The Light at the End of the Tunnel

So last week I met up with a friend visiting this country and we spent the better part of the early afternoon wandering that holiest of tourist destinations, Jerusalem.

While wandering and gossiping and catching up and eating food, she mentioned quite nonchalantly that she reads my blog (woohoo!). Which segued quite naturally to my most recent post about changing jobs and restarting and blah blah. I started to tell her about the new job when we were distracted by a budding photographer (no, for real), which naturally segued into some other topic and the next thing we knew it was time to part ways.

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It’s Time for a Fresh Start

Happy New Year! (she said on January 23rd)

So, it’s a new year. Filled with all the requisite promises and hopes for goodwill towards man, reaching goals, and money. Or sex. Whatever floats your boat.

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With an auld acquaintance that I forgot, whatever the hell that means…

I am delighted to know how you spent your New Year’s Eve-slash-Day. (no, really – post in the comments!) Mine was spent sleeping. Because I’m old, and a parent, although the two are not usually mutually exclusive.

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Round Pegs in a Square Building

Hi all you lovely loyal literati! Happy Festival of Lights! I think it’s high time for an actual post, don’t you? (Also, side note, what is it with the changing of the layout again?)

SO…..

The other day I received an email from my high school alumni association, but it wasn’t your standard money request email. Or the unfortunate-yet-not-really-unexpected Death Notice. (What, your former place of education doesn’t tell you when grandparents of former/current students die? Must be a Jewish thing…)

Instead it was a Dedication Invitation, that started with “Come Say Goodbye to our Old Building!” The rest of the email was boring so I didn’t read it, but I didn’t really want to.

For the last few years, my old stomping grounds were slowly giving in to the inevitable demise of its 50+ years,  as new stomping grounds were being broken, dug up, filled, and built up a couple miles down that-a-way *points in random direction, possibly in a northwestwardly fashion*

Yeah, the building was old and quite possibly the textbook definition of the opposite of “state-of-the-art”. In fact, if you opened a dictionary to look up the phrase “crotchety old building” – you’d see a picture of my high school.

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If only such a phrase actually existed…

The outside was brown brick, with bronzed letters spelling out the name of the school, and the various organizations that were also housed in it.

There were three stories, with the bottom story depressed into a hole in the ground that was affectionately dubbed “The Moat” and which, many many times, students tried to flood. I think the best attempt was that one time when students put blue tarp on the ground and called it a day.

The walls were yellow, the lockers were an uglier shade of yellow, the classroom doors were pale-green, and there were benches around the perimeter of the second floor with extremely-worn forest-green fabric. Even the trim around the windows in the rooms were green. The donation plaques in each room were a very dark shade of green, although some people refer to that color as “black” (but we all knew better)…

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Yup, that’s my school: “50 Shades of Chartreuse”

The only bit of character that the school had was a mural on one of the walls that had the words “Knowledge” and its Hebrew counterpart “Da’at” in bright reds, blues, and oranges.

But it wasn’t much to look at.

There was history in the building, to be sure. Thousands, if not tens of thousands, of Jewish teenagers wandered the hallways, and maybe even learned something too. Personally, at least 30 members of my own family received the equivalent of a GED certificate there.

But, being the bastion of co-ed Jewish/General education for pretty much the entire Chicago-area Jewish population (and some out-of-towners, too) – well, that’s a lot of pressure. There needed to be guidelines, structure, a format to the well-roundedness that would be applied to anyone who walked up the metal stairs and through the two sets of glass double-doors, even if only for a semester.

And yeah – that happened. Kids were kicked out all the time. For reasons varying from getting caught* drinking and doing drugs, to wearing vaguely inappropriate clothing. Like, a shirt that hit 3 inches above the elbow. Or pants under a skirt.

Because everyone was expected to leave school with not only a deep-rooted association with sunsets and science labs, but as a replica, a copy, of those thousands of students who came before. We were continuing the well-honed tradition, the belief, that we could retain our Jewish identity and still interact with the world out there.

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The only problem with this was that we didn’t all have the same background coming in. The other only problem was that we were expected to question and question and question authority, until our questions were exhausted and we felt satisfied with whatever answers we had been given. Which is not the problem. The problem was that many times the answers weren’t all that satisfying.

Of course, there were the others who were more easily molded into the type of person we were expected to become. Who accepted the expectations without questions or doubts or second-guessing, and currently live the life that was predetermined for them.

