Thursday, August 29, 2013

#BlogElul Learn

Such an appropriate post for me...a true student at heart and always finding something educational to keep me busy.

College, synagogue adult education, GRE studying, GMAT studying, business school, Gratz classes, Kelley School of Business, Drisha, and now HUC. I have a real love of learning (even if I don't always have a passion/skill for the subject). I like gaining the new vocabulary, unlocking secrets, adding to skill sets. Upon occasion, I remember theories, formulas, and processes.

But the true learning lies in the ability to apply that learning to something. Whether it's attacking life with a new perspective, utilizing a team to work on promoting events (which venue, who are my customers, what's the language?), or just learning from mistakes (I've made a lot, I continue to make many, and I try not to make the same ones), application is key...and it's what will differentiate you from other learners.

I like charts, graphs, color-coding. It helps me remember what I'm supposed to. But when teaching others/attempting to really learn material myself, I always have to translate it into my own language, to make it relevant to my life, to make it interesting (Ta Sh'ma "Listen up y'all...).

Usually the unexpected hits me the hardest--the life lessons. Keep the emergency money in your wallet, remember to choose your words carefully, always look in the direction that you're driving. It's the mistakes that I've encountered that lets me learn the best lessons...the living of my life that enables me to make better choices in the future. My advice? Live your life, observe the outcomes, and learn accordingly. Be amazing, do good.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

#BlogElul Remember

A few weeks ago, I had a discussion with some students about memories and joked that I was pretty sure there were some that I wouldn't have a problem letting go of--mistakes made, lies told, injuries occurred.

Very quickly, they disagreed. Memories are what makes us who we are. The bad times (and the good times) are what shape us, what give us direction in life, and what helps us balance out the next move we want to make as we face decision after decision after decision.

I've never had the best memory for things that I wish I had them for. I've been great at remembering birthdays (a plus in a life before Facebook), at remembering phone conversations, at remembering details about someone's life. I've been terrible at remembering class lectures, readings, notes that I took (I love open book tests, and hate test-taking generally).

In my job, it's important to remember a lot. Remember to email, remember to post on Facebook, remember dates, appointments, meetings, calendars. But one of the most challenging, especially in the beginning, is remembering names. Names are important, helping to shape a person's identity, and people genuinely like it if you can greet them by name ("Hey _______!" is a million times more effective than just a "Hey!"). Think about it--when someone remembers something about you, whether it be your name or a small detail of your life, you feel special. Because someone took the time to remember something about you. I'm still working on it--and I get most names relatively quickly--but think of this post as just a quick reminder to remember...and then show the people that you speak with that you genuinely are interested in them as individuals.

#BlogElul Forgive

Though I'm unsure that I ever thought of it this way, every year during Elul, or at least for sure during the ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I think about forgiveness.

On an annual basis, I decide that at Yom Kippur I'm going to let things go. I've made a ton of mistakes in life, and on a pretty regular basis I apologize--for upsetting people, for thinking that I've upset people, for upsetting myself that I've upset people, or for making the mistake of thinking that I've upset people. It's a terrible habit to get into--to apologize on a regular basis, and it's not an easy one to break (don't worry...I try to let self-judgement go on Yom Kippur as well).

But "for others who have harmed me," I make an executive decision to forgive. I give myself the year, the month, the week, whatever timeline there is before Yom Kippur, and I let myself overthink, wallow, or be upset (usually overanalyzing whatever happened). But on Yom Kippur, I officially let myself have a new start--a day without judgement, without fear, without insecurity. Strange on this day of Judgement that I should be so quick to let mine go...but in reality, there's enough to go around.

I hope that this year, with all the changes that it has brought, will inspire me to continue keeping this tradition: to forgive others and to realize that the apologies I give should come out only when I have truly done something to upset or hurt someone else--and that I don't always have to be so worried about making mistakes--most of the time the only person I upset by doing that is me!

Written without apology,

#BlogElul Trust

I know I'm about a million of these blog posts behind, but I'm up a bit early and so I thought I'd knock some out on a day which will mostly be spent traveling back to the West Coast. I apologize if some of the pages seem like variations on a theme, but I'll try to make each as original as possible!

