful phone call that I was off to Ireland for one of my graduate school classes. My graduate school, Suffolk University, held a travel seminar every summer in which students in the Business School (although graduate students outside of the Business School could attend as well) would go to Ireland to compare a public policy there to one in Massachusetts. I had read about the trip in an email back during the Spring semester and decided to inquire about it. I am of Irish descent and I wanted to learn about that part of me. I had been a bit nervous about the subject of public policy as I had once withdrawn from a graduate school program (at a different school) in public policy. Of course, in typical “Taylor” fashion, I needed to make this class relate to Israel somehow. I knew about—although I did not understand why—that Ireland was hostile to Israel. I went to an information session with the professor in charge, along with other interested students. He said it was great to see someone in another discipline be interested and asked what I wanted to study. All I said was that I was trying to achieve a job in Israel advocacy and that I knew Ireland and Israel had tension so I wanted to work that angle. The professor sat on it and eventually came up with the idea in which I would explore how the United States/Massachusetts work with Israel compared to the European Union/Ireland work with Israel, the former of course being stronger. I had also written a letter for a $1,500 scholarship for the course in which I explained why I was taking the course and why I needed the money. Perhaps the Committee liked that I was not a Business School student, that I had a topic in mind they had not seen before and saw how hard I worked to pay for school being self-employed, hourly and working seven days (and often overnights) a week. Whatever it was, I received the full scholarship. A non-Business School student who wanted a job in Israel advocacy, worked all the time and still maintained a 4.0 GPA was paid to go to Ireland.
Ireland was nothing short of a dream come true. From being the Goody-Two-Shoes when I studied abroad in London in 2010 and therefore was not invited to a trip to Dublin with some of my cohort, now being a good (and smart) girl earned me a paid trip to Ireland. The days were long, filled with seminars, lectures, cultural events, meals and gallivanting around the country. I spoke to my classmates who were all outside of my Communication program. I learned their stories. They never disrespected my love for Israel; in fact, they were stunned I took the time and money to study Israel through a public policy lens, an area that I knew very little about. On the final day of the program, I was set to meet with the then-Israeli Ambassador to Ireland, Ambassador Ze’ev Boker. I still remember the look of shock on my face when in a pre-trip seminar, the lead professor had put up the list of who each student would be meeting with in Ireland and he had put my name next to Ambassador Boker’s. How he pulled this off was astonishing. The other professor in the class walked with me to the Israeli Embassy as it was close to our hotel. We dropped off our belongings with Security, made our way through the metal detector and bag check and then met with Ambassador Boker and a member of his staff. We discussed our life stories, my time in Israel and the areas where Israel and Ireland worked together. It was a productive meeting, giving me enough information for the paper I had to write for the class. I spoke highly of the meeting with the professor and some of my other classmates during dinner later that evening. The following day it was time to head back to Boston. After checking out of the hotel, I looked at my phone to see how much a ride share would cost; we had a bus fetch us from the airport to the hotel but we were on our own for the way back. One of my classmates, Brian, was standing in the lobby and I asked him if he wanted to split the cost of a ride because it was expensive to pay as one person. Brian said his father was taking him to the airport in a taxi but said I could come along. I said I did not want to impose, but after Brian’s father came up to him, Brian introduced me to him and asked if I could take the taxi with them. He happily agreed. As we sat in the taxi, I remained quiet. Brian randomly blurted out to his father, “Dad, Taylor had the coolest project! She’s looking at how Ireland and Israel work together and she got to meet the Israeli Ambassador in Ireland!” I sat there in shock, unable to speak. Brian’s father said, “Wow. That’s amazing, young lady.” I quietly said, “Thank you.” A normal person would have been happy to see a rather offbeat topic praised so highly by people they did not know. But instead I just felt sad, knowing my own boyfriend would never say such a thing—and only cared about me buying him Irish alcohol and not anything about what I had learned—and that it was back to realty once I landed on the other side of the pond.
