1

How To Get On My Bad Side On A Road Trip

I like adventures as much as the next person, and nothing says adventure like a road trip. I can never refuse an offer to get up and go somewhere.

But if I’m the one doing the driving (which I normally am), you better follow my rules of the road.

1. Don’t play your own music if/when I’m playing mine.

I don’t really care if you play your own music, but at least have the courtesy to ask, rather than just turn it on to try to overpower my music. And if it’s really bad, I have the right to claim it’s making me tired. Which brings me to number two.

2. If I’m doing all the driving, we are taking breaks when I say so.

People who don’t drive don’t understand how tiring driving  is. Driving is fun but extremely tiring, even if you’re the Energizer Bunny. Which is why you never see him drive. If it means that we have to stop every twenty minutes so that I can stretch or find a bathroom or sit and not be in motion, we’re stopping. Drivers need breaks. And no, you’re not driving my car unless you have a license, insurance, and the ability to get me a better car should you damage mine.

3. If you volunteer to navigate, navigate.

Yeah, I do some research before road trips, but if it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, there’s the possibility I can make a wrong turn somewhere. I have a GPS on my iPhone, and you probably do too. Don’t offer to do it and then fall asleep or sit there doing nothing.

4. If I ask you to navigate, navigate.

Sometimes you just need some direction. If you’re sitting in the passenger seat and my phone is right there, take a look at it and tell me if we’re going in the right direction. And don’t make me ask twice. Which brings me to number five.

5. If I ask you to stop doing something, stop doing it.

This list of activities includes horseplay, making horse noises, sticking your head/face/camera out of the window, having a too loud conversation, arguing/yelling, or just being annoying. Leading up to one of my least favorite things.

6. Never play with the windows.

I don’t care if we’ve been in the car for two hours and you’re bored; you should have brought a book. Putting the windows up and down is annoying enough; at least ask me before going ahead and doing it. Sometimes people don’t like getting a blast of cold air in the face. My parents always used to tell me to leave the door closed in the summer because we’re not paying to air-condition the front yard, and though I hate to admit it, they were right. If you want A/C, I’ll put it on. If you want windows down, we’ll do it that way. But we’re not doing both; it’s harmful enough to the environment as it is, and I don’t need you to make me feel guiltier. If you insist on having the window down, the A/C goes off. And if I ask you to put it back up, I’m not trying to bake you alive, I just want to put the A/C back on.

7. Don’t spill in my car.

Okay, so accidents happen, but my car is pretty new and I’d like to keep this one pretty at least for a little while. Just be careful.

8. Don’t offer seats in my car to people.

This car’s not your car, this car is my car. I operate it, I pay for the gas. If we’re going somewhere and you have a friend who wants to tag along, ask me. Most likely I’ll say yes and I won’t even ask them to pay. But also understand if I say no. Don’t promise someone a ride and then tell me.

9. I am not your personal car service.

I understand if we’re going shopping and you want to go into stores you see, or you have to pick something up, but I’m not going to drop off every single person anywhere they please. If there are a group of people in the car, and we’re heading home, remember that I’m tired and I want to get home too. I don’t care if you want to get home in time to watch the basketball game. If you want me to leave earlier, don’t ask when we’re there, ask me earlier than that. I don’t care if you’re going to be late to meet your friend; I’m not going to risk an accident or a speeding ticket for you. Actually, don’t take a road trip with me and make plans back in town with another friend on the same night.

10. Under no circumstances should you unbuckle your seat belt, open the door, or exit the car until I’m parked and the car is off.

This isn’t just a road-trip-with-me rule; this is a rule everyone should know. You can jump on or off the back of a truck in the Andes, or a bus in Israel, because I’ve done both, but never, ever exit the car until the vehicle is in a fully stopped and off position. You’d think that this was common sense, but I had to learn to tell people this, and I learned the hard way. One of my housemates in college managed to break rules 8, 9, and 10 in a single night. He and I were going to a mixer at Mount Holyoke College, the girls’ school in South Hadley, about 15-20 minutes down the road from Amherst. Before we left, he told me that we’d be giving his friend Norman a ride.

