There comes a point when you realize that something doesn’t feel right. You’ve stopped walking around with a carefree attitude; the same things you used to love start to lose their glamor. You feel less enchanted with the people, places, and things around you. I know this is day to day for some people. Those are the people I like to call “drones”; some may refer to them as “worker bees.” I’d never considered myself one of them. I never wanted to be one of them.
But when every day starts to mesh together; when a week starts to feel like a year, and you’re about to go on a 3-week vacation and you aren’t even excited anymore, it’s a sign that something is wrong. People say “listen to your body,” but I think that phrase has bigger implications in mental health that sometimes, unfortunately, we tend to forget.
And then you realize you’re unhappy, and it all makes sense. Every day sucks because every day sucks. It’s more than just the grind that’s wearing you down. Other than a few minor moments here and there where you find yourself smiling, on the whole, it feels like there’s a big sad cloud hovering over you, following you wherever you go.
Of course, I’m talking about myself.
Then I went to Israel. I was way out of my comfort zone– 5,000+ miles outside of my timezone, forced to spend the next 10 days (and maybe more) living with 40 people I’d never met in my life (only one of which I was previously acquainted with). Forget about a language barrier– as someone who is more of an introvert and likes to be alone, I felt other stipulations of the trip would be more of a challenge. Talking about politics? and feelings? With strangers? Please.
If you asked me if I would ever do it again, or if I would go back, I would say yes!! Absolutely! In a heartbeat! (exclamation points added for necessary emphasis)
Israel is a different world. It is literally a different part of the world– being in the Middle East was a huge contrast from growing up in the United States, but it was a welcome change. Everything seemed more… lifelike. The sun shone brighter. The flowers grew bigger. Imagine wildflowers everywhere, blooming in the middle of the desert, even in random tiny strips of highway. Everywhere you looked was gorgeous terrain, flora, and fauna.
The people were more lively, more open, and in some ways, even more accepting. I met so many Israelis who showed me that their culture is feelings first, apologies later. Israelis won’t say excuse me and sorry after every other word like Americans. But rather than be aloof, like in a grocery store or in a taxi cab, avoiding you behind a phone screen or acting like you never knew each other (like Americans), Israelis made you feel welcome everywhere you went. They were warmer than any other people I’ve met (I’ve gotten a good bit of travel under my belt)– and genuinely warm, not “southern belle” nice-to-your-face-nasty-behind-your-back warm. At Gordon beach, a lifeguard reached out to me and a friend asking if we were Americans, and if so, would we like to join his crew for some drinks because they were just so happy to have us there. An Israeli friend invited us home to dinner at her parents’ house and wanted to host us at her kibbutz after knowing us for just 10 days. People everywhere smiled and were more alive, like they were living to enjoy life. Like they weren’t “worker bees” and didn’t settle for the hum of every day life, and wouldn’t settle for the nine to five job with the white picket fence and two kids.
Not to mention the land is so rich in history and culture. And not unlike any other state, it has its ups and downs. But that’s a post for another time…
I even created new, healthy habits. Mental well-being for me now means yoga here and there, gym when I feel like it, eating what I want, and meditation whenever I can. It no longer means a strict diet, workout plan, or regimen of whatever kind. I’m happy.
I’ll give credit where credit is due. Israel deserves it. The experience opened my eyes. No, I wasn’t just bored at home. I was genuinely unhappy. Being at the Western Wall was the moment that it clicked: there is so much else out there. There are millions of people across the world waiting to connect, thousands of places and things to see, hundreds of experiences to be had. My life as a young adult doesn’t just begin and end in New Jersey or College Park or even Washington, D.C. I shouldn’t ever feel sad that high school ended, or pissed that college sucked, or upset that people are moving on. Because this is not the end for me. It’s barely even beginning of so much greatness.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I needed this hiatus to open my eyes and see that there is so much more waiting for me. I feel bad for people who say college was the greatest time in their lives. So far, I just had an amazing trip to the other side of the planet. I won’t even label that as the greatest time in my life, because I know something even better could be in the works. It just hasn’t happened yet.
I’m back. For now.