Trust is a big one for me--as someone who, in the past was entirely too trusting and believed in people (each person started at 100%), it took me a remarkably long time to realize that one shouldn't so easily place trust in all people--that it is a valuable commodity and should be used, if not sparingly, then at the very least, discerningly.

Trust, for me, is completely subjective. I choose who, when, how much, and what to trust in my life--and it's a fine balance these days where privacy is no longer an option, but intimacy still very much is. The people I know and trust are privy to the much deeper parts of my life: the worries, the embarrassing jokes, the struggles, the family, and the other things that I won't let come out at first glance. Intimacy in itself carries a large weight of trust--mostly because it involves a large amount of choice: you need to trust that the people you choose to be intimate with (physically or otherwise) are going to be what you need them to be. You want to trust that the information that you get in the outside world is accurate and honest. You hope that the trust that others have in you is not misplaced (especially when it comes to giving directions!).

It's an interesting word--"trust"--and often implies an off-kilter balance, an assumption that the person that you are choosing to believe, or the situation that you are estimating about will work itself out. For such a state of imbalance, I try to be careful with the way I distribute its weight--and make sure that the heaviest pieces are heard and held by the strongest supports.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

#BlogElul Count

I'm not a huge fan of counting. Counting down, counting days, counting money, counting blessings. I'm not a huge fan of numbers in general and having to keep account of...everything. I often find that things don't add up--usually because I mix up my numbers (but only rarely my metaphors).

However, for all of my disdain for counting and numbers (especially finance/accounting), I like knowing that there are a few people out there that I can genuinely count on. Those are the people who I can call at 1 a.m., 7 a.m., 3 p.m. (some of us work!) and know that they'll always answer the phone. They're the people who make sure that the birthdays are worth celebrating and the holidays are worth vacationing for. They're the people that sometimes just know, even without you vaguebooking or texting sad emoji that something's wrong...and they call you out on it.

I've been lucky enough in my life to always have a small series of friends that fit those characteristics--even if some of the friendships have faded with the allures of adulthood, those people helped make me who I am today...just by knowing that we could count on each other through the flirting, the hookups, the questions, the failed tests, the college admissions, the GRE/GMAT exams, the college rejections, the headaches, the heartaches, and the happy times that preceded them all.

So I don't waste time counting blessings--but I do let myself know how blessed I am--due to that small number (some changing, some permanent, some lifelong) of friends that I've been able to count on--who are priceless. Not that I'm keeping score (or count!).

#BlogElul See

So...I'm way behind on blogging, but that's okay. I'll catch up and you, my faithful readers, will either read or not read as you so choose. This has been my last week in business school and unfortunately, finals managed to shut down all creative brain activity outside paper writing.

Anyways, for many who know me very very well, I can't read from a distance. I can make out shapes, can easily see colors, but when I try to read from a distance, there's nothing but a blur. It's why I at times (read: rarely) wear glasses, but pretty much always wear them when I'm taking a class that requires me to look at a blackboard. I don't need my glasses very often, but when I do, I often find that I don't know where to find them (or rather, I know exactly where they are...but they're not close at hand).

It makes me wonder about what we see around us that we take for granted because we don't "need" it very often. I often ignore the moonlight, the trees changing color, the cute look my dog gives me (okay, to be fair...I have a ton of pictures of that). But I tend to not always see what's not directly in front of me--that there are other options than the one that I see, that there are other paths to take, that the loop in my head isn't the only thing worth listening to. I realize all of that in hindsight, but when going through life, there are times where (just like blog posting) I need to be consciously aware to make the effort.

I may not always remember my glasses (actually, I'm not entirely sure where they are at this particular moment), but I can remember to put more of an effort into seeing those around me for who they are (and not just what I want them to be) and to take more time to really see what's around me--to take that walk/run and slow down for a second in order to see a beautiful gazebo in a butterfly garden. To go out of my way to see a meteor shower or a rose garden or an old friend or family member. It's all worth seeing...and who knows? Maybe by making the extra time and effort to see, I can gain a new perspective.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

#BlogElul Hear

In this world of multitasking and undeniable deadlines, it is almost impossible to hold a strong conversation without distractions. I find myself doing homework, writing essays, even sometimes at the office with music or musicals or TV shows playing in the background. Something for me to listen to, but something that I don't have to 100% invest in.