And yes, I believe that is his real name, but I don’t care about this one. Not only did he tell me we were doing this, a) I did not know who Norman was, b) who was going to take Norman back, and c) Norman wasn’t even coming to the house, my housemate had offered for me to pick him up at his place, which was in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t even give us a decent address or directions.

We finally find him, he gets in the car, and barely says a word to either of us. We drive in relative awkward silence down to Mount Holyoke. I turn into a parking lot, and before I stop the car – in fact, before I even decelerate, I was going at least double-digit miles per hour, I hear a click, his seat belt is off, and without even saying thank you, he jumps out of the car like it’s on fire, slams the door, and takes off running towards the library. Turns out he wasn’t going to the mixer at all, he needed to go study or meet friends or something there and didn’t even have the courtesy to ask me. For some reason, I wasn’t tipped off by the fact that he brought a backpack to a mixer – maybe he kept his wallet in there? Anyway, my housemate starts to do the same, and I grab his knee with my free hand, and yell using his full name, “don’t you dare get out of this car until I am in a parking space and the motor is turned off.”

I’m normally very calm and forgiving, but I spent the next few minutes actually shouting at him while leaning on his knees to keep him from leaving. Since he had a brain – and needed a ride home – he sat and listened to me yell my head off about every single way he fucked this evening up before we even made it inside the mixer. I had half a mind to actually take him right back home, but then I realized that I couldn’t take away his allowance and hey, I wanted to go to the mixer too. But he did apologize, he learned his lesson, and we became closer friends after that. The only reasons I gave him another shot are because he did some really nice things for me, he bought me a full tank of gas even though he didn’t need to, it’s hard to stay angry at someone you have to live with and see every day who could potentially turn the rest of the house against you, and overall he’s a pretty great guy, and I knew that social skills were not part of his expertise.

To this day, when I am driving, if I even hear a click of a seat belt before the car has stopped moving, you are getting yelled at without warning and are in danger of becoming banned from my car.

On that note, let’s go and have some fun!

 

 

 

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Happy 1st Blogiversary!

That’s right…a year ago today, That’s So Jacob was launched. Happy birthday/anniversary/founder’s day/blogiversary to me!

So, what was my life like a year ago?

I began this blog right here in Madison; not in this apartment, but in a room at the Doubletree several blocks away. I was living in Houston, in an apartment twice the size of the one I’m currently living in, with a temperature I could set, a bathtub, and a swimming pool. I hadn’t started the program, or experienced the worst winter ever. I still had my olive green Subaru, and I hadn’t seen Oklahoma or Iowa yet. I hadn’t done anything APO related for a year.

But hey, I’m still here, and so is this blog.

Speaking of which, I haven’t posted a story for awhile. Wait…I posted one yesterday. Scratch that – I haven’t posted a good story lately.

So here’s a tale from years long past.

How That’s So Jacob Got Its Name

This is not my first blog, or journal for that matter. When I was 10, I found a ginormous notebook and decided that I would keep it as a journal until the pages ran out, whenever that would be. I was pretty faithful to it. It lasted me through sometime in freshman or sophomore year, when the pages actually did run out. I think it’s under my bed at home. I tried other paper journals, but none were the same, so I switched to the Internet. I had a LiveJournal when I was a moody teenager, like everyone else in the early 2000s, moody or not, teenager or not. And no, I am not going to link you to it. Most of my entries were terrible. I stopped for awhile, but always intended to start back up again. After a failed attempt on blogspot, I needed to start a new journal, with a new tactic, and a good name.

I always have my best ideas in the shower or at night before I drift off to sleep, but this one came to me courtesy of this one girl I knew awhile back. It was in my second semester of APO, and my third and final semester at AU. It was getting down to the wire with things, and I remember I was fed up with something or someone at the time, and it was one of those nights where everything was happening at the same time, so I was rushing around, trying to be in a million places at once. Normally I like being super busy like that, but I wasn’t feeling it that night. I don’t even know what was in my head, but I was telling some of the people in my pledge class about how my day was.

