I’ll be blunt: I wasn’t fun in high school. My senior year I spent every lunch hour in the math resource center, doing calculus homework and eating bag lunches with Mr. Newton, the only math teacher that could figure out how to make me understand derivatives. (I haven’t taken a math class since then, thank God.) I spent my afternoons swimming or managing the boys’ team, and my evenings doing homework for six (seven? I don’t remember) AP classes, including ones I blatantly didn’t care about but took anyways.
I don’t mean to say I didn’t enjoy those years. But I didn’t realize the reason I was working so hard. I thought it was because that’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve learned on this trip just how hard on myself I am — stress builds up inside of me like a spinning tornado until I can’t contain it, and then suddenly the delicate structures of my self-control are gone and there’s a few pints of Ben and Jerry’s gone too and woops wasn’t I supposed to finish that essay last night? It’s destructive. I have always been this way.
But that doesn’t mean I have to stay that way. I am slowly but surely changing and learning and adjusting. Over the last few days I’ve asked: What have you gained from your choices?
Because I sacrificed my lunches and my free time — because I was boring in high school — I visited the Western Wall this week, in the lovely city of Jerusalem.
Because I chose to swim — and because I faced a very real fear that I was not (am not) fast enough to compete at a collegiate level — I met one of my dearest friends, and Olga became my reason for coming to Tel Aviv and, by extension, for traveling to Eilat and swimming with tropical fish.
Because I competed for the scholarship I eventually received, I had a reason to study abroad, and a reason to come to the Dead Sea.
I have always been bad with stress. But the point of this trip has been change. I told one of my closest friends at home that I am slowly eradicating the parts of myself that I don’t like, and that’s one of them: I am better than my stress levels, and I’m better than the breakdowns. The perspective one gets while riding camels in a time zone eight hours ahead of home is paradigm-shifting.
I don’t believe in luck. I believe in faith and sweat and sacrifice, and I believe in grace. I am here (sitting in a chemistry library in Rehovot, Israel while Olga balances equations or something else chem related) because I was boring. This life is anything but boring anymore.