One month after finishing high school, I packed up and moved out of the country permanently. Up to this very day, people tell me that I'm crazy. "Life in America is so great! Why did you come here?" Or, "You're so brave to leave your family and friends and come all this way all alone, I could never do that." Ladies and gents, let me let you in on a little secret - it would have been brave of me to stay in a place when my heart and soul were in another place.
A few weeks ago, I shared my story about being tested for the BRCA gene at the young age of 23 (see the post here). Today, a different story about a challenge I overcame: I was a passionate and thoughtful 18 year old who followed her heart across the ocean to a foreign country, alone.
Being a passionate kid is not always easy, because having an intense passion for something marks you as "weird" in the schoolyard. Well, I have always had a tendency to either really love something with a passion, or strongly dislike something and subsequently just not care. This is also the trait that makes me so goal oriented. I love something, I want something, I achieve said thing. So when I sent my parents a letter from overnight camp at the age of 15 telling them that I was going to be moving to Israel and joining the army after high school instead of going off to college like all the "normal" kids, I meant it and I never looked back.
I followed my heart. I followed my passion and my desires all the way through the remainder of high school and straight onto the plane to Israel. Along the way, the question I heard most was "why" and the reaction I received the most was uncomfortable fake smiling and strange questions to fill the silence. I was told that I was ruining my high school's statistic of students who go off to college because I had decided not to go get my bachelor's degree straight away after graduation. No one knew how to react to this teenager with a very distinct vision and plan that wasn't laid out in the traditional sense. I wasn't going to college, I wasn't doing a gap year, I was moving to a foreign country and joining the military, and I was planning on staying there afterwards. It was no joke and it was no "end of high school what am I going to do with myself" crisis. I wasn't shying away from college and I wasn't "just trying to figure out who I am", as many people suggested. This wasn't just a phase in my life, it was my life decision.
This story applies to so many people, not in the literal sense, but in the sense that the "obvious" path that others may see isn't the obvious path for everyone. For the passionate type, the path is clear but it's in a very different direction. I find that often times, people on the passionate side of the spectrum call themselves "misunderstood". I don't think that we are misunderstood, I just think that those who are different from us do not make the effort to understand at all. Being misunderstood and not being taken into account in the first place are two very different things. In that case, if I am not simply misunderstood because I am passionate, then what am I? What does that make me?
It's different for everyone, but if I learned anything in my lifetime (short as it may be), it's that passion is what makes my world go round. I am constantly learning from my experiences, but so far, this is what I have come to understand:
1. If you don't care enough about something to call yourself passionate about it, either learn to care more or move on to something else. Otherwise, you may find yourself chained to something that you're dying to be free of.
2. Stop calling yourself "misunderstood". If you really want to be understood, then make an effort to explain yourself to others. Love of what you do will always shine through, but so will distain for those who allegedly misunderstand your passion.
3. At the end of the day, everyone has their own path, and each path should be respected as unique, even if in your eyes it's conformist.
4. Passionate people can be conformists, too. Just because your paths is different in some aspects doesn't mean that you have to force all the aspects of your life onto that path.
5. Everyone should find one thing to be passionate about. It makes life exponentially more meaningful.