I landed back in Boston that afternoon, but despite the jetlag, I managed to babysit that evening. It certainly helped me sleep enough later that night to get my body clock back on track. Like the good student I was, I finished the paper for my Ireland course, and received an “A” for both the paper and the course. Fall semester commenced normally. I still ran my babysitting business and earned an “A” in every class but Dan was never supportive as usual. When I flew to Israel in November for Adina’s wedding, I barely texted Dan as I knew he would not care. But being a good girlfriend, I still bought him a bottle of wine. As the Spring semester began in January of 2019, I became nervous. It was only a few months until graduation and I still had no job prospects lined up because I refused to settle for anything less than a job in Israel advocacy. I was also violently sick with pneumonia that almost killed me. To add insult to injury, Dan and I constantly argued. He yelled at me for working New Year’s Eve (despite him never mentioning that he wanted to do something that evening and I always choose to work that night because the money is phenomenal) but once I told him that he could tell me how many hours I can work if he began to pay my bills, he never brought it up again. We also fought when he told me I could not talk about my love for Israel because I “[wasn’t] getting paid for it.” Another red flag I had ignored.
Our biggest blow-up—prior to our breakup in July of 2019—was a few weeks before my graduation. As he was dropping me off at a babysitting shift, he mentioned a friend of his from his rugby team worked in Public Relations and perhaps he had something open at his company. I emailed Dan my résumé—which I had paid to have redone and it looked beautiful—but all he responded with was that I needed to put my job at the top as opposed to my master’s degree program. There had never been a single professional who told me to put my work above my education. It would be one thing if I was applying for an education position where my job as the owner of a childcare business would be appropriate. Why would this job title mean anything to someone in Public Relations? My master’s degree program had the Public Relations focus, not my job. I made a new résumé with the changes and sent it off to Dan. He texted me around 1AM a few evenings later, saying how if I wanted a job, I needed to stop working so many shifts and to network more. I told him that, for the record, I turned down a well-paying shift that Friday in order to attend a networking thing (which in reality was a reunion for the Ireland class and a chance to talk to the next cohort). I was about to go to bed until he said how he “didn’t want to be rude, but no employer would ever care about [my] grades or graduate school education” and that he was worried I would rely on him financially once I graduated. He never paid for anything for me. I paid all my own bills: rent, utilities, food, transportation, the rare travel and social activities I did. And, of course, I also paid for being a full-time graduate student without student loans. I ignored it and did not respond when he texted me later that week saying how he sent my information to his friend. When it was Friday, I was watching one of my toddlers as usual. He was a great napper, so I put the baby monitor on and began to watch a movie. Dan texted me since he was on his lunch break. He skipped any pleasantries and asked, “Why haven’t you said thank you for writing to my friend? I put myself on the line for you.” I said, “Because you insulted me by telling me that my grades don’t matter.” He responded with that I was ungrateful and that he would never help me with anything career-related again. Good, I thought. You don’t support what I want to do for a career, anyway. I told him how asinine it was that he thought I would ever need his financial support and how graduating would mean I would have more money; it may not have been with a “real job,” but tuition would not be something to pay anymore. He said we needed to talk that evening, so I told him he was free to come to my apartment because I was not going to his. The Ireland class reunion that evening, which I had been looking forward to for weeks, was now something I dreaded because I looked and felt so pitiful. The pouring rain did not help the situation. I entered the restaurant in Downtown Boston, trying to think of when I had been there the year before inquiring about the Ireland class and now I had completed it. I put on a fake smile, chatted with my classmates and then spoke privately with my professor and one of his friends who was a part of the Boston Police. It took all my strength not to cry as I asked the two of them if they knew of any jobs and how Dan did not support me with anything in my life. The man with the Boston Police said there was a typist position available but that was all he had. I chatted with a student who was going to be doing the class that summer. He was cute, nice and listened with rapt attention as I told him about my Israel project. Like with Brian back in the taxi, here was someone praising me and listening to what I had to say. I have never cheated on a boyfriend, but I will never forgive myself for not giving this guy my number since it was evident Dan wanted to dump me.