So there I was, walking across the lawn of the National Cathedral, babbling, when she said it.

“Hey Andrea, did you hear what Jacob just said? It was a classic Jacob line.”

And then she repeated what I had said less than a minute ago and had forgotten.

“He said ‘…and then I went to a JSA meeting and we just sat around and bitched at each other because we’re Jews and that’s what we do.'”

Okay, so it was kind of funny, without meaning to be, but it meant more than that. It meant that someone was actually listening to me. I wanted to channel that same feeling upon starting on the Internet anew. A place where I can just say what’s on my mind, how I feel, and stories that I want to remember and that other people might find amusing, or inspirational, or…worth reading.

Oh, and course, in honor of my spirit animal, Raven-Symone. So here are some gifs to honor her. Behold:

I have 280 followers as of today, and visitors from over 100 countries. Here’s to another year of fun, weirdness, and random memories. Thanks y’all…much love.

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Fraud-enscheude

In case anyone was wondering, I went to bed before finishing my theatre paper the other night, but at least I had 4500 words. Over the past two days I’ve been adding to it, and I can confidently say that aside from a conclusion, I am done with it at ~5600 words. And of course, the syllabus was revised so that it’s no longer due on Thursday but a week from Thursday, after history and poli sci papers…so joke’s on me,  I guess.

I did, however, condense that paper into a ten-minute version and presented it to my class today. There are seven of us in the class, so we each got ten minutes to presentation, followed up by one question from a prescribed class member, and then open discussion. I was the second to present, which was great since I hate waiting; I’d much rather get it over with and then have a much longer sigh of relief. My presentation itself went fair; I hadn’t really planned it much, but instead of writing out a script, I just had the document open on my iPad, and scrolled through it, pulling out points in the order which I wanted to share them. I riffed off the ideas and focused on making eye contact with others while I spoke. For some reason, this makes me feel like people are actually listening to me and not staring through me or imagining that I’m someone else, or a sandwich if they’re hungry. A lot of “ums” and “uhs” but I got the job done in under ten minutes.

I wasn’t really sure what my prescribed class question would be, but it ended up being a good one. I can’t remember the exact wording of the question – it was something about whether the playwright actually believed in seances at that point in his life or if he was poking fun at it – but the one who asked also noted that they’ve sensed a theme of fraud in my work.

 

 

My gut reaction was, are you calling me fake? But then, since I realized that my paper actually was about fraud, I was like…oh, you’ve got a point.

Last semester, I wrote and presented a paper on street gambling, and today, I spoke about mediumship and seances. So after hearing that, I could see how the connection could be made.

Honestly, hearing that was…strangely comforting, in a way.

Someone actually used my work to point out something that I’m interested in that I had never thought about before.

Before today, I never thought of myself as someone with a particular interest in this topic, but now that I think more about it, it seems true. One of the things that draws me to theatre and performance as well as headlines in the news are scandals and the question of “is this really going on? what is the meaning of this? WHY?” Goodness knows, I never make things easy for myself, and I am always up for a challenge. I love a good mystery and delight in solving mysteries of my own, which I’ve actually done. Part of my inspiration for a research project comes from…”there’s gotta be more there. And I’m going to find it.” I suppose you could say that about many other researchers, but for me, when I want to get to the bottom of something, I just fucking go for it until I find it, and if I can’t, I die a little inside.

This reminds me of one of my favorite lines from a favorite play of mine, Bluebeard by Charles Ludlam; in a contemporary theatre course as an undergrad at UMass, I got to play the role of Mrs. Maggot, and took great pleasure in saying one of my final lines in the play: “Women want an answer!” My inner sassy black lady came out in that performance, and I guess that she might be my spirit animal. Sort of like Loni Love, or Leslie Jones, or Loretta Devine, or even Sheneneh Jenkins.

