Scents and Sensibilities

“Life has a funny way of sneaking up on you,” sings Alanis Morissette in her hit song Ironic, “when you think everything’s okay and everything’s going right.” Had I remembered this lovely little factoid, I might have decided to start my weekly reading of the Pirkei Avot next week instead of last.

See, it started with a tiny little thing. An ant. But since there’s never just one, there had to be hundreds. (On the bright side, they definitely are not termites, so that’s a small blessing amidst this whole thing.) And since normal cleaning and trails of cinnamon (a panacea of past problems) failed to feature vibrant successes, we knew we were in for a deeper clean. Who knew deeper would also mean darker.

For the past few months, we’ve also been toying around with the idea of rearranging a couple rooms to make life more liveable and the house, two sizes too small, more comfortable. It seemed a natural and logical conclusion that we should take this opportunity to deep-clean and rearrange all at the same time. Brilliant idea, right?

That’s what we said on Thursday. Friday things began to pick up pace… we worked from noon until around one. In the morning. Then on Saturday we went non-stop. And it still didn’t get done. I had work Sunday morning and then a lovely talk with my boyfriend Sunday afternoon, but even with all our work all day long, it still wasn’t anywhere near completion. Even now, as I write this, we are waiting to keep going.

I forecast total completion (of phase one) by Friday, with ninety percent tomorrow.

This, of course, has been the reason why I have not yet had the chance to read this week’s teaching and write my thoughts of it, much to my own regret, I assure you. (I really truly do enjoy doing these, but family loyalty obliges me to assist in cleaning more than it allows me to make a personal endeavor, no matter how meaningful or fulfilling it may be.)

That, of course, is not the only reason that’s keeping me from doing it this week. There is but one more, or perhaps two, depending how you divide them. And it’s a doozy. If I spelled that right. There’s a red squiggly line under there… so I can’t be certain. Move along, shall we?

In trying to do some independent math tutoring over the summer (which appears, thus far, to have gotten me a polite cease-and-desist letter from the school, despite past approval from departmental chairs, although it’s a position I’m going to fight for), I ran into a staff member who I had tried to assist earlier in the year but was unable to. And as it should happen, he needed some students to help be a face for the press for a grant the school is receiving from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. And, yes, that is the Bill Gates of Microsoft. I can’t begin to describe how in shock I am that I am going to be a part of such a phenomenal and influential project as this. It really is an honor, I assure you. (I’d go into it in greater depth, but I’m not really sure where the lines of confidentiality fall at the moment.)

In any case, today I had some media prep–from a former news anchor on a local station who started the Good Morning Show, Lee Kinard. And it was awesome! He’s an incredible guy, and not only were his stories entertaining, he had some great advice and pointers on interviews and public speaking in general that I shall surely exploit in all future endeavors, especially with my being SGA President next year. (Have I had a chance to mention that yet? If not, here goes: I’m going to be GTCC’s Student Government Association President for the 2011-2012 school year!)

One thing in particular really stood out for me from the hour we spent with him. He said, “We’re each an immigrant. We all have to go out and discover the world for ourselves.” (Please, fellow journalists, understand that I may not be quoting him verbatim, as it was an informal meeting and I wasn’t taking any notes, but that is, at the very least, a good paraphrasing of his well-made point.) We each go through these same periods and phases of growth, and we all have to discover the world and our place in it for ourselves. Only we can do it. So when we go out and speak in front of people, we have to own ourselves. We have to know who we are, why we’re there, and then make the most of it. We all have a story to tell, and when we’re comfortable with ourselves, we can tell it and make it more than anyone else can give in our place.

It was a great lesson. I truly appreciate all of his feedback.

Then I learned (and here’s the clincher) that I’ll need to assist with the school’s golf tournament on Wednesday. From nine-thirty in the morning until late, late, late in the evening, if I can’t escape sooner. Again, I’d go into more detail, but being honest, it’s only the second annual one, and I’m not that well informed about it yet. I’ve got a brochure. It’s going on my reading list for tomorrow.

In any case, with all of this, and the cleaning, and my birthday Thursday, and enjoying Company of Thieves and Lady Gaga, my week has been sold and stolen, in similar and strikingly different ways across similar and strikingly different days. Among all of this, one point shines, and it’s the point I’d like to end on: I hate hats. But in Israel, hats were required, so I grudgingly wore one. When I got home, into the closet it went (as, ironically enough, I came out). So knowing the weather for Wednesday, I pulled it out tonight since I’ll probably need to use it again.

And it looks awful. I used it a lot, and I never washed it upon returning home. So, as seems logical, I smelled it, to see if it would at least be wearable. And it smelled exactly like Israel. I fell back onto my bed, holding the folded fabric over my face as I closed my eyes and inhaled the scent of the Golan, of Hod HaSharon, of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and Yaffo and Tzfat and the Kinneret… Colors and sounds and textures of light returned to me in mere moments, seconds of serenity until my breath filtered through my lungs and left me.

It was a lovely moment. It reminded me of Israel and made me miss it more, made me long to return someday sooner if I can. Amid all this chaos, this one moment reminded me that sometimes, no matter how many things are changing, some things will always stay the same. Amid of all these obstacles, it reminded me that sometimes, no matter how challenging our situations can be, so long as we stay true to ourselves and to what we stand for, we’ll make it through to the other side emerging even better than before.

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