What it Means to Leave



Saying goodbye to my parents

Although I am already in Israel and did not have time to post it before I left, it might still be relevant to post as it informs my current experiences

In the last few days that I have here in the United States, I have become more reserved; wishing less to speak and to visit with friends and family than to sit quietly alone. To read, think, and delve truly into what it means to plunge into the unknown has taken me over and caused me to look at the world in a way that I never have before. Each moment, fleeting it always may have been, has recently reached a feverish pace. I am running away and toward the next moment, trying to squeeze each bit of emotion and enjoyment of the last, while simultaneously preparing for the next. To sit and be quiet is something seldom done in this world of the super-sonic and instantly-updating. We are addicted to connection– to be beyond reach to those around us is unimaginable. But what are we giving up by constantly being in contact? We are only able to hear our voices as mere whispers under the deafening drone of the present (our immediate lives). We disconnect ourselves from our being. We shy away from fear, pain, and loneliness and would rather fill our moments with the ephemeral rush of safety, pleasure, and company.

When is the last time any of us sat and thought, allowed ourselves to confront what scares us? Do we even know what we would say to ourselves were there not the blinking cursor of a computer screen always in front of us? I am afraid and that is okay. I confront my fears, my reservations, my anxieties because they are what lets me know that I am still alive.

As I sit before the computer screen, contemplating what exactly to put down in writing, it seems immensely difficult to describe the feelings that I am having. Recently, before I board the plane to Israel, I have surrounded myself with those close to me, friends and family with whom I have spent the last nineteen years of my life. For the first time in a long time, there are no sounds reverberating around my house. Everybody is away and I am left with my thoughts. I realize now, as I sit here, that I have been avoiding this exact moment: the moment that it will hit me that I am leaving my house, my parents and brothers, my childhood friends, and all the other intangibles that make home feel like home.

How does one create a home? Is it dictated by where they live? Is it the people that surround us in our home? is it that indescribable smell or sound as we enter our homes after a long day? And the most important question of all; how do we pick up our lives and create a new home for ourselves? It is a fact of life.

When I was a child, I had major separation anxiety. There was a time when I was in elementary school where it was difficult for me to even get dropped off at school. My parents rightfully so decided to send me to sleep away camp to help me get over my anxieties of being without them and being away from home. And, to their dismay, I cried almost all day every day for the two week session. However, I did learn the valuable lesson that even if something scared me and even if I felt completely alone and uncomfortable in the world, seven-year-old me was okay. I still remember on the last day of camp, my bunk and I were sitting in a circle talking about our favorite parts about camp. While most of the kids talked about how they loved their drama camp, or making new friends, or an awesome hike we went on, I said “the best part about camp for me was hating camp.” I will never forget what that meant to me. Even as a seven-year-old, even being seriously and dramatically upset by being away from my home and parents for such a long time, I loved the adventure of being away from them, I loved the feeling of being on the tail end of the experience and knowing that I conquered my fears. In a few hours time, my parents would pick me up and tonight I would sleep in my own bed! Needless to say, seven-year-old Elon would never imagine going to college out of the state or studying and moreover moving across the world. But somehow I got used to being alone, being okay without the seeming comforts of “home” and adjusting to my new lifestyles.

I’ve grown up in the same house since before I could talk. The dining room table has burn marks from when a Hannukiyah fell over when I was six. My living room has seen pillow forts, sleep-overs, movie nights, passover seders, and high school parties. My pool has shrunk before my eyes from an insurmountable ocean to a wading pool. In the same room that I sleep in every night, long ago my mom would pick me up for “stand-up snuggling” while my dad would read to me and my two brothers. I have taken the same route to school since before I could comprehend what a street was; I now drive it every day to teach those young children, whose lives I can relate to so much, how to swim. I was in their shoes not too long ago, and in the not-so-distant future, some of them might be in my shoes, teaching  and coaching the next generation. The scary thing, after all of this continuity is that now I don’t know the next time this will truly be my “home” again. Facebook says that I “live in Boston” but even as I attended college, had a bed and all of my clothing there, I still lived here in Encino. As that plane takes off from LAX, it will be my last time for a long time living in Encino.

Quickly approaches the moment that I check my bags in and step onto the plane that will plunge me, quite literally, into the unknown.

There is a difference between this flight and the one I took almost exactly a year ago; the flight to Boston. On that flight, I knew I had the support system of my best friend and many acquaintances in only a slightly foreign city. I had my mother with me, to for lack of a better term, hold my hand in that transition. It was tough getting used to the dorm life, my new neighbors, the dining hall, and of course the beautiful city of Boston. But by the end of that week, I knew my way around (as much as any West Coaster could). I quickly could adjust to my new life.

The only similarity between this flight and that to Boston is that there is again that support structure. This time it is not my mother and my best friend holding my hand, but rather the new family that I have created. The past few months have been rife with countless nights with my fellow Garin-mates; partying, travelling, becoming close. In my quiet moments I revel on the fact of how vividly I remember stepping into that conference room for my first seminar and meeting every one of them. I had a few days earlier came to LA and the weather shock gave me a continuous migrane for the whole trip. It was hard for me to be chipper and enthusiastic when I was uncomfortable both physically and mentally. Undoubtedly I had my reservations: they were already friends and I lived across the country. They were either still in high school or Asher’s age. With only a handful of exceptions  they all had Israeli parents and spoke Hebrew in their household. There was no way they could become my family in such a quick period of time. But the unthinkable happened and I have become close with these amazing people, each with their own amazing story. When I look back on how I attempted to speak Hebrew with them a mere few months ago, I cannot help but laugh.

The first ice-breaker was not only an ice-breaker to meet everybody and to get to know names. It was an ice-breaker into my frozen tundra of unused Hebrew. Besides for one friend in Boston, Moshe, I hadn’t spoken a word of Hebrew in over a year. For the first time since Hebrew class at Milken, I was hearing nothing but the language: my headache worsened as the ringing in my ears grew. It was a blur as we went around the circle, each saying there name and where they had a צלקת (scar). Of course my Hebrew was never good enough to know how to say scar in Hebrew and alas, I had long ago forgotten the names of the body parts in this language. Hell, I could barely say “I go to school in Boston.”

All of my life I have been searching for that big adventure. I have been yearning for the moment that I can move fully into that which is unknown to me.

Each and every person has their reasons for picking up their lives here in Los Angeles and across the nation and world to move to Israel. For some, it is the search of a better life – to make something more of themselves. For others it is the feelings of not belonging in American society – they mesh better with the societal fabric of Israel. Through all of the hundreds of conversations i’ve had with those that support me (and even those that don’t) I’ve begun to understand that the complexity of such a decision transcends anything that could be said or written in a the simplicity of our dialects. But a few days from now, each one of us with come together, board the plane, and start a new life. Our pasts are for the most part unknown to one another, but our futures (at least for the next few years) will all play our before our eyes together.


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