But not Madea. Never Madea.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes…there’s something about frauds and cons and scandals that just lights my fire. If there’s a dead body, a love affair, a mysterious inscription, or any sort of deception, I’m there; but the performance of performance just makes me sizzle inside.

Sizzle.

So, in conclusion…I could live with that. I could be “the fraud guy.” I kind of like that.

And to my friend: thank you for helping me discover something new about myself.

2

The Worst Best Day of the Week

That would be today. Thursday. My classes this semester are Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, and Friday, I have Shabbat, and on the weekends, I do weekend-type things like shopping and sometimes being social. So that leaves Thursday. Most people would enjoy the fact that they have one day a week with absolutely no regularly scheduled commitments, but I am not one of them. From Sunday to Wednesday, I pull out all the stops, reading like a fiend, writing responses, taking notes and taking names. By the time Wednesday night rolls around, I am exhausted but relieved that another academic week is done. I make a promise to myself that I’ll get a jump on next week’s reading this week by starting first thing Thursday morning…and then it doesn’t happen. What does happen?

  • Wake up.
  • Remember that there’s nothing in my plans today, so sleep a little more.
  • Get up, make a leisurely breakfast, and a hot or iced coffee drink.
  • Head to the couch to catch up with Mental Floss, Ellen DeGeneres, and Jenna Marbles.
  • Promise myself I won’t waste the day.
  • Proceed to read twelve BuzzFeeds, stalk some friends on Facebook, play a round of Word Strips, check my blog stats (welcome, Uganda!), do the New York Times crossword puzzle.
  • Promise myself that I’m done.
  • Remember that I never get to watch Survivor since I’m in class while it’s on, so catch up on that.
  • Convince myself that if I don’t leave the apartment now I won’t leave until dance class (By this time, we’re in the late afternoon).
  • Head out for “lunch” since I “just ate breakfast” (at 10 AM).
  • Do I have enough time to get to the gym? Maybe I’ll go.
  • How about the library? But I have too many books. Oh wait, I need to do some research for that paper. You know what, I should just write the paper. Let’s go home and think about that.
  • Dance class.
  • Get home, unwind after a busy day of nothing. Contemplate studying but usually opt for YouTube.
  • Look at the time, frantically make dinner, call parents, and think of a blog post.
  • Compose and post said blog, and promise self that it’s early bedtime tonight.
  • Proceed to stay up all night (well, 3 at the latest) doing – guess what? – nothing but the Internet, and usually end up feeling bad for myself.
  • Head to bed with a book, and read about five pages before telling myself that I need to get some sleep.

And that’s how I spend my Thursdays, including today. My sad life is sad. And even though I got nine hours of sleep last night, I’m still exhausted. Get it together, Jacob, because your palm is going to have a date with your face come Sunday night.

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Random Thought of the Day: Jewish Rap

If I ever put out a Jewish or Yidcore rap album/single, I will be calling it “Creepah in a Kippah.” Music and lyrics by Jacob, (c) 2014, all rights reserved.

Yes, and I think this merits two gifs.

Dance it out, Drake.

You know what?

I think that this merits two gifs. Yeah, let’s make it a two-gif day.

Heck yes. Don’t despair, my Jewish brother. You can make the remix.

2

So, Tell Me About Yourself

Even though my dad calls me self-obsessed sometimes, I find it hard to write about myself.

Bios are one thing. For a program, I usually just rattle off my degrees, and two or three past projects. No biggie.

But writing for an extended time about yourself, like a paragraph, or a whole page? It’s like…what do you do?

Well, there’s one thing. Who better to write about you than yourself? You’ve been living with yourself for your whole life, and chances are you know yourself pretty well, unless you’re prone to fugue states or have spent most of your life in a coma, in which case you probably wouldn’t be in the position of writing a memoir (The Diving Bell and Butterfly excluded). But there’s also the intense pressure that comes with it; what if you write something that sounds stupid or unimportant in retrospect. What if you write something about yourself that’s just plain wrong, based on an incorrect memory of people/things/events? And how do you write about yourself without being so gosh-darned self-serving?

