What is My Reality Now?

Nothing clears your mind more than getting away from your everyday life. Anytime you need a reset, a fresh perspective, some peace of mind – just take a day and get away. Even an hour. Right? That’s how I thought it was supposed to be at least.
So why, after a weekend with my father in Vienna, Austria am I not feeling refreshed like I thought I would be?
After two very, very difficult weeks, I was able to get away in the hugest sense of the word. I was in another country, one I’ve never been to before, alone for two of the days -sightseeing and touring while he was working – and at nights and the last day with my father for the first time in three months. How much more removed can one get than that? But a weird phenomena happened to me. I started to get confused about what my reality was.
Here I was, with my father, some of his employees, and even, for a bit, a friend of mine from high school, Chiara, all the way on the other side of the world. It was almost a mini ‘Toga in the middle of Vienna’s Stephanzplatz. After two weeks of being nervous, stressed, frustrated and feeling helpless about a complication with the administration of my place of volunteering (coupled with my birthday being during the time when the Israelis were on a different schedule because they had to work for the mechina), I started to feel slightly forgotten about, over exhausted and sick – so seeing my dad was surreal. And I started to wonder, why was I letting my volunteer organization get to me so much? Why am I getting caught up on the bad things that make me sad; forgetting that this year is for me to learn about myself? This year is for me. I need to remember that a lot of what I am doing is for me. And that what I am doing here, in Israel, is not my ONLY reality.
But what?
But I have more than one reality?
Yeah … I have more than one reality now. Being with my dad was like snapping into a different reality. I suddenly had my father telling me we need to get me medicine for the cold I still had last weekend. It wasn’t just me looking after myself. We were having discussions about our days! We were even having conversations about days that happened weeks and months ago and it was like no time had passed.
But time has passed.
The mechina has also become my reality.
For one year. I am here. My dad isn’t. My reality is quite different. And I accept it. I like it.
But does that mean that what my reality is at home is not my reality anymore? Or will it always be my reality?
And what does reality even mean?!
My reality is my life … but what is my life made up of right now. In this moment. As I sit on a bus with my friends coming back from a two day seminar learning about the economics and society in the north of the country, I can’t help but wonder what is my life?
What makes it up? The ingredients.
In Saratoga, I had my family, school, friends, temple, my town, the things I did, my hobbies. All the physical things I used to have … a lot of them are not here with me now.
In my life right now, I have new friends, different family members, a mechina, volunteering, less time to do my hobbies or not even the possibility to do them.
It seems like my two lives don’t have any intersection. I am a puzzle piece that completes two different puzzles. And sometimes I wonder if life is supposed to be like that. In high school I had my school life, my social life, and my family life. But they were still one. They somehow all worked together to make up me.
I can’t quite describe it. Maybe this is similar to college. Maybe it isn’t. What I do know is that when I was with my dad, I started thinking this is my year to not worry as much about consequences and mistakes – because I can learn from them – because this is just a single year and isn’t my only life. This isn’t my only reality.
And then I think about going back to the old life I lead and I can’t quite picture how I would cope. Because I love this place. The people. What I’m doing. How I am learning to balance what I need and what I want and need to do for the mechina. Everything.
Regardless, seeing my dad for a weekend was beyond words. I was so happy and I missed him so much that no matter how I try to describe it, it will just sound insufficient. It was hands down the best birthday/Thanksgiving present I could have ever recieved! I love you, dad, and the only thing that could have made weekend better was if the rest of the family could have made it, too.
Unfortunately, we can’t get everything. We just need to be grateful for what we do have, I guess. Not to be cheesy.
So on that note, happy (late) Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you had a meaningful, turkey-filled holiday.



Life Lessons in the Not So Mundane

Wow. I cannot express enough how amazed I am at all the feedback I received to my last post! Each and every question was amazing and I am going to try to answer all of them soon. If you have more questions on my life, on something I’ve written, on anything really, feel free to leave a comment and I will respond to you. Or maybe make it another blog topic. And if someone leaves a question you particularly like, please like it in the comments.

Before I answer my first question, I just want to let you all know that my blog has been viewed almost 2,000 times (which is incredibly insane) from people in over 14 different countries all around the world. Each time I check in to read the stats, I am blown away. I never thought my blog would reach past family and friends, but it has! Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read this.

Now, for the question of the day.

Drum roll please…

Emily, you are the lucky winner!

