As I think about how I started anew this year by applying the lesson I learned, I’m trying to figure out the words to say. I wonder if I should write about my trip to Israel, getting a job, or even dating. What angle should I write from? Will I tell a story? My mind becomes consumed with the possibilities. Turns out the lesson I am going to write about is the exact same lesson I need reminding of at this exact indecisive moment:
“Shaily, just chill out.” Everything will be alright.
After having a relationship where all I did was overthink, I realized I needed to switch the way I thought about dating and life, really. That’s where “just chill out” came in.
When I stressed about finding the husband that my dad has been demanding for me for years, all I really needed to hear was “chill out.” When I did not have a job right out of college, I could have panicked, but I chilled out. When I arrived in Israel last year without a program to attend or a real plan, I did not scramble – I chilled out.
This year, I started dating differently. I used to date with the “end game” in mind because of constant pressure from my family. Mind you, I am 23, but this started when I was 17. At every wedding my family went to, the little old ladies with their thick Persian accents would come up and say, “I vish da next vuhn vill be you.”
For my dad and his community, marriage is everything, so I internalized all of this and it showed. I was extremely anxious whenever I dated someone. Even a random dance partner at the Matzo Bash a little over a year ago lead me to overthink where it was going when all I should have done – in the words of Lady Gaga – was “Just Dance.”
When I decided to chill out, dating changed drastically. The guys I was meeting were looking for a partner. I ended up seeing these dates as a fun way to relax with someone new. When I looked at these people, I didn’t see someone whom I needed to determine if I could spend my life with; I saw someone sitting with me in a Julius Meinl having a laid back conversation, nothing more. I enjoyed every moment of every date this past year by trying to never think of a date as more than what it was on the surface.
After graduation, I finished my program by student teaching in Melbourne, Australia. It was quite the summer. But then the fear came in as I neared my first year in “The Real World,” something my friends had warned me about. Would I get the job in New York or D.C. or would I have to use my connections and work in Chicago? I put so much effort (and stress) into cover letters and resumes for only two jobs that I didn’t end up getting. I was devastated. What would I do when I got back to Chicago? August 2013 was the first time I did not have to go to school since I was born. That thought was daunting.
But in the end, everything turned okay. I could finally let my breath out when two – later three – of the most incredible Jewish schools hired me to teach Hebrew. Now, when I look for work, I take it easy. I keep my eyes peeled for the work that most inspires me.
Getting to Israel this past summer was a fight against fear itself. I quit all the amazing institutions I was working for with the hope that Israel would nourish my soul. Before the first leg of my trip in June, I applied to infinite programs and scholarships that would get me to Israel for a minimal cost. After rejection upon rejection, a small miracle happened. When I was not even trying, I won a flight from Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Shaily with medical trainee soldiers volunteering for Sar-El to make and take apart packages of medical supplies.
But that was just getting there. On the second leg of my trip starting this past October, I knew I wanted to do Sar-El - Volunteers for Israel. The plan was to start volunteering soon after the holidays in hopes that would also work for the organization. When the timeline did not work, I did not panic, I adventured around Jerusalem. In the end, I realized everything happens for a reason and it was going to be alright. I don’t regret anything from this trip; being chill and open was half the reason I got to explore the unexpected.
Although I still need reminders from the people I’m closest with to “chill out,” I have been growing to internalize this notion for over a year now. I just returned from Israel after the most chill of conclusions. Last weekend I went to Tzfat, the epicenter of Kabbalah and religious “highs,” to unwind and enjoy the special air of the city. In addition to the stunning views, my Shabbaton rabbi told a story that reinforced everything I learned this year.
Shaily in Tzfat this past weekend and in 2013
He was traveling in India and had taken buses to get around. He had planned to spend Shabbat in a Jewish area and planned the trip there so he would have just enough time to make it before Shabbat began. Friday morning he goes and waits for the 8 a.m. bus for the upcoming 10-hour drive, but a man there says it doesn't exist; he would need to wait two more hours. He worried that he wouldn't get there before Shabbat. But then, an unexpected bus showed up and managed to take him there. Everything was okay. No need to stress.
I took from it that I need to put in my good for the world, not worry about every detail. I know will work out one way or another, and I can proudly say I am enjoying my journey one chilled out step at a time.
To read more posts in the "In With the New" blog series, click here.