Here are a few ways to write about yourself.

1. I’m Awesome

You’ve probably accomplished some stuff and probably prevailed over adversity at least once in your life, so write about that. You can write about yourself as a child prodigy. You can write about learning how to play the piano, or how you were captain of the varsity lacrosse team, sang in a choir, won a spelling bee, or had your poem published in a school/local newspaper. These are all things that happened to you, so they’re factual, at least. Transitioning into adulthood, you graduated high school and got a college scholarship? That’s perfect. So many Americans (and people in other countries) do not or cannot do that. You studied abroad in China? Great, there’s a chapter right there – it doesn’t matter that it was on your parents’ dime and you drank a lot while you were there, at least you went on an adventure across the world alone and met new people. You had family, friends, and pets that you adored and adored you? They’ll work as supporting characters, mile markers on your just to becoming the amazing person you are today.

This is problematic, because inevitably, you’ll slip up somewhere and someone will notice. Or, someone reading it will pick out the one detail that you made seem bigger than it was. “So, you were a Boy Scout? Tell me about that,” someone will ask, and you’ll struggle to cover up the fact that you never made Eagle Scout and dropped out after a year and a half because you decided you liked riding your bike around the neighborhood and watching TV better. Also, inevitably, you can come off sounding like an incredible jackass, making everyone else seem inferior. Or that you enjoy tooting your own horn so much that you could join an orchestra.

2. I’ve Suffered a Lot and I’m Stronger Now

Modesty could be the best policy. You were born in a hospital, parents got divorced, didn’t make the basketball team, got the worst part in the play, accidentally broke your great aunt’s glasses at Thanksgiving dinner, and didn’t get your first kiss until you were 21. Or, all those times you had to miss school because of illness, or that you knew some people and they died and that sucked. But through it all, you managed to stick around and you don’t know how but somehow you’re here for a higher purpose.

Billy, don’t be a hero – your life’s not all crap and you know it. It’s like those kids in art class in third grade who were all, “my painting is the worst in the class,” only to make you feel sorry for them and then tell them that it was good. Looking back, I probably should have said, “Yeah, you’re right, your painting does suck, and you’re also not great at other things either.” But then you’d probably get told on and have to spend recess sitting alone in the corner, which isn’t too bad because the other kids are smelly anyway and you can work on your plans for world domination.

And now for something completely different…

3. This is me, total honesty. Just me.

You’ve written a bunch of stuff down, but since it triggers bad memories, or you don’t want people to know, or that is embarrassing or embarrasses someone else or that is boring or that never really happened, or did, but not the way that you recall it. So you erase all that and start with the facts. You were born, on a day ending in Y, in a hospital, you had parents and a sister and a bedroom in a house, took a bus to school, had a bunch of friends, and then went to college or entered the workforce and did stuff. Then you erase all that stuff, because who’d want to read that, and then go back to numbers 1 or 2.

In conclusion, you just can’t win. You either come off sounding like an incredible jackass or that your life is completely morbid or that you’re so normal that you’re mundane or that you hate yourself. One or more of which might be true, but you don’t want people to know that. So now you’re tasked with finding an official biographer, which is probably going to cost you money.

If I ever get around to writing it, my memoir is probably going to be a clusterfumble.

See ya in the Marshalls clearance aisle!

0

Oh, The Life of A Working Man in Israel

When I was in Israel, I had a job. Okay, technically it was an internship, but I did a heck of a lot more than just an intern including running the place for a whole month while the boss was doing army reserve duty. Some days I liked it, some days I didn’t, but every Sunday through Friday, I was at that theater, working away. In Israel, Friday and Saturday are their weekends which makes more sense if you ask me, but it also makes Tuesday Hump Day, which is confusing, and sometimes I’d forget and go to work on Friday and be confused when I’d be sitting at my desk for hours without seeing anyone else.