I have been lucky enough in my life to often be the person that people come to confide in: at work, at parties, at school. I've listened to a lot of stories, learned a lot about people and perspective, and let myself become a part of all of it. Perhaps I've been chosen because I choose not to tell the things I've learned, but I like to think it's because people know that I'm really hearing them.

There is a difference.

Listening is a surface distraction--often it's passive or directed by someone else ("LISTEN TO ME!"), a noise/conversation/sentence that you hear and may recollect if there's something that catches your attention. I know someone who has the lucky talent of always being able to catch the last few words of your sentence, even if he hasn't been mentally present during the whole conversation (a trick that came in handy during high school). While it's a neat trick, it's also infuriating. When someone can do that, how do you know that they're really hearing you?

Hearing someone is a conscious choice: making sure that you're really paying attention to what it is they're saying (and sometimes realizing what it is that they're not saying). Putting down the iPhone (better yet, putting it away), closing the laptop, stepping away from the distraction and putting your focus on the person in question. It means not having to say "What?" and asking for a repetition.

Most of the time when I'm having serious conversations, I've trained myself to say "So, what I hear you saying is..." in order to make sure I fully comprehend the discussion in question. It's to make sure that I'm not just listening passively, but making a conscious determination to be an active part of the conversation. It also means that I'm not concentrating fully on what it is that I have to say (or what I'm going to say next).

I think perhaps that's why Sh'ma is so powerful. It's not asking you to listen. It's telling you to hear, to make a conscious decision to be an active part of the process. I always sign the prayer, finding it peaceful that I do my part for those who can't hear--in a prayer that demands you to. But in signing, I still make myself an active part of the conversation during t'filah. I hear, I take it in, and I react accordingly. But I'm so much more aware than when I just listen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

#BlogElul Believe

Normally, I've been trying not to delay writing these posts because I end up leaving them to the next day and then write two posts.

BUT TODAY, I am glad I waited. Why? Because sometimes, life hands you something to write about. Today I lived belief. Okay, now that I've hyped up this blog post, don't get too excited...I'm talking about my evening run.

Recently I started a Couch-to-5K running program, due to some incidents that happened while I was in Israel (read: bruising every muscle in my upper legs) being a wake-up call (read: kick in the ass) that I needed to get back into shape. I used to run with my dad one summer every morning before the sun came up...I wanted to see if I could do it again. Not because I like running...I never liked running. But I liked the time that I spent with my Dad. It was cool knowing that we could spend that quality time together. In fact, when I told him I was starting this program, the goal was for us to be able to run together come Thanksgiving--if it's up to him we'll "run/walk at my own pace" next week.

But today, belief came in a strange way. With every program day (you're meant to run 3 days a week), I've had trouble finishing each running part (the first week you run for a minute, walk for a minute and a half, then this week, you run for a minute and a half, walk for two minutes...). I started the walk/run believing that I would get past the point I got to on Saturday. That was the goal.

As I began to jog, I got nervous. I was getting winded on the first running part. What if I couldn't do it? What was I going to say to myself? To my dad? I panicked--was this a waste of time? And with each running part, I pushed myself to go further, to make it to the next tree, sign, marker...all the time believing I would get further than I had on Saturday, all the while worrying that I wouldn't be able to finish the running section that I was on.

As I realized I was getting to the last running section, I said to myself "It's the LAST ONE!" You can do it!" [I talk to myself (and my dog) while I run. Don't judge. Don't mock. It works.] As I heard the program tell me to go into my walking phase, I cheered out loud (and congratulated Ellie on all of her hard work!). I DID it. And...and...I had passed the point that was my halfway point the last time! AND as I finished the last running point, I looked at my phone to see that I had surpassed my farthest distance (in St. Louis). I continued walking and then cooling down (still walking) and realized...I was going to finish more than 2/10 of a mile better than my furthest distance!

I'm on a "runner's" high right now--but I realized. The belief was stronger than the doubt--both were there, both were part of the runner's struggle, but the belief won out. I did it--and for the first time, I didn't cut corners, and I didn't give up. I believed in myself. And so I won.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

#BlogElul Be

If I sometimes have trouble finding the motivation to do (see earlier post), I have to admit that I often have more of a challenge just being.

