Sunday, October 19, 2014

My Road Less Traveled

When I look at snap chat videos of my friends hanging out, partying, and happily navigating the post-college NYC lifestyle, a surprising calm washes over me. An inner peace that stems from knowing I am living a decision borne from the inner depths of my being and carried out without a hint of regret. How often do we get to do something that we appreciate as our raison d'ĂȘtre ?

Don’t get me wrong. I miss everybody. It’s only been a month, and I speak to my friends and family often, but I already understand what being "out of the loop” feels like. I would love to hang out with my friends, share stories, crack inside jokes for hours on end, and pass out watching Entourage re-runs. I would love to begin building my career and to start learning the tools of the trade and how to be successful from my role model and best friend. Of course. Looking at pictures and videos of my friends’ partying and my parents playing with my dogs can fill me with a very tangible longing for my family, friends, and my ‘normal’ American life.

 Every once in a  while, I feel so shocked at the decision I’ve made that I briefly think that my imagination has run amok and my Israel experience is all in my head. Obviously, I tell myself, I wouldn’t have moved thousands of miles away, by myself, to hold a gun, stand in the desert, and (from what I hear) eat canned tuna. Indeed, my soon-to-be reality has become so far-fetched that, at times, it ceases to feel real. In these moments, coming back to Earth takes a few seconds. The realization that I really am in Israel and that I will soon be in the IDF crystallizes and I turn into a leaking bundle of nerves as I think about how far from my life plan I have veered.

I am unsettled only momentarily, however, as I realize that despite whatever homesickness, familial longing, and anxiety I am feeling, I never waver in my focus. This is, ultimately, what gives me the surprising calm I spoke of earlier. It’s not the lack of emotional longing, but my resoluteness in spite of that emotional pull, that dictates my ease. Looking at family and friends’ pictures and videos fills me with a calm sense of purpose precisely because I can feel those pangs of longing and still instintively know that my motivation to be here is stronger and more powerful than all of it.

When I was 12 years old, my dad gave me Leon Uris's epic novel, Exodus, with an inscription about what it means to be a Jew and with a note about our people's history. From the first time I read the name Ari Ben Canaan I've been hooked on understanding and protecting this dream. I have read every book, pamphlet, and article about Israel, Zionism, and Jewish history that I could find. I've read journalists I loved, I've read journalists that Menachem Begin would have deemed J.W.T.K (Jews with trembling knees), and I forced myself to read the mostly unfounded biases emanating from our detractors. 

Over the years, my college friends (Jewish and non-Jewish) grew accustomed to me talking about Israel in between watching Lebron dunk on ESPN. Hatikvah emanated from my room before a workout session on more than one occassion. My friends stopped acting surprised when I argued with professors and they would always allow me to finish my thoughts on the way back to the house after class. They definitely learned to embrace my promises (bribes?) of food if they came to my Israeli club events. (Righteously or not, Kappa Sig always made their presence felt at Lehigh Friends of Israel, and as the saying goes, "we need the dues.")

It didn't take long for me to realize that my passion for understanding and discussing Israel and Jewish history and my commitment to do everything in my power (founding an advocacy club, writing a political blog, going to AIPAC)  to ensure the safety of the Jewish people and the Jewish state wasn't fleeting or shallow. It wasn't a college hobby, or a fad that seemed interesting at the time. It was and is an essential part of my personal story . This was the start of my realization that the uniqueness of my passion called for an equally unique and significant way of doing my part and leaving my mark. 

I am utterly content knowing that I am where I should be-doing exactly what I need to do. Regardless of the ups and downs inherent to my soon-to-begin IDF experience, it is downright euphoric to know that I am living out a dream that is so fundamental to who I am as a Drucker, as a Jew, and as a human being.

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