Around December, I got my first visitors from overseas. My parents and sister came over, and just as they were leaving, my friend Dan arrived on a Birthright trip from Boston. We met in Machane Yehuda and it was magic – four of my favorite people standing with me in a busy marketplace. I met Dan’s Birthright friends, and as it was a Friday, Dan and I planned to get together after Shabbat.

The next night, I take a bus over to the hotel where his group was staying (the Jerusalem Gate Hotel, which is at the complete opposite end of the city from where I lived :-/) Since his group was all at the upper echelon of Birthright-age-people (25-26 year olds), they had a “curfew” set by Birthright, but all that really meant was that they had to sign a check-in sheet at the hotel at 10 PM, and then do whatever the hell they wanted since they were legal in both Israel and America. So, Dan and everyone want to go to a club. I’m not a huge club-goer, but there is one club that I do know: Tza’atzua, which is near Ben Yehuda Street. It’s too far to walk, and nobody but me has a bus pass, so we flag down a cab and I tell the driver where we’re going, what neighborhood it’s in, to call and order 4 more cabs, and negotiate a price (all of which I did in Hebrew!). He happily called his friends, who showed up quicker than ambulances in many parts of the world, and we had a little cab caravan down the road, with me, Dan, and another guy in the front.

We get to the club, and get in line to get our IDs checked to get into the club. Somehow, Dan and I end up at the back of the line, which is rapidly expanding behind us. All of Dan’s friends get in, and then it’s me and Dan. Dan’s ID gets checked, and he’s in. My ID gets checked and “sorry, you can’t go in.”

Huh?

In Israel, you can drink at age 18 (or 19, I can never remember), and most clubs are pretty lax anyway. I mean, people smoke in clubs, even though it’s not only frowned upon but actually illegal there. I tell them that there must be some mistake, I’m definitely of age.

Then they tell me, “Yes, but tonight we are having a 25-and-up night.”

Fuck. I’m screwed. I’m 22. And I just sent fifteen people into a nightclub in a city they’ve never been in that speaks a language that they don’t know. And Dan is standing there, like “I guess this is it for you then.”

So, what do I do?

Well, I really don’t want to go the club anyway…I just don’t want to abandon these people, and it’s late and I’m tired and I kinda want to go home because I have work and stuff to do tomorrow, and I’m sad, and frustrated, and a little bit angry.

I want to vocalize this and appeal to the bouncers.

So I do.

And it comes out of my mouth like this:

“…באסה. תראה, אני יודע שאני רק בן עשרים ושתיים ואני מאמריקה, אבל הם החברים שלי, ואני נשאר רק, כאילו, עשר דקות, כי אני צריך ללכת לעבודה בבוקר”

Translated:

“Oh fuck. Look, I know I’m only twenty-two and I’m from America, but they’re my friends, and I’m only gonna stay for, like, ten minutes, because I have to go to work in the morning…”

The reason I put the ellipses there?

Once they heard me launch into Hebrew and mention the fact that I’m working in the morning, I get cut off, with…”b’seder (okay),  go on in.”

I totally wasn’t expecting that, but hey, it worked. I guess Israel’s got some respect for its hard-working men, or barely-twenty-two-year-old-theatre-intern-type-people. But I don’t leave myself too much time to contemplate as I basically push Dan down the stairs and into the club, afraid that the intimidating guys at the entrance will suddenly change their minds. So we all made it in, an a big cheer came from the group when we entered. We all danced for a while – well, they did, I guess, I left pretty after maybe a half hour at most, making sure that between them they a) knew where they were going back to, and b) had enough cash to cover it.

I leave the club, nod at the bouncers, and guess who’s still there?

The cab guy, who’s just chilling out in the front seat of his cab, waiting for someone to drunkenly stumble out of the club so he can make some money. We notice each other as I pass, he thanks me for getting him some business, and asks me where I’m going. I tell him that I’m walking back to my place in Talpiot, I have to get to work in the morning.

“Get in, I’ll take you home. No charge.”

And that’s how I got a free cab ride home at the middle of the night in Jerusalem.

