Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Carpe Diem Forever

By: Samantha Hulkower

I've been thinking a lot about different things I want to improve in myself. Not just because it's Elul, but because the reality of making aliyah two months ago is finally setting in. I moved to Eretz Yisrael for multiple reasons, but one of the biggest motivators was that I wanted to feel like I was actively living my life. Things were pretty great in Washington, D.C.: I had amazing friends and a strong support network, a reasonably close drive to see my family in NY (with a stylish car to get me there), a good job, a promising career in a field I really care about, and I got to bike past the White House, Washington Monument, and Jefferson Memorial on my way to work (definitely a bonus for me). However, even though everything seemed perfect on paper, I felt like I was merely existing, not truly living.

So I left that all behind for what I'd hoped to be a more meaningful life in Israel. Here I continue to be challenged to learn a new language, acclimate to a new culture, develop a new social network, and restart my career, not to mention find work to support myself in the meantime. The first month was a blur.

With the adrenaline subsiding, as things settled down into a regular routine, I heard this voice in the back of my head say, with more than a tinge of panic - this is real. Not that I want to go back, but it was a reality check: all of the things I had been planning and dreaming and striving for the past two years are finally happening. Baruch Hashem! But also - Holy Cr@p! I have to actually live up to the high expectations I set for myself. I have to struggle through the challenging situations I knew I would be putting myself in. It was easy to want those things for myself while lounging in my airy studio apartment in my happening Columbia Heights neighborhood, or waxing poetic to my friends about how I want to grow, over craftbeers at one of the hipster bars down the street. But actually living up to those things, that's a challenge.

Almost every night, before I go to sleep, I reflect on what I accomplished the day before, what I wish I did better, and what I hope to do tomorrow. Almost every night I regret not going to sleep earlier, hoping that I can still wake up early and make the most of the next day. Just today, I ended up sleeping until 10:30am and missing the 7:30am tanya class I had started going to. I was mad at myself for ruining my streak with the class. I was mad at myself for wasting the morning and didn't do the errands I had planned. I was even mad that I couldn't experience the feeling of accomplishment after doing all that I had wanted to.

Now I was stuck with a feeling of anxiety and resentment and I wasn't living up to the expectations I had set for myself. I had moved to Israel to leave my comfort zone and push myself to be the person I know I can be, and here I am, still stuck in the same bad habits. I sat down over my coffee and tried to quiet my mind. Then it came to me:

Today is the first day of the rest of my life.

I'm sure we've all heard this kind of trite tripe before. Whether at a motivational talk at work, or even on a sitcom, when the protagonists come to some glib realization before the 22 minutes are up. But today, this was different. I deeply felt that the things I want for myself can happen - and will happen. I can happen, starting right now, if I let them. We're our own worst enemy when it comes to keeping ourselves from achieving our potential. Whether it's not getting upset over little things, reducing the sugar in our diet, calling our parents more often, changing our career to what we really want to be doing with our lives - whatever it is that is keeping you from being who you know you are; you can be that person starting right now.

Today is the day.

And if you mess up, that's ok, because you've already made the decision, you're on the way. You don't have to do anything as dramatic as quit your job and move to a new hemisphere to be you. Just know that you can, and once you believe in yourself, you will.