I headed back to my apartment shortly thereafter and waited for the inevitable storm to come, and I do not mean the thunderstorm that was already happening in the sky. Dan came over and we went to my bedroom. I sat on my bed as he sat on a chair. He screamed at me, reiterating about how he had been “so helpful” with my career search, that he was not going to come to my graduation and that he wanted to break up. There was a big part of me that wanted to as well, but I still had some things at his apartment and I did not want to get them after breaking up due to the awkwardness and even though he never supported me with anything, I could not have this on my conscience when graduation was a few weeks away. I said I wanted to take a break until graduation. He said he would go out and see other girls (God, I hoped no girl would be as naïve as I was and give him the time of day), but I was not someone to do that and I just meant a break as in no talking. I had my final projects for school to complete. Surprisingly he agreed. After he left, I went to my roommate Kristen’s room and told her what happened. I cried the entire time. That was the first time I ever did that, despite having lived with her for almost two years at the time. She knew every story about Dan, good and bad. She had met him several times and had to deal with him when he was extremely drunk at a restaurant we had gone to with him and another one of our roommates. She had seen how miserable I was and told me so many times to break up with him. But I never listened. For a few days after the blow-up, I just focused on my job and my schoolwork. How much faster I was able to get my work done when I could just be alone. I posted status updates on social media about how I had finished my work. Dan wrote basic texts to me (breaking the no-talking rule) saying congratulations on finishing things. Since he had already broken the rule about not talking, he sent a longer text, saying how he had been doing a lot of thinking, he couldn’t get me out of his mind, asked if I would take him back and that he would be better with letting me talk. My own naivety got the best of me and I agreed. We agreed to meet on a Wednesday evening since I was attending a fundraiser for my second high school and there was a restaurant nearby that I had a coupon for. Although I was underdressed for the fundraiser, I greatly enjoyed seeing my old teachers and letting them know I was about to receive my master’s degree in the coming weeks. Is there anything greater for a teacher knowing that their student had achieved something so big? I met up with Dan later that night at the restaurant but did not order anything to eat and stayed quiet the entire night. Dan did not push me on it. He drove me to the train station nearby and had mentioned we would be okay but I just shrugged and turned my cheek away when he tried to give me a kiss. I headed back home, continued working insane hours, turned in my final projects and received straight A’s as usual. As my grades trickled in, it became official: I was graduating with a 4.0 GPA. While there were no Latin honors for graduate students, this was still the equivalent of summa cum laude. This was something I never thought I could achieve as the girl who was verbally and physically abused by my mother for ten years, lived in a small apartment with my sister and single father, was bullied from elementary school all through college and while studying abroad (the only exception being my second high school where I was loved), worked overtime while being self-employed for several years and always battling random acute illnesses. Not only had I achieved the feat of attaining a degree that only less than 10% of Americans over the age of 25 have, but I had a perfect GPA. I never had that. Despite this feat, I was still blue.
As the week of my graduation began, I was tired. I was working full days with an infant who had come with his parents from abroad in order to do something for the mother’s job. I stayed at my father’s apartment as it allowed me to walk to their hotel and not have to come in from Somerville. Suffolk was having a ceremony for students who were from marginalized groups and I decided to apply as a Jew. Having seen all the ludicrous arguments over the years that Jews are privileged and never faced any issue outside of the Holocaust, I felt it was my duty to stand up for Jews in the academic world given that quotas used to be put on us and how college administrators will condemn every type of hatred except antisemitism. We were allowed to invite whomever we wanted to the ceremony and reception so I had Adina, Kristen and my best friend Cassie and her mother, Brenda, attend. They cheered when I went up on the stage and spent time mingling with me at the reception. This was the best I could get since all four of them could not attend the actual graduation ceremony that Sunday afternoon. The day before the ceremony, one of my clients was throwing me a party. I had invited the rest of my clients since it would give them a chance to talk to other adults and their kids could play with one another. As I had figured at least a few of them could make it, I