One of the first questions that we're asked as children (aside from "How old are you?" (26), "What grade are you in ?" (I'm 26, but thanks for thinking I'm still in high school!) and "Do you want ice cream?" (Obviously.) is "What do you want to BE when you grow up?"

As I said to Lauren the other day, hahahano. This question is--no joke--one of the most difficult for us to answer as...often, others have a say in what we get to be when we grow up. If we grow up. If we choose to grow up.

The only answer that I was able to tell people about what I wanted to do was to be able to go home at the end of the day, on my worst day when everything broke down and life was insane and the puppy was barking and still know that I did something good at the end of the day. That's the type of person that I want to be. Someone that can be satisfied with that feeling.

I spend a lot of time trying to be comfortable. Trying to be comfortable physically, with running, with yoga, with attempting to walk a little bit further than I normally would. Trying to be comfortable socially, with new  friends in Eugene, with new friends/colleagues at Hillel Institute, with new opportunities in the area. Trying to be comfortable mentally/academically, with textbooks, with lack of sleep, with educating myself in as many ways as possible. Trying to be comfortable spiritually, with creating my own Reform community, with "hosting" Shabbat (versus attending it), and with figuring what role I want to play in the Jewish community.

I'm never going to be completely comfortable, but I am working really hard to become the person that (right now) I'd like to be. Taking time to work things out, think things through, or just foregoing all of it and embracing the opportunity in hand, all of these memories are allowing me to become that person. To grow, to change, and to be.

I'm not sure I'll ever be (or choose to be) completely "grown up," but I know that I want to be a person who's not afraid to keep growing that direction. And for now, I'm pretty happy with that direction--and I'm pretty sure that sometimes it is okay, just to be...and not to finish the sentence.

#BlogElul Do

Whoops, playing catchup again--but it was actually because I was out doing things last night--Hillel students and I took over the movie theater to watch We are the Millers, which was hilarious--fun [Hillel] family fun movie (do not take your little kids).

I feel like I'm often in a constant state of doing and even sometimes trying to fight multiple bad habits with don'ting (to be fair, the dos are often more successful than the don'ts), but very rarely do I make conscious decisions of the things I do.

I go to work, I work hard on our program, on student leadership, on engagement activities, on market materials, take phone calls, have coffee (frappucino) dates, have frozen yogurt group talks, get sunburnt while tabling, meet new students (and old students, and alumni students and community members!), remember names and stories...I do all of these things on a pretty regular basis among any number of other things that I've probably forgotten (like sleeping, sleeping is a pretty important do).

This year (and at Institute), I am aiming to do a lot more conscious say yes to things that I might otherwise attempt to avoid or be afraid to try. A lot of this comes from my trip to Israel this past summer (as a leader I had one rule: I would not make any student do anything I was unwilling to do...which led to my pushing myself to DO a lot!): I rafted down the Jordan (at first I was afraid), I scaled the cliffs of Arbel (the entire time I was afraid!), I climbed down into a 2200 year old cave 2 stories below the ground (I was less afraid but I stayed on the stairs due to a little bit of fear of not being able to get out).

So when I got back to Eugene, there were more things that I wanted to make sure I would consciously do.

  • I started a "running" Couch-to-5K program and have students hold me accountable by posting every "run" to Facebook. I will most likely be doing a 5K by the end of the school year, but my goal is to be able to run with my dad in November.
  • I  am spending more time outside with my dog, enjoying both the environment Eugene has to offer and the quality time with Ellie that I don't get necessarily during the school year.
  • I am going to learn Torah trope this year--something I started at Hillel Institute--but it's actually going to get done.
  • I am going to do something I've always wanted to do: I am going to dedicate one hour per day to Jewish learning. I really enjoy reading Jewish texts, engaging in text study with others, learning language--and there are so many different ways to learn. So as of yesterday (August 12th), one hour a day will be dedicated to Jewish learning (which I'm happy to share on my blog).
  • I will say "yes" to invitations more often and push myself to try new things--now is the time to do it, new place, new people, new opportunities for change.
The possibilities for "do" are endless...and my hope is that with the new year, there will be a lot more "dos" (and some successful "don'ts) added to the list.

