Making my bed and lying in it

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Some decisions are easy enough to make: the gym or the track, the ballet or the theatre, red wine or white, cupcake or no cupcake, etc ... Other decisions, however, constitute much more of a struggle: marriage, a change of career, having a child. These choices are difficult because once a decision is made, it signifies that our lives are about to change completely and irrevocably. And subconsciously we know that change, even when it is ostensibly for the better, never comes without a price. As most of you know, I am in school. I believe in the Humanities and in what I do. I believe that actual learning has very little to do with the acquisition of information. I believe that education, a real education, teaches us first and foremost how to think. And the way we think has the potential to impact who we are. For me, personally, learning is not a passive event. Learning primes me for the opportunity to first notice, and then act. And that is what happened to me one afternoon in the library: I caught a sudden glimpse of what was possible for me in terms of my studies. A whole new world opened itself up, and my life as I knew it was transformed. I suddenly wanted something very badly. So badly, in fact, that I was prepared to risk everything to get it.

Prior to this decision-event, my life was comfortable and cozy. I loved my work in the film industry. My employers, who supported my decision to return to academia, were kind enough to give me back my job every summer between semesters, a job for which I was ridiculously over-paid. My studies were progressing extremely well. I pretty much had my pick of excellent doctoral programs. I had won a very fancy scholarship. I had a great network of friends and acquaintances. And to top it all off, I lived in a beautiful rent-controlled apartment with three balconies and French doors overlooking a charming park full of large old trees. Nice, right? Granted I had put many years of work into building this life for myself. But I was very lucky----and I knew it!

A very tiny but very famous school in Jerusalem (in a Monastery, no less) offered the courses I needed. Only this school, out of all the doctoral programs to which I had applied, allowed for the possibility of transitioning from my former field of study to the current one. My choices were limited. I had to act. I had to decide. Everything about making the decision to shift my area of academic focus was terrifying. I had no idea what to expect, and nothing about the future was certain. Keep in mind that I am not 20 years old (even though I sometimes act like it). I am a grown woman for god's sake! I had to decline my hard-won scholarship (I don't come from money so this was a really tough choice). I withdrew my candidacy to various doctoral programs knowing full well that another opportunity might never turn up. I gave up the lease on my beautiful rent-controlled apartment. I put everything I owned in storage in a city I wasn't sure I would ever see again. I was, in fact, homeless. Perhaps most difficult of all, I had to agree to start again, in Jerusalem of all places, as a beginner. I remember emailing my father and asking him "IS THIS CRAZY?" to which he promptly replied "YES!!!" (my father thinks he is funny).

I wish I could tell you all that I made my decision calmly and that I acted with a great deal of confidence and poise. But I would be lying. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty. I agonized non-stop. I cried. And I cried. I called my mother. I called my sisters. I called my favorite teacher from Elementary school who I hadn't seen in 30 years. I polled the women who worked at the grocery store down the street for their opinions about my life. I drove myself and everyone around me insane. Dazzlingly self-confident I was not! I was in fact so full of recriminations and so racked with self-doubt that I did not bother to pack until 10 PM the night before the flight------------keep in mind I was going away for more than a year. But, and this is the point, I DID make the decision, I did take the necessary steps, and I did get to Jerusalem (that's definitely a blog for another day).

And now back to the present. If you are looking for 'upbeat,' you aren't going to find it here, not in the way you think. My life now---post-Jerusalem and depending on your perspective---is not particularly wonderful by most standards. On the up-side, I did get accepted into another excellent doctoral program (where I am now, in fact), and I was lucky enough, a year later, to re-win that same fancy scholarship. But I live in a city I don't particularly like (pretentious, expensive, polluted). No one in their right mind would describe my current apartment as beautiful (I think "clean" is about as good as it will ever get). I pay three times the rent for 1/3 the size. I am largely surrounded by strangers. Although partly my fault, the work-load is crazy-----I often spend up to 14 hours a day at my computer. I struggle financially every day. And, finally, the possibility of employment in my field is slim to none. But do I regret my choice to completely disrupt my life in the single-minded (and perhaps insane) pursuit of knowledge? No. I don't. Should I have valued the one bird in the hand at the expense of the two birds in the bush? Absolutely not! There are no guarantees in life. Not ever. The adage "better safe than sorry" applies to some contexts, perhaps, but definitely not to others. While I loved my life prior to the upheaval to which I subjected myself, this step was, for me, necessary. A failure to act as I saw the path open up before me would have been cowardly, short-sighted, and something I would have looked back on with regret for the rest of my days. I miss many thing about my former life, and nothing here is easy, but I would never trade my life now, with all its issues and unpleasantnesses, for my life then. Not for anything in the world. Life is too short for regrets. And I love what I do. And that's about as upbeat as I'll ever get (except when it comes to my cat).



P.S. I absolutely loved your responses to my writers' block blog. Loved!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I am reading your blogs backward tonight; this is the prequel to the one I just read. I really love the way your writing takes me on a journey with you!
    Your decision was very brave; I am glad that you are not fraught with regrets, but rather you can say with honesty that you love what you do. I look forward to reading more of your story.
    2432 days ago
    I am in awe of your courage. I know you were a basket case making the decision, but damn, if you didn't make it! :) Bravo. Yeah, life now may not be exactly were you want it but who knows whats in store for you in the next couple of years. Fortune favors the bold! Something great is coming. :)
    2435 days ago

    Comment edited on: 10/24/2014 12:41:11 PM
  • DTHOR6
    Wow. What an awesome thing to get to do. One day you will get back to your favorite City and where you love your apartment/house again. How cool to be able to travel to go to school. I would love that.