And then there were those who questioned some of the information we were taught – out loud or quietly. There were those who rebelled secretly; others did so out in the open, by wearing clothes that were not deemed “acceptable”. And there were others who epitomized “fake it til you make it” before it was a thing on t-shirts being sold for $15.

Some of us just wanted to march to the beat of our own drums, regardless of whether we accepted the answers or not. I preferred skipping down the hallway, but that’s me.

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Sometimes I even sang the song. And by sometimes I mean “always”.

The problem with marching to a different beat is that you no longer fit into the mold, and you are therefore singled out. For detention, for expulsion, for long talks with administrators about “what would your grandmother think?” Or, you were just given looks of disapproval.

There was one time in particular when I realized what was happening. I had expressed my desire to not go to Israel for a gap year, and received laser-eye daggers from the dean.

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And it wasn’t just the administration who made us feel unwelcome. Because the school was small, and everybody knew everybody. In my day there were maybe 350 kids in the entire school – large by other Jewish school standards, but tiny when compared to the public schools in the area. If you had been singled out, everyone knew, and there were some students who made it their business to remind you of it. Constantly.

So why would I return? Why would anyone who had similar (or worse) experiences feel the need to come back to say goodbye?

We already said our goodbyes – the day we graduated. There is no lingering sentiment, or memories that need to be revisited. If anything, we would go just to help with the destruction of the building.

And I know that if I had gone to public school I wouldn’t be where I am today, and blah blah blah. But why would I go back to something that holds more not-so-great memories than great memories?

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But there is also a third option – to run from it AND learn from it. And that’s what I’m going to do.

I went to that square building and came out a misshapen quadrilateral. I understand and I appreciate the education that I received. But I still question the methods and motives of certain administrators, and I don’t need to say goodbye.

Besides,  I don’t have anything appropriate to wear anyway.

Currently Grooving On: music by fellow alum David Draiman

 

*To get caught you had to be A) really stupid, B) really desperate, C) both.

Health, Happiness, & Prosperity

Just like every other Jewish holiday, Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew; lit. “head of the year”) is fraught with extra-special everything. Actions, prayers, traditions, food, and of course, symbolism.

so much symbolism...

so much symbolism…

Except, it’s different from every other Jewish holiday. Mostly because it’s the start of another year. So – take all the excitement of the secular New Year, add a heaping pile of religion, and make sure there are 2 additional equally important and significant holidays that occur around the same time….
Et Viola – the Jewish New Year.

News feeds and inboxes are filled with updated family pictures, personal reflections and introspection on the past year, and general good will towards friends and family for the coming year. Many individuals also discuss their menus, and include pictures of said food. This was happening way before Pintrest and Instagram made it a thing. Because we are trend-setters. Or something.
Some traditional foods included in some way, shape, or form during this holiday are:

Honey: for a sweet year
Apples: because Fall and harvest (and probably a more spiritual reason which I’m blanking on)
Pomegranates: legend says that this fruit contains 613 seeds, which is equal to the number of positive and negative commandments in the Torah. I don’t think this has been proven because I don’t know anyone who has actually counted them.
Carrots: because the word for carrot in Yiddish sounds like something that sounds like money. Also in Yiddish.
Lettuce, half a raisin, celery: because Dad Jokes and Puns

*groan*

*groan*

This two-day holiday (which sometimes transforms into a 3-day extravaganza, but more about that headache another time) is also different because unlike other Jewish holidays, there is no story involved with the celebration. It’s just a date on the calendar.
To summarize: this is a major holiday that starts our lives anew, doesn’t revolve around a story, and contains a lot more prayer and ritual. Also, due to the proximity of Yom Kippur, there is quite a bit of early-bird-style repentance involving charity and resolutions.

Because that's the kind of people we are this week.

Because that’s the kind of people we are this week.

I kid – there is actually a lot of sincerity going around. And although that is really not a bad thing, it is quite scary when you really think about it. But I don’t want to get into that, because I have to get another batch of cookies from the oven. Also, because it will detract from the main point I’m trying to make (maybe next time I shouldn’t type in 10-minute bursts…)

It is true what has been said, that although holidays and seasons repeat themselves, we are not the same people each time; and, therefore, there are inherently different feelings surrounding each holiday. Especially for me, because so many important events in my life seem to revolve around this holiday…

12 years ago: It was the first holiday I celebrated in Israel. Like every holiday in every religion, Rosh Hashanah is family-oriented. Immediate, extended, and pseudo-families get together and eat way too much food during this two-day holiday. Being the representation of new beginnings, it was very appropriate that this was the first holiday I celebrated in my new home, with family that I had not seen in at least a decade.

