Homeland insecurity: An expat on the labor of love and land

An expat is neither here nor there, not completely. An expat has their heart in two places. An expat has passports updated, ready.

An expat’s fomo is just another part of the gig.

United States of America:

I don’t know if it’s an apology I owe. It’s an acknowledgment, at least.

Over the last five years or so, I started feeling really, significantly disconnected from America. I started giving up. The feeling I’d never move back there by choice developed into more than a feeling; eventually a ‘known’.

I felt if I ever moved back, I’d be relocating to a new unfamiliar country. I mean this on a personal level. I came to feel I didn’t fit in the landscape. The culture.

I had fallen way out of love, way out of like, with my country, my people, my culture. Not a government thing – an everything thing. The whole picture. The inaction. The action. The priorities. The sensitivities. The personalities. The close mindedness.

I had cared so much but then I just couldn’t invest any more care.

And then this happened. A year and a half ago, everyone started talking about 2016. And it was ridiculous and I laughed. And I still couldn’t make the feeling come back. I stood by and watched. Until I started watching closer, until I started thinking again, until I started caring again. Until I realized I have something to say and for me, there’s still a place in the conversation.

And I didn’t have to ever want to move back to know that I do care and always will. Being away is what keeps me with you. Being away helps me be the best version of a patriotic citizen I can be. It’s an acknowledgment of the kind of relationship we have. It’s an odd but honest one.

Being away keeps me American.

Israel:

It’s time.

For too long I’ve used the American elections as an excuse to ignore you. The fact is, 2015 was so devastating and I just couldn’t pour anything else into this. Ever since, I’ve been angry, and ‘busy’ was a fine excuse.

But what if I was angry and busy, but for you, and not at you? I came here to be counted, I came here to cast my lot. There’s value in that and I will find it again. I will uncover it again.

I always wanted to come back around to political activism. This place is a fucking disappointment. It’s too painful to get involved but I don’t want to look back and know I didn’t do enough to show my kids what could be if we only work towards it.

America taught me that about my adopted homeland. After everything there in the past year and a half, I still care. I care about a place where my heart doesn’t beat.

Surely it is time to pivot back to the here and now. To where my heart beats in real-time. To where I chose to live. To where I’ve built a home. To where I cast my lot.

So what’s next?

Expat life: Eleven years.

As of today I have spent a third of my life living as an expat, having made the choice to leave what I knew and start over somewhere else, with specific goals and ideology fueling the decision. And 11 years later I really don’t have much to complain about, which I appreciate is incredibly fortunate.

Sure, over a decade later taxi drivers still balk at the fact I left New York City. Even other olim balk at the fact I left New York City. But I maintained during year one and I maintain now that I was born in the wrong city and it took me (only) two decades to find the right place to grow, breathe, build, and live.

The one thing I tell people and grows truer every day is that the cost of leaving family never goes down; it gets more and more taxing as you build a career, settle with a partner, have another kid, watch your siblings and parents move on without you.

For myself, I made the right decision 11 years ago and it set my life on a course I’m proud of. Not all my goals have been met yet and the ideology that fuels my perspective and life has transitioned. And no matter where I am, I always feel like an outsider and, oddly, that’s where I’ve realized I operate most naturally.

But I’m happy feeling as natural as I can as an inside-outsider here in Israel rather than an inside-outsider back in New York.

6 quickies from visiting for 3+ weeks in the States

Just because. There are some things I must remember.

  1. So the ’90s are back. This I swear, I was thisclose to buying Doc Martins with my adult money. I don’t feel old. I feel great.
  2. I guess I’m so over it, I forgot to get a doughnut?
  3. Obviously my T-Mobile customer rep, who was digging to find out why I’m ‘always abroad’, is waiting till next summer to go on his Birthright trip.
  4. It’s very hard to avoid the news. It’s everywhere. It’s an ISIS beheading video playing right behind my son while I desperately search for the remote.
  5. There’s no people-watching like American people-watching.
  6. I’m always paying the family price for moving away.

An expat’s view: How joining Vine helps me celebrate humankind

Have you tried Vine yet? It’s the video answer to Instagram and Twitter. And in the tradition of most starting-out social media platforms, when I heard all the buzz about it, I could only react with, why?

Vine was iOS-only for a while, and this week joined the Android world. So yesterday I downloaded it.

First I scrolled through ten or so of the videos in my feed. Some were actually kinda moving; others were just lame. Kinda like Instagram. Or Twitter.

Hours later, I saw an opportunity to video something. Within 6 seconds of my half-Australian two-year-old daughter singing Waltzing Matilda, I uploaded my first Vine.

That evening, in a fit of boredom, I went back to Vine. I scrolled through my newsfeed, and then ventured out via hashtags. I saw everything – from the creatively executed #loop, to cheesy #magic, to the requisite #selfie.

I found myself fascinated in a way I’ve never felt through a social media experience before: I felt… connected, instantly, deeply, to total strangers. It must be something about video; Instagram makes photos of anything beautiful. Twitter makes joining conversations easier.

But video accomplishes something else. Even if it’s 6 seconds. There’s something about Vine, where you actually feel the person behind the camera. You hear them. In many cases, you see them or their friends. You view the animated world through their eyes. You see how people look, hear how they sound, take in their surroundings.

