So Why The Hell Am I Here?

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why israelWhy am I in Israel?

I could only imagine that someone who has even glanced through my last several posts can’t help but wonder why I am living in this country. Clearly I have a problem with the systems, behavior, and attitudes. And clearly I had every reason to feel bitterness from my history here and to believe nothing would be different this time around.

To complicate matters further, if you had met me a year ago (in the States), you would have seen a completely different person. I loved my apartment and my lifestyle. I loved my community and friends. Yes, I struggled post-divorce with figuring out how to have a fulfilling social life, but successfully pieced it all together, and I maintained a very active life with fun, friends, volunteering, physical activities, and more.

In addition to a change in my marital status, I decided to switch careers as well. And there I was, in my late 30s with over a decade of experience as a teacher, trying to worm my way into a tech career. The tech industry is one that favors the young and those who’ve been immersed in the field for years, but I was determined, and despite many challenges, I was able to find work, learn a ton, and taste a good amount of early success.

Finally, after nearly four decades, I found a community that I loved. The Overland Park, Kansas, Jewish community is remarkable. I was alone, far from everything and everyone I knew and loved, going through some traumatically hard times, and my community opened its arms and welcomed me into the family with unimaginable warmth.

In fact, this was the first time in my life I ever left a community not wanting to.

So why?

Why would I give all of this up? Why would I uproot myself from a clearly very fulfilling and successful life? And why would I put all of that behind me, when everything is moving along so smoothly.

Well, let’s talk about success for a moment.

If you ask the average person on the street to define success, they would talk primarily about careers. Society at large has, sadly, embraced an unfortunate idea that we are what we do for a living. If you succeed in the workplace, you are successful.

I couldn’t disagree more.

I remember many years ago sitting in a lecture about how to be a good teacher. The leader emphatically recommended a movie to the group. “Every teacher in the world should be required to see this movie,” she said. I was sitting there ready to jump out of my seat. I had seen the movie and was incensed by her statement. Finally, I raised my hand and exclaimed:

“Why would you tell teachers to watch this movie? By the end of the film, the main character had to work two full time jobs just to barely pay the bills, had thrown herself into her teaching career at the expense of everybody and everything else in her life, and her husband left her. Yes, she was technically successful in her classroom. But at what cost? She was a complete failure at everything else in her life! She sacrificed everything for her job. How could you imply to a bunch of teachers that this is what’s needed to be successful in the classroom? The message is horrible, and hopefully incorrect.”

What is success?

Success is not a simple idea. But one thing is for certain: In order to be successful, there are multiple types of successes you must experience. Professional success is just one. One must be successful professionally, financially, socially, personally, and most importantly, one must be successful with ones family. Remove any piece of that equation, and you cannot call a person successful.

And there I was. Living the good life in Kansas. I was able to find decent jobs with decent salaries. My friends were amazing. My life was fun and fulfilling. I was growing personally, spiritually, and emotionally. Successes abounded!

But my four precious children–objectively the four most important things in the entire world–had been living in another country for a little over a year. And one absolutely cannot be a successful parent to small children living that far away. So despite all of the successes, all of the smiles, all of the personal growth, I was completely empty inside. And I was wildly unsuccessful.

And I couldn’t be apart from my children any longer.

Now I’m back in Israel, trying to make things work in a system that seems designed for failure, filled with countless chasms I’m prone to falling into.

My children are worth more to me than everything else I’ve mentioned. And they’re worth the troubles and hardships I knew were coming when I moved here.

I know a thorough and complete success in Israel is unlikely. However, the stakes are too high. I need to succeed–to fight back against a system that does not want me to–in order to give my children the father they deserve.

 

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