Yesterday's Jewish Learning:
I've been in the midst of reading Michael Strassfield's Jewish Holidays and like learning about different traditions/reasons behind many of the actions that we take. Reform Judaism is all about "choice by knowledge" and I realize that many of my choices are somewhat uninformed--I do things because I feel comfortable with them, because someone taught them to me--but I don't always know why. I enjoy learning the stories.

Yesterday I continued/finished reading about Passover and started reading about Rosh Hashana (I had skipped around and read other holidays before) and enjoyed learning about specific times for greetings, enslavement to old ideas, routines, feelings, and utilizing both days as a sense of renewal, a second chance to try and do better in your life.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

#BlogElul Know

I have always had a huge love of learning, of finding things out, or exploring all the things that I don't know. I used to ask (and attempt to answer) a lot of questions, but found that most of the time once I found an answer, it would just spur me on to ask more questions.

Here's what I know. When I went to college in 2004, at 17, I knew everything. I was confident about going to college, the chance to create a new version of myself, and I was confident that being pre-med while majoring in psychology was the right choice: I was going to be a pediatrician. Within a year and a half, I knew something else: I had to drop pre-med. I wasn't good at math or science. Within two and a half years, I knew one more thing: all of my electives had randomly ended up fulfilling Judaic Studies requirements, I was going to double major (even if it meant taking on 21-credit semesters and a summer of classes). When I graduated college, I knew something further: I knew nothing.

To be fair, I'm not entirely sure how that happened. I went to college and learned a ton--and then graduated, having passed (in some cases) my classes. But I knew so much less leaving college than when I started. When I got my first job, I expected the community to be so similar to the synagogues and part-time work that I'd had before. I was wrong. It wasn't like that. The expectations were unclear; I was supposed to know what it was that I was supposed to do. And when I failed (in more ways than one), I knew that I didn't know what it was that I really was meant to do.

And so I began to explore opportunities. A master's certificate at Gratz College. An application to rabbinical school. The adoption of a best friend (and a psychotic one). A realization that part-time work wasn't going to cut it and a move back into my parents' home (my mom always says "home is where when you have to go there, they have to take you in."). A family of teenagers. A family of yeshiva students (and mentors and friends). A business school experience full of homework, friends, and leadership moments.

As I began to explore and delve and invest myself into these opportunities, I began to know things about myself--my "truths". And I realized that while I still know less about things than I'd like to--it puts me in a great position--I have a great potential for personal and professional growth. I have the ability to invest in more opportunities for learning (HUC Cert Program, Cohort 3!). I have the ability to teach others. And as I work and remember that I don't know everything, I remember one more thing: I have the ability to find out. And knowing that is worth everything.

#BlogElul Accept

I'm writing two of these blogs in one day (woooooooooohooooooo motivation!) but I'll try my best to make sure that they're up to their usual "quality."  So for Day 4 (my rewind #BlogElul): Accept.

Acceptance is not necessarily the easiest word/feeling to come by.

A few months ago, I was asked to sit with students at a Shabbat dinner (acceptance, a step forward!) and we were discussing the differences in the type of people that we deal with on a regular basis. There is a definite difference in lifestyle/attitude in Oregon than I'm used to on the West Coast. I found out that people on the West Coast find that residents of the East Coast can be rude (and they took it a step further to compare it to people on the East Coast finding that people in Israel can be rude!). I had to accept that my personality/humor/way of thinking had to adjust slightly to enjoy life in Oregon.

We have to remember that acceptance is both external and internal. We hope that others will accept us for who we are and for what we have to offer, but we must push ourselves to remember to accept others for who they are and for what they have to offer. We have to push ourselves to accept what's happening in our daily lives, positive and negative both.

There's obviously a reason that the serenity prayer begins with "G-d, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." Acceptance is not an easy trait in most of us who believe that we have the power to create our own course, to drive our own destiny. In my opinion, attempting to accept, to be accepting is a way of thinking deeper--understanding the situation, the person, the happening that challenges you beyond what you thought you could handle.

