Growing up in a town that is just 7 miles long and attending a high school with just 200 people per class, I’d say weather I’d like to admit it or not, I grew up in a bubble. I knew that going to the grocery store down the street I would more times than not run into a neighbor or a friends mom or dad. I knew how to get an A in my health class because not only did my sister and I share the same health teacher, but we also shared him with our dad who had him when he was in high school. Everything was comfortable for me growing up in the sense that I felt like I would never encounter any curve balls so to speak. The key word there is comfortable. Looking back, I really could have done things to live not such a comfortable life. I could have put myself out there more and not had so much of an “invulnerability shield.”I don’t live my life today out of regret and that is because one, ten day trip changed my life.
Where it all started: This past February, I saw that pre registration for Birthright was open for summer. I thought to myself, why not apply and I can always back out if I want to later on. For those who don’t know, Birthright is a “free” trip to Israel with the one simple requirement of “being jewish.” It might seem too good to be true, but thats simply it. Flights to and from Israel are paid for, along with living accommodations while you are there. I was apprehensive about this trip for a few reasons. I’ve always considered myself Jew(ish). Meaning that I would say something along the lines of “Half” or “Yes, but I don’t practice.” I was also apprehensive because that is something so uncharacteristic of me to do; to go to a foreign country, completely alone, not knowing what to expect or how it was going to be. I’m kind of a control freak, so having zero control over a situation is, let’s just say, hard for me.
Months went by and I found myself pursuing the registration, paying the deposit, and eventually packing for the trip. I had been so set on going on this trip until about an hour before I left for airport. I said to my mom, “You know, I could go on this trip, but I could also really not go and be totally fine.” I felt myself slipping back into the bubble and putting up my “invulnerability shield.” My mom simply replied, “You’re going babe, so strap in.”
The turning point: As I walked into Los Angeles International Airport, I felt a strange feeling inside of me. I knew that my life was about to change. By myself, I walked up to the only group of people at the airport at 1:00am and reached out my hand and said, “Hi, my name is Jess.” And just like that, I put myself out there and positioned myself to have the greatest experience of my life because I was in that moment allowing myself to be vulnerable. That was just the beginning.
Release: Throughout the trip, I really allowed myself to feel emotions that I never wanted to intentionally feel before. At first I had to tell myself to be open and to feel, but quickly after that, it all came so natural. As I was walking through the Holocaust museum, I felt angry. As I was hiking the Masada during sunrise, I felt at peace. As I explored Mount Herzl and heard stories of fallen soldiers, I felt distraught. I truly thank this experience for showing me the all the positive to vulnerability. I left that trip not only being so proud of my culture, but also for teaching me so much more about myself than I ever thought I could have learned.