Me and Ikea: Not a love story

"It’s a blue and yellow emporium of affordable household items. It’s famous for its meatballs. Going there counts as weekend plans, and because it’s European, it makes you feel worldly. Do not be fooled, however, by its stylish comforters, or the cheerful employee who hands out golf pencils upon entry. Ikea tests relationships. It’s Swedish for “No mercy." -Amelia Diamond

This past week, I signed my first real Israeli lease on an apartment as a new olah. I know what you're thinking- this isn't a big deal. People sign leases every day and don't feel the need to write about it in the Jerusalem Post. But our situation was an exception, because before the lease was signed, we had to search for apartments, find additional roommates, borrow significant amounts of money from our parents, and fill the apartment with stuff to make it livable, all within one week before our inevitable reality of homelessness set in full force.
When I say "our", I am talking about me and my good friend, Bailey, who often seems more like my fiance than anything else. Bailey is the type of friend who shows up in your bed with cake when she knows you're sad. She tags along to Forever 21 with you even though Forever 21's existence personally offends her. She believes that butter should be in everything and most problems can be solved with a glass of wine and three episodes of The Mindy Project. She is a magical human being and I think I'm going to keep her.
However, going through this process of creating a home together has been non-stop hell for the both of us, with fleeting moments of positivity and hugging in between. Ikea was the peak of it all. When we first entered the doors, there was a minute of thrill as I dreamt of the unknown (this was my first Ikea experience ever). But, it resulted in being identical to every other experience I've had in this country- old women trying to pummel me with their motorized wheelchairs, children screaming and hitting everyone with plastic utensils in their giant metal carts, parents loudly arguing over the color of an arm chair and what to make for dinner later, and lastly, store employees ignoring me and my English-speaking neediness to no avail.
Those 3.5 hours spent in Ikea are 3.5 hours of my life I'll never get back. One of those hours was spent on the phone with CitiBank who had put a hold on my credit card due to suspicious account activity happening in "the Middle East". Once we finally left the store and made it home, I learned a few things about myself. One, I should probably change my career and become a carpenter due to my skills at putting together Ikea furniture (minus the fact that I needed assistance from several lending hands), and two, that I should always read the instructions very carefully, because I might just forget to buy certain pieces of a bed frame and have to go back to the store AGAIN to pick it up.
There are few more serious observations I've made from this moving experience, and realizations that I needed to have in order to get through this process with sanity. Although the wake-up call of having to find a new home came quickly and with a sense of urgency, I realized that this was the greatest thing I could be doing for my life here. I learned how much I craved permanence in this country, instead of bouncing from apartment to apartment every few months. This process proved to me that I can and have made this city my home. I can make my own choices and build a life for myself that I truly want, that I've earned. The apartment hunting, the endless bills and expenses, the furniture shopping, the Ikea hell, the limited time we had- it ultimately led up to my own little Zionist dream coming true.
Thank you to everyone who tested me along the way- potential landlords, Secret Tel Aviv contributors who didn't respond to my inquiries regarding used furniture, a list of untrustworthy acquaintances, Hebrew websites I couldn't read, the woman at the Ikea checkout stand, both my Israeli and American banks, several friends who offered plenty of unsolicited and conflicting advice- this all made me stronger. Not only did I get through this, but I now have a beautiful apartment in central Tel Aviv, and it belongs to me and three other incredibly special girls. This is our home. And nothing, not even days trapped in the Ikea  warehouse section could keep us from having that.