Acceptance implies a difficulty, allows us to imagine that we must strengthen ourselves to be up to the challenge. Most of the time we will be, sometimes we won't. And we have to accept that--that there will be situations that we will fight, that we will change, that we will push to its limits and that there will be times where that is the right thing to do. There will also be times where we will have to sit back and accept what comes to us, and then (hopefully!) make positive choices from that point on.

Friday, August 9, 2013

#BlogElul Bless

What a wonderful topic to see as we go into Shabbat--after an interview with a student today, I let her know what this blog was about and she replied "You're too blessed to be stressed." [Shout out to Amy B.--now I'll know if you read this or not!]

I'd say for the most part she's right. In the last year and a half, I have been blessed in many ways and begun a transformation into the person that I'm hoping that I'll become one day. Hard work, dedication, and a sense of humor have led me to where I am today.

While stress sometimes has a tendency to take over (leading to what Andy refers to as my "stressball" moments), I find myself better handling adversity than I used to...taking things in stride and realizing that finding a quick and appropriate solution is more successful than stopping to analyze the reasons behind the problem. And it's true...there have been lots of problems along the way. But there are blessings that come from those problems--they lead to memories which shape the person who I am now.

At Hillel Institute, in a professional networking session, we were all asked to share what brought us to the position that we are in today. The questions that we were asked were:

  • What led you to work for Hillel today?
  • What elements of your work do you, or do you hope to, find most meaningful?
  • What energizes you about your work? What is most challenging?
  • How is your Judaism informed by your work?
As my mind started to race, I wrote the following and shared it with the group. Some asked for me to type it up and share it, so here it is. My problems, my solutions, my memories, my blessings.

If I had not been a Jew in a school with no Jews
If I had not lived in my synagogue as a second home
If I had not gone to Jewish camps for eight years, for three years, for one as staff
If I had not worked in synagogues since the age of eight
If I had not written my college essay on "How Judaism Shaped Me"
(yeah, I was that person)
If I had not arranged songs for my Jewish a capella group
If I had not added a second major in Judaic Studies
If I had not decided to get a degree from Gratz College
If I had not applied to rabbinical school and been rejected
If I had not taken two years to study in yeshiva
If I had not taken on Beth Sholom Temple Youth Group
If I had not pushed every program and boundary and fundraiser
If I had not persevered through interview after interview after interview...
Then I wouldn't have made it to Oregon...

Or have gone to Israel (TWICE!) in six months

Or have driven a 12-passenger van in the snow (read: ice)
Or have delivered matzah ball soup throughout campus
Or have understood how a 12 or 13 hour day can fly by
Or have scaled two mountains in two days
Or have read Torah for my students in Jerusalem for their b'nei mitzvot
Or have spent every day this summer in an air conditionerless office
Or have designed newsletters every week that go out to 500 (but are read by 200)...
But I did. I did it all.

And in doing so, I am lucky enough to be living the vibrant Jewish life we seek to create on campus.

And I am all the better for it.

#Tooblessed--maybe. But knowing what to do with all those blessings? And working on keeping them coming? That's the job now. Each day, moment, memory is a blessing. Make sure you're making the most of them--because everything happens for other things to happen.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

#Blog Elul: Act

So much is going through my mind as I think about acting, action, taking steps to act, preparing to act, acting as if...

"Actions speak louder than words."-is a favorite. But then again I'm not always so sure I agree with that--after all, how many times have you been an incredible friend, created a warm and welcome community, given hugs, wiped away tears, only to be confronted when a (not-so-well-thought-out/poor-life-decision) word slips out?

Instead, I keep thinking back to #HillelInstitute where I spent last week learning about vibrant Jewish life, and how to live life vibrantly as a Jew (two different things in my opinion). In taking my second major, Jewish Professional Development--emphasis was actually on the Jewish--one of my teachers, Rabbi Neal Schuster taught us something that I will never forget: "When you stop and thing 'someone has to do something about that,' that someone must be YOU."

I realized that there are many days where I've sat and thought...and complained...or kvetched...or vented...or asked questions...or gotten angry...or blamed...or wondered..."WHY ISN'T ANYBODY DOING ANYTHING?" I got lost in the fact that all the complaining/kvetching/[insert awesome gerund here] was just as bad: it was a lack of action.