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Having the Late Night Munchies

I have a serious case of the late night munchies.

I don’t really know when it started, and as much as I try to avoid it, it constantly returns. It’s there every night. Right now, I am feasting on challah and peach soda, wondering what has become of my life. Well, really, I’d be eating something way less nutritious were I not at my parents’ home. My mom loves candy and chocolate,  so it’s kind of odd that those things aren’t around. But then again, my parents survive on homemade soup and nothing, so there’s rarely ever any actual food in the house; hence, the challah and peach soda. Desperate times = desperate measures?

No, but seriously, I should find a way to stop this. Snacking at night can’t be good for your health. Well, my whole eating plan during these few weeks has been overall detrimental to my health, what with waking up around lunchtime, snacking, eating dinner…no wonder I’m hungry at night. Or maybe I’m making up for all the weight I lost due to stress in November/December. No, that can’t be it.

I heard this proverb one time, about eating like a king in the morning, a servant for lunch, and a pauper for dinner. It does promote a certain body image, I guess? Robust at the top and lean towards the bottom. There should be a proverb about that. Maybe I should write it and trademark it. Either way, a change of my eating habits is in order.

And since the challah is now decimated, and I just finished the end of the bottle of sugar, caffeine and sodium-free sparkling peach soda, now’s a good time to be comfortable with that thought.

0

And On The Seventh Day, He Rested

Most people know that Jews have holidays that occur intermittently throughout the year, usually in the fall. What they don’t know is about the most important holiday of all: the Sabbath, or as we like to call it, Shabbat.

Shabbat is like an island of peace to which we Jews can escape one day a week, every week. For the rest of time.

Growing up, my family observed Shabbat pretty strictly, starting off with Friday night dinner and continuing with 25 hours total of no technology (computers, TV, and later, cell phones). No drawing, no writing, no going anywhere in the car, no spending money. All there was to do was go to shul on Saturday mornings (where, if I was lucky, we’d have a luncheon) and then spending the rest of the day alternating between eating in the kitchen, sleeping either in bed or on the couch downstairs, or reading, anywhere. All up until an hour after sunset, when we’d do Havdalah at the kitchen counter. I always got to hold the candle since I was the youngest. One of the few perks of being a younger sibling.

After I left home, Shabbat became harder and harder to observe. I started to crack under the pressure of college life, especially one with few Jews. I remember resorting to counting the ceiling tiles in my dorm room over and over. I couldn’t go to the dining hall because I had to swipe in, so I’d have to make do with whatever food I had in my room. It was hard, and probably contributed to why I didn’t do so well there. I also ended up needing to do work on Shabbat in my sophomore year, a move which my parents didn’t endorse but approved of since it was for my education. It was also a move that worked in my favor, I think, for when I went to submit the paper to my professor I told her it was the first time I’d broken Shabbat in my whole life (probably not entirely true, but to this extent, at least), which earned me an apology for her and maybe a few sympathy points even though I ended up with an A anyway.

Through junior and senior years I tried to keep Shabbat the best I could, but it was mostly loneliness that caused me to break. One particularly lonely Passover, when everyone else went home but I couldn’t arrange it, I was on the phone with my dad and he told me that if I was really that upset and lonely, I should find a computer game to distract me for a little while, which is when I discovered (and became addicted to) Phantom Mansion, this weird little Internet game thing that I never did quite beat but I got pretty darn close.

In Israel, keeping Shabbat was much easier, but ever since that Passover, I did not feel as compelled to keep it 100%. I tried to, but sometimes I just needed to get on the computer for a little while. On a few particularly lonely Saturdays, including Yom Kippur, I spent the whole night and day holed up in my office at the theater, sleeping on my couch (which I wasn’t technically supposed to do, but no one ever caught me) and getting work done during the day so I could get a jump on the week.

