It’s not the huge bowl of hummus I just ate. That queasy self-awareness is coming from that birthday I just swallowed. Another year went down the old pipe a few days ago and I’m left with a heartburn I can’t tame with a simple pop of Tums. I’m aware that turning 24 should not be looked at as the bane of my existence. Turning one more year in your twenties is not one step closer to the grey-haired, denture-ridden lifestyle we all inevitably face. Nonetheless, turning older requires reflection, which I am hoping will help cure this birthday-induced nausea I’ve been experiencing.
First, let’s rewind and briefly outline my incredibly dreadful 23rd birthday. Last year, I was sitting alone in my Kansas City apartment with an entire batch of homemade mac & cheese at my disposal. As the lonely December day passed by, so did the pot of creamy calories and any hope for happiness in my 23rd year.
That birthday was a tough one to swallow. I was alone and contemplated many things, my life as a professional cat lady/mac & cheese restauranteur being one of them. I searched online, looking through page after page of opportunities abroad when I landed on Israel Teaching Fellows. Back then, it was all hypothetical. “I’m not the kind of person that just moves to Israel,” I said to myself with a wavering conviction. Convincing myself to stick it out, “it” being my job and my life in KC became the name of the game. My stubborn self didn’t want to quit what I was doing, but my adventurous side couldn’t turn away. I was ready for a change, so I (eventually) made one.
And it took me up until now, when a group of Israelis sang to me in Hebrew at a bar in Be’er Sheva, to understand how drastic your life can change if you let it. One birthday you could be sitting alone hoping for a change and the next, you can be surrounded it.
My first birthday in Israel was fabulous. At the school where I teach, I was showered with notes, hugs and songs of celebration. The students wrote letters of appreciation, and even though the misspellings made me feel slightly unaccomplished, the thought certainly counted. Teachers at the school wished me many a “mazal tov” along with one of Israel’s more common birthday phrases, “May you live until 120!” That night I celebrated with Americans and Israelis at one of my favorite water holes in Be’er Sheva. Best moment of the day? Being sung “Happy Birthday” in English, Hebrew and Arabic.
Yeah, my 24th kicked my 23rd’s sorry little ass.
So what’s bringing on this indigestion? It’s this small little thing known as the unknown. If my life can do a complete 180° in a matter of months made by only a few decisions albeit major ones, what the hell is in store for my next year on this earth?
Unnerving as this unknown may be, I’ve thought about it and then thought about it more, and it seems to be the unknown that gives me the most satisfaction out of life. It’s the struggles of new places and new people that keep me wanting more. Luckily, I’ve decided this indigestion I speak of is only temporary, and can be cured with moments of incredible views and international, thought-provoking conversation. I will make it through another year of twists and turns and although stomach pangs may come about, I’ll know, or at least hope, that the pain will fade into excitement and happiness.
This year I learned that the opportunities which seem so far from reach, so much bigger than that shoebox you’ve found to fill your life experiences, can be exchanged for a U-Haul if need be – a container big enough to fill with the new countries, new friends and new challenges you choose to experience. But in order to fill that bigger box, you must be OK with the unknown.
So cheers to another year of the unknown, and may it be filled with all of the beautiful confusion and mystery a girl can fit in her U-Haul (and still enjoy).
A song for the week…