Friday, April 29, 2011

I Am Not An Adventure By Choice, But By Fate--Van Gough

I realize most of my entries have not been about my journey to the rabbinate (or impending journey to the rabbinate since school has not started yet, nor does it start until July 11th). This is possibly because up until this point most of what I am doing is not related to rabbinical school.  I am in the mist of all the pre-stuff: submitting my paperwork such as campus request forms [I hear on June 17th and you all will know then too, I promise], finishing courses graduating with my MA.Ed [two weeks!] from The American Jewish University, planning my trip to Europe [or letting my travel buddy plan and agreeing to whatever he says because I don’t plan or make decisions, or use technology in any productive way that would be useful in planning the trip], and crossing things off of my “before I leave LA bucket list”. I have made great dents in the list, knowing from the start that I would not complete this list, but figured part of the fun is trying. In the past year I managed to cross the following off the list:
*Wine tasting in Napa [including a Kosher winery]
* Danced around the streets of Santa Cruz
* Road tripped down the Pacific Coast Highway
* Found a castle in California
* Gone to Universal Studios theme park/ studio tour
* Explored different Los Angeles neighborhoods
* Gone to the LaBrea tar pits
* Gone to the San Diego Zoo
* Wandered [it was snowing so I could not hike] The Redwood Forest
* Gone to see a movie at the El Capitan Theater [ok, I have not done that one yet but it is my next youth group event so its as good as done]
* Gone to Alcatrez
* Gone to the Skirball Museum
* Gone surfing

There are many things I have not done that were on the list, but in less then 12 months I think 13 things is not so bad, especially given that most of them have been amazing adventures [Jill you will be missed terribly next year!] It is with that in mind that I present Manda’s Year In Israel Bucket List, because I am going to be in Israel for a year, I need to have adventures, so why not make a list [for my future classmates that read this here is where you learn something about me--I love lists. Actually, it is not that I love lists, its that I love crossing things off of lists. I have to do lists for helps me stay organized...sort of]
Manda’s Year In Israel Bucket List

  1. Go to Spain
  2. Go to Italy
            [ok one and two are cheating I already know I am doing that but still]
  1. Go to Germany
  2. Go to India
  3. Go to Nepal
  4. Go to Amsterdam
  5. Go to France
  6. Go to the UK
  7. Explore Be’er Sheva
  8. Explore Haifa
  9. Spend either Shabbat or part of a holiday in Tsfat
  10. Go to the “halacha theme park” Rabbi Alexander told my Survey of Jewish Law class about and explore the different Sukkot
  11. FINALLY go to Ein Gedi and splash around in a waterfall
  12. Make olive oil
  13. Go to the Paddleball museum
  14. Go to a really interesting festival that I have not gone to before [film festival and wine festival are a must but do not count for this list]
  15. Do the yam l’yam hike
  16. Go to Egypt and leave at the end of Passover and enter “The Promised Land”
  17. See at least 3 Israeli concerts
  18. Do a sunrise hike of something besides Masada

Please feel free to comment with what you would like to join in on, or what things you think need to be added to the list!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Next Year I Am Keeping All My Notes In A TrapperKeeper

            My generation is obsessed with our childhood. Obsessed. This is an obsession that has declared nothing as sacred. 90210 and Melrose Place rule the TV, NKOTB and BSB are going on tour this summer [and yes I do wish that I had tickets for that], Scream 4 is playing in theaters, and Nick is bringing back Clarissa Explains It All and Hey Dude among others. My generation is obsessed with their childhood.
            This obsession makes sense, lets be honest, my generation was lied too. We were lied to in a way that makes that line from The Sunscreen Song that states “ accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble, and children respected their elders” laughable. Here is the thing—no one from my generation will ever say that politicians were noble, we grew up on Bill Clinton, but we will say that prices used to be reasonable, and it won’t be a fantasy [I remember when gas was 99 cents a gallon!].
            And we were raised believing things would stay as they had been, constantly getting better for each generation—prices might rise, but so too would paychecks. We would live longer lives then our parents, and politicians, well they would stay politicians. And then we found out the truth—it was all a lie. We came of age to an economy in the toilet, where The New York Times reports that internships [paid if you are lucky] have become the new entry level job, and where at 27 it is okay to live at home with your parents [mom, dad, I promise I will not move home]. We live in a world where they are saying we won’t out earn our parents [the first generation in American history to not surpass the generation before it], and with obesity rates rising, they are saying that pretty soon we will be dying at a younger age then our parents. To put it bluntly—now is a scary time to be a twenty-something.
            So we run to the familiar, because in movies and TV shows we can pretend it’s a better day. We can pretend we are still little and all that potential we were promised still exists, because it beats the alternative—our parents [unknowingly] lied to us.
            The thing is, that there is a line between escapism and pretending we are in that better day, the fantasy of The Sunscreen Song if you will, and the exploitation of our youth. That line is being crossed, and we seem to be okay with it. Before I make my point please remember that I am one for nostalgia—I made one of my best friends from college watch Never Ending Story [which was way better at 5 then 25--sorry Hilary] because she had never seen it, I sometimes think I would trade my cell phone for my pager circa 1999, and I long for the days of a good mixed tape complete with radio DJ’s talking because you let the tape roll to long. That being said, I understand that those things need to be left in the past. They are fun to remember and reminisce about, but that does not mean that we need to recreate them. An example-- I just finished reading Sweet Valley Confidential, a book that picks up 10 years after Sweet Valley High [and ignoring the entire Sweet Valley University series?] this book which was said to be written for the fans, was clearly written for the author to make money—it didn’t even make sense. I felt as though a piece of my childhood had been ripped out from me and crushed into a million pieces. That’s the thing with a lot of these remakes of 90s era pop culture. They are cheap replicas of what used to be that are not viable in a world that is.
            On the Urban Outfitters website they have a dress, they call it their “90’s Vintage Dress” [I may buy it but that is besides the point—I like vintage things], that name says it all. It is okay if we wear, or consume the 90s as long as we realize that its vintage—it’s from a world that we no longer exist in. My generation [and I am just as guilty of this nostalgia] has to grow up. We need to realize that we are not getting the world we promised, and that crawling back into a decade that is no more, when things were far more rosy is not the answer. Instead, we need to take this new world into our hands and move forward. Our parents lied to us, but they did not mean too. If they had a crystal ball they would have told us the truth or tried their hardest to change it. But they can’t—we can. There was one truth that they did tell us—we are the future, so it’s up to us what happens next.

