Everyone said that this year would be a new chapter in life, but it feels more like an entirely new book. At home, I was always the “mom” of the group, but here in Israel, it feels like I’ve started the life cycle anew.
In the beginning of my program, I felt like a baby. I was always wide eyed, not knowing what was going on but trying to absorb my surroundings as much as possible. I needed a lot of sleep because my brain was always in overdrive coping with life in Hebrew. And similar to how people stop on the street to coo over a cute baby, Israelis gave me a lot of attention because I am the exotic American girl.
In the last three months I feel as if I’ve grown to be an eight year old; I’m like a kid sitting at the adult table. In classes and group conversations I catch a fair bit of the dialogue, but sophisticated words and cultural references go over my head. I understand enough that I want to participate but I’m incapable of articulating myself fully in Hebrew, and I feel awkward constantly sharing incoherent sentences. I typically try to set an early bedtime for myself, but I usually end up going to sleep an hour, or two, or three after said bedtime. Perhaps the way in which I most resemble a child is through the connections I have with others here. There are many people whom I enjoy hanging out with, people I can laugh and sing and even cry with, but I can’t tell you personal details or idiosyncrasies about most people nor can most about me. My Hebrew is just not at a level where I can express myself enough for people to know the real me.
The one thing that has saved me as I gradually hack at the language barrier is journaling every night. I prefer typing than writing, so I have an app on my phone where I write down what I did, feelings I had, thoughts I wish I could have conveyed that day… Even getting in bed at 2:00 a.m. after a fun night, I can end up writing for 30 minutes because my brain is just swirling with hazy thoughts and putting everything down on paper ensures I can fall asleep and wake up with a clear head.
While I am infinitely grateful that my peers here have been like parents to me, supportive and patient, I’m excited to “grow up” more and forge real friendships.