And taking it a little further… I’ll admit. The lonely expat it in me felt… connected. Opened to the rest of the world. Even if, to be honest, it’s mostly Americans I was watching on Vine. It was familiar. It was foreign. It was, for a second, like I could imagine being there, involved in the culture again.

After seeing dozens of 6 second clips, I started to imagine the possibilities once this spreads further around the world… After reading up on some of Coke’s global Happiness campaign, you really get this powerful feeling the world can be connected. It is, but it can be even more. We can have access to people we never dreamed of ever understanding.

In my conflict management degree, one of my biggest takeaways was contact theory. To interact with The Other is to begin to break down walls.

I find that to be true in every aspect of life.

Imagine all that from a ‘superficial’ social media platform.

Don’t you forget about me (what it’s like to not hear from you during Israel crises)

I’m hurting. And frustrated. I don’t want to put anyone down. I’m not trying to guilt anyone into feeling anything. I just have an honest question to ask.

Why is that I feel… forgotten, or isolated by peeps from abroad?

I guess by ‘I’ I’m actually referring to people who live in Israel. People. Not government.

I’m having trouble clearly expressing it, as I’ve been attempting to discern my issues on Twitter for the last half hour. Here’s a breakdown:

Things I know:

  • Many diaspora Jews have a complicated relationship with Israel.
  • Many diaspora Jews have no relationship with Israel.
  • Many people in general have no relationship with world news.
  • Most people tend to veer on the side of blissfully ignorant, not interested in news, fatigued by Middle East crap, unable to commit to siding with Israel, frustrated by Israeli hell-raising, and most of all – just plain busy with their own lives.
  • Every one has their own set of priorities worked out. There’s only room for so much.
  • [UPDATED] The crises are simply… not reported by mainstream media abroad.

Things I feel:

  • Up until now, I’ve managed my expectations where they are pretty low when it comes to people abroad and how they relate to Israel, and to me in Israel.
  • Something spurred a new set of feelings in the last week of Gaza rocket attacks, which have been going on for 12 years. I think that ‘something’ is related to how utterly devastated I felt when Hurricane Sandy hit my hometown, home state, mother country. How helpless and frustrated I felt, how disconnected and painful it was.
  • Maybe now I’ve finally come around; if that was so hard for me, isn’t the pain and anguish going on here at all – a fraction – meaningful to people I’m connected to abroad?
  • And I’m learning the answer is a resounding no… like I said above, people are busy, fatigued, blissfully ignorant, uninterested.
  • And is this something we should/need to change?
  • [UPDATED] I feel bad making it sound like I need love and support, but… it’s not easy living here. And if some of us didn’t come across the bridge, what would be left for the people who never will?

I think, bottom  line, my issue is that people I know, have known, people I love don’t seem in the know enough or concerned enough to reach out to friends in Israel. Personally. As an interested friend. I understand feeling complicated by Israel, feeling uncomfortable with the default connection between Jew -> Israel, feeling uneasy or angry about the violence – but it’s that personal touch between people that has disappeared… or become lacking… or something.

The personal connection many olim feel, straddling two countries, is fading, perhaps. Are folks back in the old country deep down angry I live here? Unable to break down what it means to have a friend live, and somehow default-support this complicated situation?

Anyone else feel this way? Disagree with me? Think I’m just whining and should go back to living my own hectic Israeli life?

My NYTimes debut: experience of an expat Staten Islander during Sandy

My New York Times debut: A journalist found my post on my experience of helplessness as a Staten Island expat, far away during the Hurricane Sandy disaster. After some emails and a phone call, my Staten Island-based mama and I became the lede of his article on New York expats taking action during crisis.

Here’s the article, in this weekend’s paper in the New York Times Giving section:

Tied by Heartstrings to Calamity

It was kinda cool to be on the flip side of reporting as the interviewee. Probably made it a lot easier for the writer, too. And I also got a kick out of collecting info for him to find other local Israeli resources.

The experience reminded me of my old reporter ambitions (which, since abandoning them, I’ve partly pursued here for the last 8+ years; so one might say). It got me thinking that I might want to revive that old life a little, perhaps staying online, maybe starting with guest posts? Might be fun to give it a shot.

Next stop… byline somewhere!

Super Bowl XLVI, the ex-pat-but-also-tired-parent way.

I’m a NY Giants fan, which means when I care, which is rare, I’m following them because I’m from New York, it’s what my family does, and it’s who I am, and F you anyway.

Four years ago, the day we moved to Tsur Hadassah, was the last Super Bowl, the incredible event where the Giants kicked the faces of the Patriots in an amazing game that was talked about for its thrill and passion, something not always present at a Super Bowl.

And I missed it.

Because I was unpacking, exhausted, and didn’t even know how to drive from Tsur to Jerusalem. I followed the game in slow motion on the internet as sites updated scores live, while stealing my new neighbors’ wifi.

I thought I’d never have another chance.

And then I did! The Rematch, what an incredible deja vu, been following it for weeks as it all got narrowed down.

Found sites to stream it on, set up the browser, had work to do until kickoff… and then I said F it and went to bed. That’s being a tired American parent, in a different timezone during the Super Bowl.

I kinda thought a kid would end up waking me in time to catch the last 30 minutes. In fact, a kid did wake me up, just in time for the final score to be posted and the first photos of Eli Manning and the Gang looking ecstatic.

So I missed it.

Giants, Patriots – see you in 2016?