Now, it's not always in me to act. I like to think of great ideas, outline them to their fullest, discuss them in my head, discuss them with other people--and then forget that I was supposed to start them. I've recently started a running program (in hiatus this week due to a pretty tricky chest cough) in an attempt to get healthier--my action was to take the first step. To download the Couch-to-5K app on my phone, to buy the correct sneakers, to leash up Ellie and to walk out the door. It was difficult--but I acted.

At Institute, I implemented my "meal mission": finding people to sit with can be a nightmare--especially if you're shy or don't want to interrupt what you think is a meeting. Now if I (or if anyone who I shared the mission with) see anyone walking around looking for a place, I automatically invite them. Come sit! Our table's full? Pull up a chair. No more spaces? Move to a bigger table! I guarantee you that no matter what my conversation was about, it's not more important than you needing a community to sit with. Large conventions tend to make me anxious--but I acted.

As the year goes on, it's my intention to keep acting. To keep putting the wheels in motion, never complacent with things "being fine" but always acting to keep furthering relationships, try new things, not let fear stop me from living a vibrant life as a Jew while promoting a vibrant Jewish life on campus. I always tell my students that I will never force them to do anything that I am not willing to do (inclusive of rafting, vertically scaling a mountain, hiking, and climbing into a 2200 year old cave), and in so telling them, I put the impetus on myself to act. If I want them to try new things, I must try new things.

My boss/mentor often tells me he would rather I take large risks ("go big or go home") and make mistakes than to let fear and passivity take over. Rabbi Naomi Levy writes, "Wake me up G-d; ignite my passion, fill me with outrage. Remind me that I am responsible for Your world. Don't allow me to stand idly by. Inspire me to act. Teach me to believe that I can repair some corner of this world." By writing these words, I am acting. By living these words, I give the action true meaning.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

#BlogElul Prepare

A year ago, I was planning a $5000 fundraiser to bring five BSTYGgers to NFTY's National Convention in Los Angeles, and preparing for an amazing school year full of potential, growth (both personal and professional) and activities. While looking for full-time jobs, I had no idea that I would be completely crossing the country into a world that is completely different than the one I've always known and a job that would challenge me and bring me immense joy (both personal and professional!).

Preparing to leave my one-square mile, one stop-light village, I knew that there were steps I was going to have to take to prepare myself to leave my comfort zone--packing in the middle of Hurricane Sandy was no joke, especially leaving power for a week--saying goodbye to friends, to my things, to my car. Realizing that I would be leaving my students, my daily routine, and my own personal Jewish communities.

In the last nine months, I have been to Israel twice, driven a twelve passenger van (through ice), hung up pictures, built furniture (and had people judge them and rebuild), choose wall colors, choose furniture, choose opportunities, network, create "meal missions," and have more debriefs over activities, interactions, and goal-setting than I can count. But most of the life-changing moments in the past few months I haven't really "prepared for."

I've had Webex trainings, supervision, and my own pension for color-coding, graphic maps, and organization habits...but I could never really be prepared to scale two mountains in two days in Israel and then lead a service in a park with severely bruised muscles. I was not prepared to be asked to partake in my students' b'nei mitzvot services when they had me read Torah in Jerusalem. I was not prepared to handle a student facing a parent's heart attack at 1:15 in the morning at Institute and to join in an immediate Tehilim session to bring him comfort. I was not prepared to begin a running program (and to run even during Institute!).

I may not have been fully prepared, but I was READY. I was willing to meet the challenges, willing to overcome adversity. As I am preparing for this year, I realize that there will be gaps and mistakes, things that I may have overlooked or forgotten. But I am so READY for this year to be an amazing one--for students to find themselves in situations which challenge and inspire them, for the Eugene community to realize what a diverse and incredible Jewish center these students have created, and for leadership to keep extending outwards as more and more students step up and take ownership of programs, conversations, relationships, and learning experiences.

I am ready. I am psyched. I am enthusiastic. And progressively, I am preparing myself to be better, to be present, to be engaging. We are preparing to further the vibrant Jewish life on campus--one step at a time, one meeting, one moment, we're excited. And we're ready. Welcome back #Elul.