did not invite Dan because he never liked being around kids and I wanted to spare him. I thought this was the better choice but then he was angry with me for not inviting him. I said I was just trying to save him from being around a bunch of children but if he wanted to attend then he could. I took a rideshare out to Medford to pick up my custom cake at Wegmans and while there, I remember seeing some corsages in the floral section. I had mentioned to Dan how I had wanted a corsage (and an Amazon gift card) when he (before our blow-up) had asked what I wanted for a graduation present. As I had gone to my senior Prom with a girl, I never had the chance to wear a corsage and this was the next best thing. I smiled, thinking I was finally going to have my chance. After fetching my cake, I took a rideshare to my clients’ house, brought the cake inside and set up the decorations I bought earlier that week. In the kitchen were some snacks, a bottle of champagne and a bouquet of flowers. None of my other clients could make it to the party so it was just Dan, me, my dad, the husband and wife and their two boys. We had a nice time, although it was tense with Dan being there. I mentioned to Dan about the beautiful corsages I saw at Wegmans and how it would be great to wear one at the ceremony the following day but he just replied he was not going to bother going there because he had a ticket to a beer event that night. When the party was over, I packed up the decorations and goodies and Dan drove me home. I dropped off everything and then went to babysit that evening. I am sure that normal people have fancy dinners the night before a graduation but I went to babysit. Dan had texted me that evening and I already knew he was drunk. He kept saying how the night was beautiful and that I should take a walk. I mentioned that it was evening and the toddler was sleeping. He said, with complete seriousness, to just leave the toddler sleeping and leave the house for a walk. I told him that that was not possible and to please not go overboard with the drinking because the ceremony was going be long in the afternoon. I did not need this stress and left my phone alone while I waited for my shift to end.
My graduation was May 19th, 2019. It rained that morning and I was worried about all my regalia being ruined. I missed the bus to the train station so I took a rideshare to the Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion where the ceremony was. Despite these stressors, I was thrilled that the graduate students would receive their diplomas first. I made my way to the stage when my name was called, waived to my advisor on stage and then had my hood placed over my head. After heading back down the other stairs, I waited in my seat as Dan kept texting me asking when we could leave. I thought it was rude to leave early, so I sat through the entire ceremony. I turned the tassel on my cap from right to left when it was time and tossed my cap into the air when all the students were inaugurated into the Class of 2019. Eventually I met up with Dan, my father and his girlfriend, Margot. We took a rideshare to a nearby Legal Seafoods, had a late lunch, sent Margot home in a rideshare and then walked around the North End. Dan came back to my apartment later that night so he could watch something in my iPad. I made it an early night since I had to work at 7:30AM the next couple of weeks. I wish I could have partied after the culmination of 20 months of schoolwork but work called. When I showed up to work, my client had a big bag on the table. It contained two beautiful pillows with a leaf pattern on them and $60 worth of Dunkin’ gifts cards. I was beyond appreciative but also a little down, wondering why a client, who had no obligation to me except to pay me for keeping her children alive, cared more about my graduation than my own boyfriend. His only gift to me was a bouquet of flowers. While those were beautiful, they should have been in addition to a gift. My father gave me flowers in addition to the lunch, sporadic dinners, printing my assignments at his office so I could save my printing allowance and money on the very, very rare chance I asked for it. When I casually asked Dan where my present was, he answered with, “My presence was your present.” Luckily for me my “present” came a few months later in July when we broke up. That night was one of the most emotionally draining conversations I have ever had with anyone. I read him three pages worth of grievances I had never had the chance to say. My final question to him was about why he had made fun of my master’s degree for so long but never chastised his sister for getting a doctorate, which was not only a longer and more intense program but also had her move to Israel for it. He said, “Because she’s studying a real science.” Of all the insults he had ever directed at me, being told my Communication degree—withs its 4.0 GPA—was not “real,” is probably the worst thing he had ever said to me. I left shortly thereafter. Eighteen months of my life I would never get back. I may have had my master’s degree for being book smart, but I sure as Hell was not smart enough to have dumped him earlier.