“In starting my first year of college, I’ve noticed that I’ve already learned a few very important things outside the classroom. Some of them are things my mom has been telling me for years, but others are things that I’ve had to discover on my own. One of the biggest things I’ve thought about is how fast people become friends in college, and the dynamics of my friends group here versus back home. Are there any big things you’ve learned or thought about more due to living in Israel that have stuck out to you?” – Emily

It is an interesting concept to think that we are being thrust into these new situations where things our parents have been telling us are finally making sense. For example, cleaning our dishes as soon as we use them or keeping the bathroom clean. Mundane when your parents say it, maybe, but I think the biggest challenge for me has been getting used to group life at the mechina. Suddenly, here, mundane things carry a whole lot more weight.

Since I’ve never been in college, I don’t know if I can compare them with your experiences, but I will try. Here, I am living in one building with about fifty out of the sixty people on my program (the rest have a separate apartment in a different building for space reasons). The building is not very big. There are five groups making up our mechina of anywhere from seven (there is only one this size and it is my “international” gap group) to fourteen people in an apartment.The internationals have to stay together in one apartment with no Israelis in order for the internationals to have a strong English “family,” but no apartments can have mixed gender rooms. My friend is the only guy in our group so he actually has his own room. I have only one roommate, Noa, and luckily we get along very well. I think most rooms have only two to three people in it.

The mechina, as a pre-army program, emphasizes three things: Study, social action, and group life. I did not fully understand what I was getting myself into in terms of the group life when I signed up for Bina, in all honesty. I assumed it would be like college in the sense that I would have space to do my own thing whenever I need it and how what I do mostly only affects me. But it is not like that at all. It is almost like we resemble a socialist group. Our food is bought on a small budget for the entire mechina, we cook it together in a communal kitchen, we all participate in cleaning, we all need to take the initiative to make this year the best it can be because the staff are not meant to do that for us – things like this.

This is not high school and this is not America. Everything is very Israeli. Take that how you may, but I am speaking of their stereotypical Israeli assertiveness. If we want something done, we cannot wait for it to be done, we need to do it ourselves. My parents always said to me, “Jaz, you need to advocate for yourself. No one else will do it for you.” And I believed them, but I didn’t see why. Now I am seeing the reason why in every moment of the day. I think this might come with independence, but I don’t think everyone learns this skill right away. I am being forced to learn it if I want to have a good year. Actually, I am forced to learn this skill if I even want to just understand what is happening because pretty much everything is in Hebrew.

Additionally, and here is where group life comes in, I am not advocating only for myself, I am advocating for all sixty of us. Everything we do has to be for the good of this machzor (basically refers to a grade or class in Hebrew). If I have an idea, it should be for the better of everyone. In America, especially in my high school, we did everything for ourselves. We studied for ourselves, we did projects for ourselves, we participated in gym (or didn’t) for ourselves. Now when I am in my workout morning class and I see my Israeli peers around me, saying that they want to get in shape for the army, I think a small part of that reflects a different sentiment than the traditional “me, me, me.” And don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of that sentiment in Israel too. Just here, in the mechina, we are trying to get past this sentiment and form a bond like none other. The Israelis will be in the army next year, many as commanders and officers, and the internationals will be, most likely, in university. The mechina is training leaders. The group life, pushing people to succeed even when they might want to give up, is one of the mechina’s ways to prepare us all.

We live together, got lost in the middle of nowhere on navigation hikes together, slept outside in the rain while trying not to get hypothermia together, shop on a budget for sixty people together, help each other stay awake for programing from 7am to 10pm Sunday through Friday together (there is actually a formal responsibility we have to wake people up during programing that we decided on during a three hour meeting with the entire machzor). We go through so much together and I think both deep down and at the surface, we form a bond that might be hard to let go of.

Tying all of this into the mundane acts that I am sure everyone who is living in some sort of dorm will understand, being on top of your stuff in your apartment is undeniably important. It creates for a healthy group dynamic and the small things can really add up to big problems. I have had problems with this, other people in my apartment I am sure may have had problems with this, I know a lot of people in the mechina have problems with this, but the mechina is teaching me that the only ways out of these situations are soaring up or crashing down. I mean that you can either deal with the situations head on and work past them, even though you might be frustrated to no end and might not see the point or you can let it overwhelm you. I have done both this year. I am still working out how to live my group life, it is extremely challenging. But at the end of the day, I think that the Israeli mentality, among many other things, incorporated specifically into this mechina is giving me invaluable life lesson skills.