b a r e

writing is healing. ask me anything.

Tag: Paris

write about a time when a dream went up in flames

I have always been goal driven. Or rather, I had always been. When I was in high school Model United Nations, I knew I wanted a career in the UN. I would continue to study French, then in college study abroad in Paris, then graduate fluent and get a job in NYC at the UN building. Everything I did academically pointed in that direction. I even became president of MUN in college and went to the National MUN conference in NYC where I was on the Security Counsel. I was a the height of my academic career. I knew thousands of incoming freshmen because I was a counselor for orientation programs. I even knew the chancellor from participating in leadership conferences. I was close friends with many seniors. And I had a close knit group of friends (dare I say, a clique) that I did everything with outside of school.

Then came time to leave the country for Paris. I was distraught, I was a mess. I was about to fly to the opposite side of the world, alone.

To say the year was traumatic is an understatement. It was total culture shock. And even with 6 years of French classes behind me, I could barely communicate. But I worked very hard, and I began to find a rhythm there. Suddenly the year was over and it was time to return. Coming back home was even harder. That year had cracked the foundation of who I thought I was. I came back anonymous. The seniors had graduated. The freshmen forgot me. The chancellor changed. And I no longer fit in with my friends. I no longer fit my old role, and even if I had, that spot had been eliminated as the group dynamics shifted. I was lost. And I no longer wanted to work for the UN. I felt like I had wandered off my carefully tended path into the middle of a giant field of flowers surrounded by tall trees. Where was the path? I had no idea. I didn’t know in which direction to head, and so I was paralyzed, panicked and miserable.

As a result, when I graduated, I temped for a while before falling into an administrative role that paid well and was easy. And then I stayed in those kinds of jobs for 15 years, waiting for something, some kind of sign that would illuminate a new path.

Now that I look back, I see that I actually did receive that sign, 3 years after I graduated. I was moving from one administrative job to another, and my new boss (as awful as she was, micromanaging and manipulative) was the founding member of a synagogue. She saw the teacher in me, and brought in the educational director to meet me, who promptly offered me a job teaching Sunday school. Although I did not stay at that administrative job, I went on to teach Sunday school for 6 glorious years. My teaching only ended because I had my wedding to plan, then a child to have, then severe post partum depression. I didn’t go back to teaching. And I continued to look for a sign.

Well, the sign has just recently re-illuminated, pointing me again in the direction of teaching. And this time I will listen.

What steps are you taking to prepare for the holidays?

I hate the holidays. I’m sure having my only other past, intense relationship crumple around this time of year doesn’t help. Neither do the short, gray days that reflect the gray inside my head and heart. But most of all I blame my orthodox Jewish education who said we are the minorities – we are – and we are not part of everyone else – not true. They reveled in being separate and persecuted. We were special, in that we did not belong. And not belonging created (so far) a life-long wedge between me and the xmas commercial crap that is shoved down our throats each year. You’re probably thinking, “bah humbug!” But I know all the xmas songs by heart and I’ve never tried to learn any of them. And when I lived in Paris I loved the holidays. Beautiful decorations everywhere, but no intense commercial marketing. When I babysat for a Mormon family in high school and college, I really felt a warmth about the holiday. For them it was, yes about Jesus, but more importantly it was about family. Now, as a parent, I find my anger about the holidays returning. From every direction, in all forms of media, everyone is telling you to buy stuff. And my toddler is caught up in this tsunami because she doesn’t understand this forced consumerism. I try to shield her as best as I can, but the decorations, like the marketing campaigns, are colorful and distracting and everywhere. And I have to explain to her that they are not for us, because we’re Jewish. She quiets and looks thoughtful after I say this. And I wonder how the wheels that are turning in her head are processing this. I don’t want her to feel excluded, but unfortunately that might be the end result anyway. At least, in our home. We’re headed to the mid-west at the end of the month to visit my in-laws, who are Catholic. She’ll get her fill of xmas there, grandma will see to it. I guess I just really hope she won’t try to talk to my daughter about Jesus. Even though I have no control over who my daughter becomes – gay? conservative? athiest? – I really want her to feel pride in being Jewish. And let’s face it, xmas is alluring, with its shiny decorations and its mountain of gifts (a sure thing from grandma – my daughter is the first grandchild, and she’s adorable). As for preparing, I’m not sure there’s much I can do except be flexible and be aware of my state of mind so I’m not triggered. Do I ask grandma not to talk religion with my daughter? Do I dare? Maybe after I first see what she’s bought me.