8 years ago: It was the last holiday I celebrated with my family in Chicago before getting married. Which is a pretty big deal every possible way you slice it.

5 years ago: I first found out about Nooshkin. She was the size of my thumbnail. I couldn’t eat any of the symbolic food (curse you first-trimester nausea). I had never been happier.

And, this year: It is the first holiday without Nana.

Every year, a week before the holiday actually started, Nana would go to the butcher and buy fresh fish heads – haddock, carp, whatever they had – take them back to her apartment and begin a three-day exercise in love and family. Yes – she made enough fresh gefilte fish for her entire family. All [insert ever-increasing number here] of us. Every year one of us would be the designated delivery person, and our car stank of fish afterwards. That tradition was one of the best parts of the holiday.

But no – I did not make her gefilte fish this year. I probably won’t make it ever because I can’t stand fish heads. Slimy, scaly – guh. *shudder*
But – I still remember the texture and taste of them. And I probably always will.

There’s more that I wanted to write, but it’s almost time for the holiday to begin. So instead I will leave you with this:

May the memories of past years, both positive and not-so-positive, influence your choices for the coming year.
If you decide to set goals* and resolutions for yourself, may they be easily attainable.
Breathe Deep, and Seek Peace.

See you next year.

Honey Cookies

Ingredients:
1 1/3 cups oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup honey
3 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour

1) Mix together oil, sugar, eggs, honey, baking soda, salt and vanilla.
2) Add the flour, and mix until it is just incorporated.
3) Shape the cookies into balls, between 3/4 to 1 inch in diameter.
–Because the dough is super sticky, I recommend keeping it cool to make forming the balls easier. You will also probably need to rinse your hands between batches.–
4) Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets.
5) Bake in oven on 375 F (180 C) for 8-12 minutes, depending on the strength of your oven. The cookies should be crackly in the center and nicely browned around the edges.

Currently Grooving On: The Fountainheads “Dip Your Apple” (because as far as parodies go, this is the best)

*I have a decent list of goals and resolutions for myself for the coming year. I will share them because I am following the advice of a good friend (which is “if you tell people about it, then you have to actually follow through”).

Be More Selfish
In the past year I quit my job, started school, and created this blog – for myself. I had not really done that before, and it felt really good. Empowering. Amazing. I want to do more of that. In line with this goal is to take better care of myself mentally and physically.

Utilize and Maximize My Networks
I decided earlier this year to be more vocal in all my networks, and I got my current job because of that. Each one can be beneficial if used properly, so let’s keep up the momentum, shall we?

Make Good Art
On the good days, and the bad days. When there is nothing to say, and (especially) when there is too much. Be creative. Get messy. Make mistakes. And in line with that…

Get Something Published
I’ve got some things in the works. Several things, actually. Okay fine – four things. There, I said it – I have four creative writing things floating around my head, with bits and pieces down on paper (or Google Docs, because technology). And I’m sure there is more where that came from, and I want to get something done.

The Path of the Destined

I’ve been thinking a lot about destiny lately. Mostly about how it creeps up on you at the absolute worst possible time like a ton of bricks, usually with a ton of bricks in hand.

But, sometimes, destiny surprises you way after the fact, with one of those “Ha ha! I told you so!” moments.

Except, not that ugly looking.

Except, not that ugly looking.

And you kind of replay every moment that led up to the one you currently find yourself in, and wonder what it would have been like had destiny taken you down another path.
But then, you remind yourself, that you are the one in control of your life, and destiny is this figment of our collective imaginations. Probably created by someone a long time ago who was unable to commit to the choices that he made, or admit that he made them himself.

Also, destiny can’t lead us anywhere because it’s blind. That would be kind of disastrous.

Not sorry, at all.

Not sorry, at all.

I’ve had a lot of time lately to think about destiny, and how it drives us to make certain choices in our lives. From things as small as which bus we take and when we do our grocery shopping, to big things like where to go to school or when to have kids. Any one of those situations can introduce you to someone, or an idea, or something that you would not otherwise have met, or thought of, or experienced had you made a different choice.