Friday, April 22, 2011

...I Want To Have A Snow Day That Will Turn Parents Into Kids

I spent 20 years trying to get out of this place
I was looking for something I couldn't replace
I was running away from the only thing I've ever known
Like a blind dog without a bone
I was a gypsy lost in the twilight zone
I hijacked a rainbow and crashed into a pot of gold
I been there, done that and I ain't lookin' back on the seeds I've sown,
Saving dimes, spending too much time on the telephone
Who says you can't go home…..
                        --Jon Bon Jovi, Who Says You Can’t Go Home

            I spent twenty years trying to leave New Jersey. Almost exactly twenty years. It started when I was four-ish. I was on a family vacation to California, and the story my father tells me goes that I tugged on his sleeve one day, and looked up at him with my big blue eyes and said “Daddy, can we move here?” and he said “no” (being a New Yorker he rightly believed that the center of everything in the US is New York). I paused for a moment, looked up at him and said “Daddy…one day I am going to live here” and he again said “no”. After that, being my stubborn self, I consciously or subconsciously spent energy trying to move to California. It was a journey filled with roadblocks—California was to far away for my parents when it came to college, upon graduation no job in California wanted me. California was the impossible dream. I remember growing secretly resentful of one of my best friends when she got into graduate school in California. California was not her dream, it was my dream—she stole my San Diego.
            As that first year post college began to draw to a close, I threw my hat in the California ring one more time and landed a job at Hillel at the Claremont Colleges. This was the dream—I was on a one-way ticket to California.
            In retrospect, I do not know if that ticket was one way because I really thought this was it—I am going out west to find the sun and once I found it life will be glorious and I would not turn back, or if it was because I had friends telling me that I would be back, and I am stubborn and wanted to prove them wrong. Either way--after 20 years, was getting out of that place.
            I came out west to find the sun—and I did. I found winters with tank tops, and summers that went on for hundreds of days, but then something strange happened. I found myself homesick for the strangest things. From day one in California I missed bagels, pizza, and public transportation. But after three years of endless summer, I found myself longing for the fall. I found myself angry at the trees that did not change color in October. I found myself feeling pity for the kids who would never know what it was like to jump into a pile of orange, red, and yellow leaves. I found myself missing that feeling of longing for summer. Of the days when I would check the mail at my parents house in Teaneck, New Jersey and call my dad and say “guess what came in the mail today?” and the answer would be a letter from the Teaneck Swim Club, meaning that it was safe to count down to summer. I missed a holiday season with rosy cheeks, and the smell of pine. I went to Beverly Hills “Deck The Hills” and cried at its desperate and failed attempt at being 5th avenue and Rockefeller Center.
            I missed my family and I missed friends, but those I could get on a plane and see. What I missed most I realized, were feelings. These feelings that I had to walk away from in order to gain an appreciation for them.
I missed home.
And so I filled out a campus preference card with a million and ten reasons why they should put me in New York. And now I wait. I wait for May 25th when I get on that plane to EWR. I wait for May 26th where I change my license back to a New Jersey driver’s license [man I wish they were still those plastic coated ones]. I wait until June 13th, when I pack up and get on a plane and leave again, sad because the visit was far to short. I wait for HUC to make a decision, to let me [hopefully] go home.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Nose Goes Solves All The Problems In My Life

