This is a continuation of “My Arrival in Israel & a Bit of July (Part 1)“…
Part 2: A Bit of July
July was a mishmash of volunteering, project coordination and quality time with friends. I bonded with my kids at the Boys & Girls Club, where I chaperoned field trips and taught everything from acroyoga to creative costuming and clothing design. I had the opportunity to volunteer with Project Sunshine, where I connected with a four-year-old child who would not speak to or communicate with anyone. He had wires protruding from near every part of his body and a very serious expression on his face.
After a bit of sleuth work, I discovered that he spoke only Spanish, loved trains and was obsessed with Gangam Style. One hour later, we had rocked out to Gangam Style with our best dance moves, sang our favorite Barney songs in Spanish (what a throwback!) and – despite dirty looks from a couple of nurses – I allowed him and his brother to paint all over my arms and legs after I made them a drawing. I bonded tremendously with the family and the giggles that came out of the boys when they mischievously ‘broke the rules’ and painted on me was epic.
Over the past few months, I have found myself to be very… mothering. Not in a domineering, telling people what to do way, but in a nurturing way of loving people, feeding people, supporting people and – yes – occasionally giving reminders to sleep enough, eat enough and put on sun block before heading out for the day. It was strange, but nice to fill this loving and supportive role for so many friends back in Austin. Though I am – thankfully – not feeling the biological clock, I think that I am going to be a good mom and that is a great feeling.
In late July, I had a thought-provoking interaction with a new friend. We spoke briefly and exchanged information. He then went home, Googled me and deemed me to be “famous”. I downplayed the whole thing. Fame is silly. Fame is relative. Though it was fun to snag my first magazine cover and get shout-outs from Freakonomics and the international press, these developments in no way made me famous. But, for every point that I made, he made a valid counterpoint – including that even random bits on the internet, like this City Hall presentation (Item 4) from almost a year ago, stick around for a long time. This conversation on the concept and reality of fame got me thinking a lot about life direction and next steps.
Though it is admittedly fun to dabble in the spotlight, I do not want fame. I am at a point where I could parlay Jewrotica into landing me appearances on high profile talk shows, or even my own show on relationships and sexuality. But that is not my passion nor what I want from my life. I feel blessed that there are so many opportunities that present themselves to me, but I must remain vigilant to stay mindful and aware of my desired life path, lest my 20s pass with lots of ‘cool experiences’, but not the significant markers and contributions that I wish to make.
Besides, to speak a bit indelicately, being famous would suck. Yes, the platform could be leveraged for the good, but when you are famous, people are out to get you. You become more susceptible to unwarranted criticism and take-downs simply for being in the limelight. Folks with skewed values are often drawn in, adding difficulty to discerning the motivations of new friends and acquaintances.
Fame could also be inhibiting as fairly normal behaviors (e.g. a top-free swim amongst other top-free swimmers at a quiet spring in Austin) could be contorted and misrepresented as extreme and inaccurate behaviors (e.g. ‘revealing photo of Jewish sexuality expert’ and other such nonsense). Perhaps most significantly, many famous people get caught up in their own image and forget their cosmic and real insignificance. Fame causes people to think that simply maintaining their presence – without any additional contributions – is a worthwhile thing to do, and I take objection to that. Thoughts?
I was sent off to Israel with so much love from my Austin friends and community that it made it a bit hard and almost sad to leave. But, the fact that July was a slower month gave me time to immerse myself in Austin’s offerings and its people, but also to get antsy enough with my free time to spin my wheels in anticipation of coming here. I was also able to meditate on what I want to get out of my time in Israel and to realize that I am ready to make some changes.
[Warning: The following video is a highlights reel from my final service with Wesley UMC before departing for Jerusalem. The songs, including my solo, are all about Jesus. If you're Jewish, mentally replace Jesus with 'Hashem'. If you're pagan, channel the Living Spirit. If you're atheist, enjoy the vignettes for their cultural value. And if you're going to be irked by Jesus music no matter what, then maybe just skip the video for now.]
Lastly, my final weekend in Austin was very idyllic. The afternoon offered up cool swims and acrobatic play at Barton Springs with my circus crew, the Jewish community and my cousin Lauren. The morning included a powerful service with the choir (my first solo!) and the culmination of a season of reflection, introspection and deep conversation. I am grateful to Wesley for providing me with not only with community, but also with a new set of tools for calling out to God and connecting to prayer through music.
I boarded the plane on Monday in a place of peace with Yair, peace with my year of transition and peace with Austin. And though I accept that most growth in life comes through pain, I boarded the plane grateful to be past it, grateful to be healed and whole, and ready for my next chapter.
Here’s to that next chapter.
posted by ayo