In the Sandman graphic novel series, Neil Gaiman explains it best:

The paths fork and divide. With each step you take through Destiny’s garden, you make a choice; and every choice determines future paths. However, at the end of a lifetime of walking you might look back, and see only one path stretching out behind you; or look ahead, and see only darkness.

What Neil doesn’t say, is that sometimes when you look back, you can see hints of the other paths that “might-have-been”. Sometimes, there are points in our lives where it was so blatantly obvious that we had a choice to make, that we forever look back to that moment and wonder – “What if?”

I find myself doing that a lot lately.

About three weeks ago I found myself drawn to something posted on the bulletin board outside the music secretary’s office on campus. It was a job opportunity; it had the logo of the Tel-Aviv Opera House on it in the upper-right corner.

That was all that mattered.

I took down the contact information and ran home – too afraid to actually call the guy and ask about this. But, a few days later, I mentioned it to the Hubby and he said do it. More like, DO IT!!!!! But you get the idea.

So I did it. Twice – yes, I was invited back for a second interview. No, my gag reflex did not fail me either time, although my stomach has been doing complex somersaults ever since I saw the job opp. I have also not really been able to focus on the myriad other things that I must needs do right now, because this has been weighing on me constantly.

This job opp is the pinnacle of what I consider my dream job, no superlatives necessary. I would be working in the music library, responsible for caring and organizing and preparing the sheet music for every single operatic and symphonic performance. Of which there are *counting* anywhere between 15 and 20 per year.
I would be working long hours, longer weeks, and would really only get a few moments between performances to collect myself.

But, in all honesty, I would scrub the floor with a toothbrush as long as my pay stub said “Tel-Aviv Opera House” on it.

Wow, there are stock photos of everything these days.

Wow, there are stock photos of everything these days.

I’m totally not kidding – I’ve said this enough times to realize that it’s the honest truth.

I guess that was when I realized I really wanted to work there – because if you repeat something often enough, it becomes truth. Working there would be the dream. And that dream kept reasserting itself. And the dream that keeps coming back is, above all else, your destiny.

This job would mean incomparable, inconceivable, unadulterated happiness for me. It would also mean that life as I, the Hubby, and Nooshkin know it would change forever.
So – all the melodrama and stress is definitely warranted. As is the desire for an adultier adult to make this decision for me.

Nearly everyone I’ve spoken to about this job opp has said I should accept it (if given the chance). They know me well, they’ve heard me talk about this forever; and, let’s be honest – dreams don’t often present themselves so obviously.
This is my hobby, my degree, my passion, my muse.

Paths change, options appear, choices present themselves all the time. This month so many people I know are quitting work, or moving, or getting married, or applying for their next degree. In LAK’s case, it’s all of the above (she’s a little nuts like that).

It’s only been four-and-a-half months since I made the choice to quit my job. It feels like a lot longer. So much has happened since then, and mostly for the good, that I know it was the right choice. But, still.

The thought occurred to me that I was meant to know about this job. Regardless of whether or not I end up getting it, I was meant to know right now – smack in the middle of all else that is happening right now – that there are possibilities like this out there. That there are many other paths available in front of me, regardless of how far they end up taking me before I am presented with other choices or, worse yet, backtrack to where I started.

I know that if I hadn’t quit I would not know that this job opp even existed. And I would not be having these questions, and doubts, and sleepless nights. My path would be set, and straight, for a little while longer.

But I am holding on tight to the possibility that this job opp is neither for the good, nor the bad – but for the neutral. That right now I’m only meant to be presented with a crossroad, instead of a straight line. That perhaps I will end up continuing down the same path that I had been on two weeks ago.

Maybe I’m only meant to know that it exists. And, rather surprisingly, that comforts me immensely.

Regardless of what happens within the next two weeks, I have to trust myself that the choice I make will be the right one. Otherwise I end up with regret, and I cannot afford to regret the decisions that I make. Living a life with regrets means that there was nothing good in any choice that I made – which is obviously not true. All choices, all decisions, can have a positive outlook – but only if you are open to the possibility that not everything is terrible, or horrible, or no good, or very bad.

Even in Australia.

Even in Australia.

I guess that means I am the adultier adult, and that I’m capable of making this choice.

And I will see you on the other side.