Houston is pretty much when my Shabbat-keeping completely fell apart. It started when I told a friend (who wasn’t Jewish) that I would walk 2 miles each way to and from Chabad on Friday nights, which prompted her to say that if she ever saw me doing that, she’d pick me up and throw me in her car, so after that (and knowing how dangerous Houston at night can be) whenever I went to Chabad, save for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I would drive and feel incredibly guilty about it even though most people did the same because it’s Houston and you have to drive everywhere anyway. Usually I spent most of Shabbat doing what I did the rest of the week: watching TV, exercising, making food, doing work, and hanging out on the computer. I remember spending 8-9 hours one Shabbat on my computer translating some Slovak, without which I would’ve never finished my thesis.

One of the things I was looking forward to about moving to Wisconsin was observing Shabbat more strictly, because now I live merely blocks from Chabad, and I could probably transition back to not using technology pretty quickly. But it’s been hard not to check my email or my phone at all, but I hope that’ll change, at least as soon as the play is over.

I miss that feeling that I could be completely at peace, just praying, reading and doing non-technology-related activities that I enjoy, like taking walks, napping, or just kicking back and enjoying the day. I never liked Shabbat growing up because there was so much my parents wouldn’t let me do, but now I wish I could go back to then, that innocent time when Shabbat meant resting in its purest and highest form, and thinking about being closer to God and to myself. Maybe when I get back to Madison from Houston I can start, little by little. Shabbat is a weekly gift, and Friday night especially – as a girl I went to college with termed it, “my date with God.” Collecting my thoughts and connecting with my feelings is something that I could definitely use 25 hours of my week to focus on.

Shabbat, shabbat, I will forget thee not.

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A Rose Is Still A Rose

This past week has been pretty brutal. Some of it caused by me, some by others…well, mostly me. Won’t go into more detail but suffice it to say that due to circumstances, I got very little done.

I usually write about other things in this space. But today I want to write about me. Because I feel that that person needs some serious lovin’.

Over the last several years (well, really, most of my post-high school life), I’ve been actively working on myself in one way or another, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. I’ve gone to psychologists, psychiatrists, and art therapists. I’ve had an MRI and an EKG. I’ve attended classes; I’ve read books and articles. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. And inevitably, just when I’ve got it all figured out, something comes tumbling down.

Lately a lot of things have been tumbling down. I’ve been asking myself the big questions, and I’m lonelier than ever. I’ve been pretty good at developing and using coping mechanisms, but it seems like just about every day I face some sort of struggle. When I find there’s something wrong, I try to make it better. But it’s just really hard when solitude kicks in, because that ignites it all. The loneliness. The fear. The paranoia.

Something’s wrong with this picture, and I’m doing it all wrong.

My private college counselor back in Maryland told me that a better way to approach myself is to, instead of looking at what’s wrong about myself, look at what’s right about myself, and use those qualities to build myself up from the bottom rather than knocking myself down from the top.

Most of the time, I like myself. I’m a nice person, or at least I actively try to be, every day. I am helpful and kind. I am loyal, trustworthy, and understanding. I’m a giver, not a taker. I care about people. I am a good friend. If you are my friend, I love you to no end. I go out of my way to help others. I try to keep things light and positive, and help make others feel good about themselves. I rejoice in the fact that I’m alive and I can enjoy such wonderful things every day, some of which being other people who are with me on this planet Earth that I can interact with and can interact with me. I’m always up for a challenge. I’m also always up for lunch, dinner, dessert, coffee, or alcohol in any way, shape, or form. I used to think I was an introvert, but I think that I’m actually an extrovert in disguise: I can strike up a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I love to smile and make people laugh. Overall, I’m a good thing to have in my life and if you’re lucky enough to know me personally, then in yours too.

Like a flower, I wake up every morning and put my face towards the sun. I am me. I carry that energy with me all day, and even when I come home at night, even when I’m about to go to bed, I’m still me.

Rose

“’cause a rose is still a rose/baby girl, you’re still a flower/he can’t lead you and then take you/make you and then break you/darlin’ you hold the power.” – Lauryn Hill, “A Rose Is Still A Rose”