I always believed myself to be a particularly persistent person...sometimes to a fault. Sometimes in situations where I would have been better off to let go, not try so hard.

Fortunately, I have learned from past mistakes. When I decided to come to Israel for the year, it was on a fully funded, educators’ program, with the expectation that I return to the U.S. to teach for 2 years as well as obligations within the program itself. This was my ticket to freedom, a way to escape a work situation that didn’t quite fit and the perfect thing to bring me to Israel, which is ultimately what I wanted.

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I struggled a lot with myself the first semester at school...trying on classes that didn't fit, trying to mold myself into someone who enjoys being inside studying for 8-plus hours a day. It was hard to discern at first my true feelings about the situation, because I was surrounded by people whose joy was found in academics, the rigor of Torah study, their noses buried in the books, hotly debating halacha. And the culture is very much one attuned to academic and Toraitic knowledge, the institution’s values placed on skills and predilections which don't exactly match with mine. I talked to peers, friends, teachers and mentors about my struggles. I battled between my head and my heart. I tried to see how I could make it work, which part of me I could twist and turn in order to fit in. And at some point, I realized I couldn't.


I need to be outside in the sunlight. I need to give my brain a break from processing information. I remember feelings, concepts, experiences, not dates, places and people. I am oriented toward the more "spiritual" side of things (whatever that means), a heart oriented space, a venture of personal freedom, of breaking the chains of preconceived notions, concepts of self and pressures of society I often feel enslaved by.

Don't get me wrong. The school I am at is amazing, with incredible teachers doing pretty unbelievable things for the Jewish people. I've met plenty of geniuses walking the hall, both students and teachers. And the administration has been beyond gracious in helping me reach my decision to shift into a program that better suits me, for which I am extremely grateful. In fact, my respect and affection for not only my cohort, but my program mentors and administrators made it especially hard for me to see clearly my own needs and goals as different from others.

So where to now? I looked back at my list of goals for the year...learn Hebrew, embed myself in Israeli culture, find out if this is really a place where I see myself in the future, and figure out where I want to put my energy and talents in order to make a difference in this world. This is where I'm going. I'm going to explore, find language partners, visit parts of the city tourists don't know about, find some kind of part-time work to sustain myself and continue to take classes at this glorious institution. But on my terms.

I’m now in a place where who I was, who I thought I was going to be, how I was going to support myself and where I was going in the future has completely crumbled before my eyes. This is at once a terrifying and exhilarating experience. I can literally choose who and how I want to be in the world. I’ve realized that it’s so important for me to follow my heart, and to just trust that good will come out of that. I can’t allow myself to be bound by things or people or situations that don’t fit because of fear. It’s not that I’m courageous. It’s just that I’ve gotten to a point where I really can’t not follow my heart, especially when it’s shouting this loudly at me. It's been a scary, bumpy ride to say the least. But I've got my seat belt on, and I'm ready to fly!

May we all have the awareness to know when our situations are not fitting right, and the courage, strength and ability to shift our realities and reach for our dreams :)

Originally from my blog Enlightened Judaism

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