Now that fall is officially here, it’s time to reflect on the summer. It was quite the packed summer and I wouldn’t change anything about it. I learned a few things this summer and thought I’d share them with you.
Just say hi.
In April I went to a New York Rangers post-season hockey game. A man got on the train a few stops after me and said “hey.” I responded in kind. A few stops later, we began talking and ended up exchanging numbers when we got to Penn Station. Needless to say, we dated for two months after that.
I need to be someone’s priority.
That guy from the train? Things were great at the beginning. We played mini golf, we went out to dinner, we met each other’s friends, he picked me up at JFK when my flight was incredibly delayed. And then things took a turn. He started running consistently late because he would go out with his friends. He would make plans with me and cancel at the last minute because something with his friends or family came up. He would not make plans with me because his friends or family wanted him. He couldn’t say no to anyone but me. I ended things because I needed him to put me first and he couldn’t do that.
I have never taken a vacation and gone somewhere alone. The family beach house in the Hamptons for long weekends doesn’t count. After my father and I went to Israel in November, I said I wanted to go back this summer. Initially, I was looking at going for the whole month of September, somehow taking Finn with me, and staying at an AirBNB or HomeAway type place. When I learned about MJE’s annual Heritage trip to Israel taking place in August, I gave up on September and applied. I was accepted, went with MJE for a week, and extended my trip by a week. Even though I had cell phone access and texted with coworkers and checked e-mail, I was truly on a vacation from work. I felt it most my last 3 days when I spent an afternoon at a secluded beach on the Mediterranean, a day at the Carmel Forest Spa Resort, and cell phone-less on Shabbat. I was truly relaxed and at peace. Even if I don’t use all of my vacation days, I will definitely be looking at taking more of them and spacing them out to be of most use. Vacations, and time away from the every day, will help prevent burnout.
Detach from your cell phone.
While I was in Israel with MJE, I was quite fortunate to hear Rabbi Aaron David speak on Friday night after our beautiful Shabbat dinner at the Kotel (Western Wall). Rabbi David spoke about doing one thing, just one, to make Shabbat more holy. He suggested taking a day off from your cell phone. His speech was so inspiring, I decided right then and there that I would stop using my cell phone on Shabbat. Can I tell you how amazing it is to be unreachable for 25 hours???? It’s incredible!!! No Facebook. No text messages. No calls. No e-mails. No constant need to be attached. It’s energizing! It’s peaceful! It’s amazing! Whether or not you’re Jewish, I suggest taking a break from your cell phone just one day out of the week. You’ll find you have more hours in the day. You’ll find you’re more social with people face-to-face. You’ll find you actually want to engage with people in person, rather than hide behind the screen of your phone. You’ll find that you develop more meaningful relationships with people. You’ll find that you’ll be able to carry on longer conversations as you’re not being interrupted by the ding of a text, a new Facebook status, a new e-mail, or a new Instagram picture. I have found without the need to check my phone, I am able to give more of my attention to the people I am with and even to Finn. She gets longer head scratches, longer walks, and my undivided attention at the dog park. Finally, I will admit that there were games I was absolutely addicted to, to the point where I had to beat the level, had to collect all of the power-ups, had to finish the tasks (Subway Surfer, I’m looking at you). I’d spend hours trying to reach high scores to have the highest level of success when rankings were released on Sundays. I haven’t played Subway Surfer since I stopped using my cell phone Shabbat August 6.
A little over a year ago I wrote this post about my thoughts on religion. Well, with the inspiration of Rabbi Aaron and all of the MJE staff that went on the Israel trip, I learned you need to take baby steps to make a big change. One step at a time, over time, will help you reach the end result you are looking for. Diving in head first leads to burn out. This is true for all goals you set for yourself; it holds a lot of merit when going from being completely non-observant to observant. My first step was to stop using my cell phone on Shabbat. I don’t know my second step yet; but I’ll figure that out when I’m ready to take it. I always take off from work for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, as these are the High Holidays, the holiest of holidays on the Jewish calendar. This year, for the first time, I am taking off the first two days of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah. Little by little and step by step, I am slowly making the change to being more observant. How far will I go? That remains to be seen. I can say I am enjoying the process and look forward to seeing where the ride will take me.
Stick to your beliefs and trust your gut.
While these could be separate, I decided to lump them together as you’re about to see. Since I told my father I don’t use my cell phone on Shabbat anymore, he’s still in disbelief. Disbelief that I can stick to it and disbelief that he won’t be able to reach me should he “need” me on Shabbat. He questioned why I picked giving up my cell phone and wondered why I couldn’t give up my phone on Mondays (when he can see me all day work) instead of Saturdays. “Why couldn’t you give up driving? Or decide to stay strictly kosher for a day? Why did it have to be your phone?” Except for once when he was out of town, he has never truly needed me on Shabbat as there weren’t any emergencies. He can question and he can try to persuade all he wants but I won’t be using my phone on Shabbat for the foreseeable future. This is sticking to my beliefs and trusting my gut. Trusting my gut is something I realized I should have done in hindsight. I met someone on the Israel trip who seemed like a great guy, maybe the perfect guy for me. Then I started noticing things that I thought were just his quirks and I passed them off as “everyone has quirks.” Only these quirks gave me pause and raised flags. I passed them off as yellow and thought as I got to know him better, they’ll turn green. Things happened and he ended up breaking up with me over Facebook and I realized in retrospect I never should have let things go as far as they did. I should have trusted my gut when I thought I saw flags with his quirks because, in hindsight, they were redder than a stop sign.
Tell me, dear Fitters, how were your summers? What did you do? What lessons did you learn? As always, until next time…