    Thanks so much for sharing this with me. Maybe out of your comfort zone but you write a wonderful blog. emoticon
    2437 days ago
    Well said. Thank you for sharing.
    2438 days ago
    Great feline outfit!
    2438 days ago
  • no profile photo CD14895051
    Love your blog and openness to sharing your decision making and its aftermath. I had a somewhat similar experience except that I was already a year into my doctoral program, had a great job, apartment, friends, etc. -- nice life -- when I decided to take a sabbatical, sell my apartment and move to London in order to fulfill a childhood fantasy of mine (my grandmothers were both from England) of living there and possibly getting married to a man who lived there. I found out I did not want to marry the man, live in London or anywhere but the States, but I was so happy for the experience. My training analyst told me I must have had something that he doesn't have in order to make such a leap of faith. Later I told him I discovered what that something was -- ignorance. If I had had ANY idea of what I was doing, I wouldn't have done it. No regrets now, of course. But, sometimes I wonder what direction my life would have gone if I had stayed put?
    2438 days ago
  • no profile photo CD11945874
    So then ............... emoticon .......... My first thought was ........... "So you can write ............ and you conquered yet another feat ............. of writing .........so I expect we will see or read more, right? .............. you definitely have a lovely style that I could not help but read from start to finish. And I am glad you do not regret anything in your journey. I am intrigued by going to Jerusalem ............. What a beautifully historical sanctuary. (I would love to hear about it sometime) And do you have any pictures? ............... Keep writing you hear? .......... emoticon
    2438 days ago
    Alright, so you dropped your previous cushy life and flew off to Jerusalem. You took a risk, one that you would probably regret not doing for the rest of your life and upon your return you landed yourself in a job that you love but that doesn't pay much in a city that seems to pretty much suck royally.

    It sounds logical to me. I mean we only get one life. You have to pack as much into it as you possibly can. You already knew what your old life held in store for you. It was routine and comfortable, but you can't grow as a person unless you push your boundaries. When your finished with your doctoral program you can always move. Nothing is holding you there, but you. In many respects your lucky that you can spend your days doing something you love. So many people hate their jobs, spending all of your non-sleeping hours doing something you loathe has to be like despising your very existence.

    Overall, the experience sounds like it changed you. Personally, I think well rounded individuals, make the most interesting and unbiased humans.

    2438 days ago
    2438 days ago
    "In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take"
    2438 days ago
    2438 days ago
    My dear, you definitely follow your passion. Not many people have that courage when it includes challenges. You are not the type who is going to have regrets in life.

    HGUS and smiles. Thanks for sharing this.
    2438 days ago
  • no profile photo CD5940981

    You are a thinker, and I have come to appreciate that in the short time we've been emoticon "friends " on SP. I am touched by the honesty and transparency with which you shared your thoughts in this, your blog. What a privilege to listen to you share some of the experiences that have shaped your present life, or more precisely the journey through life, which is highly individual and always lived in the present influenced by the past.

    As you implied, every decision I make concerning my future is based upon what I think or know about the possible outcome of that decision. Rarely have I had enough prescience to gain absolute confidence in the rightness or wrongness of a decision. I have never lived in the future, but rather I live into the future as always, teetering on a knife's edge so to speak, between "now" and "then."

    Some decisions I make not at all, but I must live into them as well. I often imagine that I am balanced on a seesaw with the weight of the world and the past on the other side. When I am up, noticing that I'm hopeful and living in peace and happiness with myself or choosing to be so, my communication with the world is usually positively upbeat. That is the face I want to look at in my mirror. When I don't see it myself, I hardly want to share the obverse with others.

    I visited Israel for two weeks in the summer of 1984 beginning with Jerusalem. It was a trip of a lifetime. Even now I remember my trek along the Via Dolorosa and all of the history and the inflection of my tour guide, Arie Mizrahi and our bus driver, Shalom Levi. If I looked now like I did then I would not have ever been on SparkPeople LOL.

    You are right. Life is too short to live with regret. emoticon

    Blessings are wished for you!


    2438 days ago
    In life we have choices - the major one is to accept where we are or to push for more. I personally believe that it comes down to what you NEED from life and what type of personality you are.

    Some people are happy to live within their comfort zone, tackling change very slowly and with little grace .. whereas others live for change, they thrive on new situations and new people. The majority of humanity falls somewhere between.

    Life is a journey, not a destination. If you want MORE, then you have to seek it and you have to be prepared to accept that it may not always go smoothly, but you will experience MORE as a result of exposure to many new things.

    The human condition is to want more - perpetuated by an endlessly progressing media that tells us we "should" want more, we should demand it and expect it and strive for it.

    Some people live out loud, and some people live in their own heads more often than in the real world. Is it right or wrong, or simply a matter of what fulfils the soul? I don't know, I'm still on my journey and still learning to be a better me, one day at a time.

    I do know that possessions matter far less to me now than they did as a young adult. I know that the desire for more knowledge is ever present, even if I don't always comprehend the depth of the subjects.

    It is these strengths of yours that I admire; the ability to accept that life comes with pros and cons and to take what improves you as a person, rather than doing what society finds "normal" within its narrow confines.

    Great blog, loving the depth. :)
    2438 days ago
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