But before I tell you more about where I am right now, first, it’s time for a rewind and quick game of catch up. During the two-week span between Eilat and returning home to NJ, I went into crazy mode (or should I say, crazier). This included seeing my family as much as possible, whether it be lunch with Shelly at Waffle Bar and having a goodbye party with my host family (and meeting Ortal’s precious little baby), or meeting my sister at Shuk HaCarmel and spending the day in Caesaria with Raya and Pnina. Luckily, two of my PTK friends were still bopping around TLV, so the girls and I had our fun day at Yaffa and even hit up Neve Tzedek for a last round of games at Gaya. It was nice to relax and eat at as many of those restaurants I'd been googly-eyed at all year as possible, dip my toes in the Mediterranean as much as I could, and just enjoy being alive.
After some inspiring classes, a trip to Terem clinic, and the chance to hang out with Emily who met up with me in Jerusalem (twice- once at Mamilla and once actually to join class for a day), I got some perspective on the life decisions I was making during this critical period of "unknown." .
I know that this isn’t a permanent goodbye to Israel, and that I will be back there to live long-term some day. Something in the air is addicting, and it’s infectious. But, in order to be confident in that decision, I also need to come home and try living the life I envisioned for myself a year ago before all of this happened. My whole life I’ve been trained to be, and wanted to be, a young professional with a solid career and living a post-college lifestyle. And this is my chance to cross yet another feat off my bucket list as I explore the opportunities available to me in DC and the public sector. While every day since I’ve been back has been emotionally bipolar, and I want more than anything to be confident in my decision to work here for the year, I also need to be realistic about the severe reverse culture shock that is unfolding. I’m losing a support system I’ve grown accustomed to falling back on. I’m transitioning from the less academically stressful Israeli teaching environment to a rigorous and demanding work schedule as well as work culture. I am losing the comforts of Judaism everywhere I turn. I am beyond thankful that dryers and ice-coffee are standard American luxuries, but right now I’m having trouble adjusting to life here despite the instant gratifications of society.
I cannot place the experiences I've had this past year in a picture frame on the wall as a past, passive life event. The memories and lessons I've carried with me are relevant in my every day life and to who I am as a person. Hence, I need to find ways to keep the values and passions that I've developed alive, and re-integrate them into a new life here rather than ignore them and pick up the life I left here after graduation in May 2015. It's great that I'm returning to a familiar environment that I love, but I also need to be hyperaware that I am coming back a changed woman (sounds much more dramatic than intended unfortunately). The mannerisms, cultural aspects, and loves I found throughout the year are, for better or for worse, part of who I am now. And the next challenge will be noticing these changes and then daring to embrace them.
Finally, before I end the last chapter to this year-long saga, I want to extend thanks and appreciation at a level beyond which even I can comprehend. For whatever reason, I fell out of character and decided to pursue this path last year. To most people, it came as a shock and a deviation from the normalized post-college career route that I had been yearning to fulfill my entire life. So with hesitation but a desire for adventure, I made a decision to move to Israel for the year with lots of unknowns on the table. And trust me, it came with many doubts- social, cultural, religious, economic, political, occupational, etc. And yet, who only knows why/how I was lucky enough to deserve friends who were there every step to assuage these doubts. And the unwavering heartfelt support continued throughout my journey and, for this courage you lent me, I am forever grateful. I can safely say to this day I've lived my life without any regret and fulfilled a lifelong necessity I didn't even know I was lacking.
Unfortunately, no matter where I decide to make my next home, I will be leaving behind people I love and connections I treasure. However, I need to focus on continuing to live in the present (throwback to one of my first goals in Israel), and take every day for what it is and choose to focus on the blessings in my life. So, with another giant question mark up in the air as I continue to start living, I want to press pause on the process of piecing together Petah Tikva, with the knowledge that I will be back for more.