I spent the rest of 2019 still working as the owner of my babysitting business, joined the Israeli-American Council’s EDGE program (see my post “Edge of IAC”), attended all the Jewish/Israeli events I could and was finally able to take a Fuel For Truth class so I could learn debate techniques around Israel. In mid-December, I attended an EDGE event and mentioned to some of the members of the IAC’s Boston chapter how I wanted a job in Israel advocacy. They pulled me aside later that evening and after getting their contact information, I sent them my résumé after they emailed me. To my surprise I landed an interview. The job was for part-time event planning. One of the women at the IAC, Karen, was impressed with my media analysis background and said if I did not end up at that job, she would still love it if I volunteered in the Media Room as Mentor beginning in 2020. I would be helping teenagers identify antisemitic tropes online. While the position did not pay, it did include free dinner, would look amazing on a résumé and could lead to something bigger. I did not get the event planning job but still agreed to try out the Mentor role. I absolutely loved it. What joy and intelligence these teenagers had, making me feel merry and bright. Karen had asked me to give a presentation on the different kinds of social media platforms and all I had to do was refer to my very first assignment in graduate school. I gave a 30-minute presentation and none of the teenagers looked at their phones! I was funny and charming. I was on. Doing that gig a few times a month was an absolute treat. I was still tired from work but this gig got me through the days, along with my Fuel For Truth sessions.
Then COVID-19 broke the world in March of 2020.
Compared to many people in the world, I was one of the luckier people when it came to COVID-19. I still worked, although my client base went from 25+ to one-three clients part time. I had enough money saved to not have to ask my father for any assistance. I had a big house and never felt cramped. I had streaming services. I had books. I was not stuck with a spouse and I am childfree. Kristen and I had dinner together at home almost every night which was much different than the first two years we lived together and barely saw each other since we both had school and worked all the time. As far as I knew, I never had COVID-19. I enjoyed not working so much, although it was weird to have all this free time that could have been used for all the social events I missed out on due to always working and being in school and not having anything open. As the seventh anniversary of me having moved to Israel came about in August, a message had popped up in the WhatsApp chat for the IAC EDGE group. The woman posted about two job positions at her company, the Consulate General of Israel to New England in Boston. I was hesitant to apply as I had once applied for a different job there a couple of years before and had never heard back and it was not exactly like jobs were bending over backwards to recruit me. I lamented about this on Facebook, referencing Dan and how he always said my master’s degree was useless and that now I was worried he was right. Still, I decided I could try again. I attached my résumé, wrote a cover letter and sent it off to the job site. To my surprise, I heard back a few days later. They set up a Zoom call and I interviewed with some of the staff. I then had two more Zoom interviews, one being with Ambassador Boker, who had begun a two-year term in Boston as the Consul General (and I was able to use our meeting in Ireland two years prior as a leg-up in the interview process) and another with the incoming Consul General, Ambassador Meron Reuben, did a writing assignment and one in-person security interview. Ambassador Reuben was the first person to ever say how he liked that I did not have the traditional American Jewish experience of a Jewish education and that I learned to love Israel on my own. The hiring process/paperwork took three months. On November 19th, 2020, exactly 18 months since receiving my master’s degree, I was babysitting a two-year-old girl and were dancing to Eden Alene. The Consulate called me in the middle of the song. I exchanged pleasantries and then the woman on the phone said that my paperwork was… approved. I began exclaiming “Oh, my God!” over and over. I told her I could start the next week on Monday as I needed a few days to process what just happened. After hanging up, I jumped up and down with the little girl. I told Adina, Kristen and my father about it and they were happy. I began my job as one of the two Directors of Academic Affairs on November 23rd. My Facebook post about it was my most-liked of all time and my second-most liked Instagram picture. I have worked fully remote. I have worked hybrid. I have worked in-person. I worked with adults. I had a salary. I ate lunch with two hands. I wore nice clothes. I had set hours with occasional overtime. But most importantly, I was paid to talk about Israel. I obtained this job six-and-a-half years after returning from Israel. I never settled for any other job. I made every assignment at Suffolk about Israel/Judaism and defended both proudly.
I remained in my position for almost three years but resigned for medical reasons.
Although leaving childcare was hard, my time at the Consulate felt like a second chance. It was an opportunity to grow and mature, instead of being stuck in the past. The part of me that is not so brave as I wish I could be was glad that I had my colleagues and supervisors as I worked in the pro-Israel world.
I used to ask myself what the point of a 4.0 was when Dan said it was useless. My 4.0 meant learning, networking, being the starting point towards the light at the end of the tunnel of obtaining an Israel advocacy job and having a number that no one could take away from me.
Those were the points of a 4.0.