I am currently planning a trip to Europe with one of my roommates for next year, Adam. Originally we had been discussing going to England, Scotland, Ireland, and France but felt that time/money might make that trip to taxing. We then switched to Italy and Spain. A few days into our planning, a mutual friend had suggested we do France and Italy and he and his wife wanted to join us as well. Adam and I spent an hour and a half on Skype, looking up travel in France—or rather he was looking and I was avoiding. I was avoiding because I wanted to go to Spain, but I wasn’t saying anything. An hour and ½ in to the conversation it finally came out that I wanted to do Spain and Italy because I had a stronger desire to see Spain. Adam just looked at me [well visa vie skype] and said, “why didn’t you say so”. It seemed so simple, just say it, make the decision, and go with it. The problem is I am the queen of what if. I hate making decisions because that leads to asking “what if”.  What if I made the wrong choice or said the wrong thing? These what ifs can drive a person crazy as they go through the world second-guessing themselves.
I am a slave to my own head and my own doubts. As we enter Pesach, and in great detail and length [or not length if you are at my Seder] we will recount the details of us going out of slavery and into freedom, I cannot help but reflect on ways in which I am still a slave to my own doubts.
            In Deuteronomy 24:17 we read: When you beat down the fruit of your olive trees, do not go over them again, this shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. When you father the grapes of your vineyard do not pick it over again; that shall go to the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. Always remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore do I enjoin you to observe this commandment.
            We are not supposed to go back to our fields a second time, according to the Torah, but rather leave the remains for those who cannot provide for themselves. This sends a beautiful message that seems irrelevant today. With the exception of one [maybe two] of my classmates, no one I know is a farmer [or has any desire to be a farmer]. So what does it mean to not go over your fields again?
            I propose a modern way to look at what it means to not go over your fields again—do not second guess yourself. The Torah tells us—if you left it, it is no longer yours. Once you have gone you cannot go back. Imagine applying this to your life. Once you make a choice, you accept it, and move forward whatever that may look like. Imagine the freedom from ones own mind if they trusted in their decisions. What would our lives look like if we walked through the world with the ultimate confidence in what we chose to do with our lives? We will always know a naysayer or two, who tell us we cannot do what we have set out to do, imagine not being the naysayer in your life. Imagine empowering yourself to make a choice and go with it, without looking back, what would that look like?
            I have recently started an experiment. I am making decisions, small ones, ones where the outcome does not have a drastic impact on my life, and I am going with them, moving forward, and not waiting for someone else to decide for me. I have realized, that by waiting for others to make choices, I am loosing the ability to choose my own fate, design my own life, and operate under my own free will.
I am starting small. This year I am a slave to my own doubts, next year I hope that I can say: once, I was a slave in my doubts.  Today, I am free

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Easy Bake Oven Was Not Nearly As Exciting As I Had Hoped It Would Be (Sorry Mom)

When I was a little girl I wanted an Easy Bake Oven. In retrospect, I do not know if I wanted the oven because it looked like fun or if I wanted it because my mother would not let me have the toy (I am sure she had good reasons). The fact that I did not get this toy as a child was one that I used as ammo against my parents for years; whenever one of them would tell me how I got everything I wanted, I would point out that I never got an Easy Bake Oven (or a LiteBrite for that matter). 

For my 21st birthday (as a bit of a gag gift), my mother got me an Easy Bake Oven. She told me that since I was living in an apartment with a real oven, she figured she could trust me with an Easy Bake one. I put the stickers on the oven, amused at having finally won the battle and took the oven back to college with me. I think I may have used it once—it was not nearly as entertaining as I had imagined. Partially because I was 21 and using a real oven, but I think partially because the anticipation of one day owning this toy was greater then the reality of owning it.

This is often the case. As a child (and sadly probably even to this day to some extent), I would so badly want something and then get bored with it, or be disappointed because the want or the excitement seemed greater then the experience. I am sure I wasted a great deal of my parents time and money (sorry!) on things that seemed exciting to me until I got them.

This is a little bit how I feel right now. In 68 days I move to Israel for a year to start school. This is something that I have been waiting and wanting for quite some time. I can’t help but reflect on these past experiences and fear that this too will end up on this list of things that were not nearly as exciting as they seemed to be before they began. The problem is, I believe, I too often forget that the waiting is a part of the experience. The excitement before the experience is not a separate experience—but the beginning of all the possibilities. Not every moment of school will be wonderful, or perfect, or live up to the ideal in my head, but that does not make it invalid or automatically a bad experience. These are all parts of the whole, because they are all parts of my life, for better or for worse. 

Experiences are not little things that we can put in boxes, or paint by numbers where the color stays within the lines. Experiences are messy and blur together and sometimes happen more then one at a time. That is the beauty in them. That is where the excitement lies. Instead of waiting for my time at AJU to be done and over (which currently feels equal to Waiting For Gedot), I am going to spend the rest of this time enjoying that experience as it bleeds into the next five years. My goal is to not compare school with the act of waiting for school, the unknown is always more exciting. My kavenah or intention is to enjoy the waiting and the experience, take the good with the bad, and recognize that this all a part of the ride.

And mom, thanks for the Easy Bake Oven.