The Road Less Traveled


Author's Note: I wrote this article in 2008 as I was finishing high-school in the American International School in Israel. Although it is already 7 years old, I find that it is still remarkably relevant today. I often find myself thinking back to it every time I am at a new crossroads in life.
I hope you enjoy.
The only time I ever got in trouble at school was when I was in fourth grade. My teacher had asked me to bring a glue stick from the supply room. Obediently, I left the class and set off to complete my simple task. Walking through the long and narrow hallway, I allowed all the repressed non-school related thoughts to flow free out of my mind. The hallway suddenly morphed into a meandering and deserted road. Trees were on either side, billowing softly in the wind. In the foggy distance, I could just make out an alternative path, a fork in the road. Something about this new road caught my attention and roused my curiosity. I had to find out where the path led. After contemplating my options, I took the alternative path despite my ominous feeling. An hour later, I was sitting in the principal’s office, no longer in my daydream, explaining to her why I was in the forbidden janitor’s closet. Given the opportunity to defend myself, I simply could not find the right words to explain my actions. The truth is that I still don’t know what exactly motivated me to make that choice. I usually follow directions. But sometimes, I feel a powerful urge to discover beyond. Six years later, I traveled again down the road less taken, and it changed my life completely.
I had been living in the States for fourteen years in a pleasant and peaceful suburbia in Maryland. Life was busy as I juggled schoolwork, piano lessons, jazz class and ski trips. The world’s problems seemed far from my own as my busy schedule gave me time to focus only on myself. Whenever the work load grew too strenuous, I would remind myself that the ceaseless pattern of repeating activities in my life would change once summer arrived. Summer equaled comfort and relaxation in my mind. I got an indescribable climactic feeling every time we boarded the plane for another annual trip to visit my family in Israel. As an only child, I relished the warmth I felt when I was with my family. Even as a teenager I could not suppress a smile whenever my grandma knitted me a sweater of my favorite colors.
The long awaited summer of 2006 finally arrived. My belongings were packed and I was at the airport exchanging goodbyes with my childhood friends. Two connect flights later, I was finally back on my favorite dry soil. The Israeli sun shone brightly outside as I ran like a child to hug my grandpa waiting at the arrival gate. The first two weeks of our stay at my grandparents’ Haifa home passed just as I had expected them to, carefree and relaxed. But my blissful oblivion was soon shattered.
One day, as we were all sitting around the TV set, watching the news, disaster struck. Two Israeli soldiers had been kidnapped by the Hezbollah, a Lebanese terrorist organization. This event was a catalyst for what quickly developed into the Second Lebanese War. Rockets and missiles were fired towards northern Israel and my grandparents’ house was almost struck. Alarms warning people to go to their bomb shelters were constantly heard, ringing powerfully in my ears long after they stopped. For the first time in my life, I felt vulnerable and unsheltered. I could not grasp how quickly my heavenly Israel had mutated into such a scary place. Whenever I had heard news in the States about terrorist attacks in Israel, I found it easy to drift away from reality and concentrate on my busy life. But eventually, reality caught up with me in the worst possible way. I was completely engulfed in the war and the rest of my summer was spent in and out of the bomb shelters, away from the rest of the world.
While in the bomb shelters, I was given the unique opportunity to bond with my grandparents and their neighbors. For hours we talked and tried to make the best of a bad situation. By the time the war was finally coming to an end, a new feeling was lurking within me. We were to fly back to the States in a week, but I didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t the regular feeling I felt at the end of a vacation, it was a sense of belonging that I had never felt so powerfully. My petty issues in the States seemed utterly minor and I could not understand how I had been so shallow before. I discussed these feelings with my parents and to my surprise they felt the same way too. Realizing my newfound maturity, my parents gave me the ultimate responsibility, a choice to make for my whole small family. If I were just to say the word “yes,” we would stay in Israel for the year. Here I was yet again, at the fork in the road, free to decide where to go.
During the remainder of the week, I grappled with conflicting feelings. The prospect of living in Israel roused my curiosity and the thought of a completely new life was mind-boggling. I wanted to discover what Israel had to offer beyond what I knew. But at the same time, the States was the only home I had ever known— where I had built my foundation and where I felt secure. Finally, two days before our scheduled flight, I made the biggest decision of my life— I took the road less traveled.
Perhaps the hardest part of our move was the emotional phone calls I had to make to my friends in the States. They could not understand the thought-process behind my decision. Again, I was given the opportunity to defend my choice. Again, I struggled to explain the motivation behind it.
Looking back, my time in Israel over the past two years has been revolutionary. During the first year, we built ourselves a new world from scratch. To my dismay, my dad could not afford to move with us because of his job, so he continues to live in our house in the States and visits us every other month. We left the majority of our possessions there, taking only what we truly value. Starting anew, life in Israel has been a tabula rasa for me. Going to an International School, meeting people from all over the world, enlisting in the IDF, and spending sacred time with my family has opened many new horizons for me. I do on many occasions miss my old life, but overall I have no regrets about my decision.
It is my chosen road and I walk down it confidently.