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What's On the Other Side?

This blog post is written by Kao, a Yahel Social Change Fellow living and working in Lod.

There is an intrinsic comfort in recurrence. For example, knowing you’ll wake up to a day of predetermined activities, knowing the lyrics for that song you enjoy, or talking to the same people every day. Walking through the metaphorical “doors” you’ve already opened in life keeps us sane, and helps build trust and stability in our lives. So why leave it behind?

I used to wake up at 8 just as the sleepless São Paulo sun hit my room, take a quick shower, walk my dog, eat some fruit. By 9:30 I was at the office, reading up on emails, saying “Hey, how was your weekend” to co-workers, starting to write lines of code, procrastinating at the coffee room, never finishing my tasks before getting involved in new ones, going out for lunch, procrastinating a bit more, finishing the query I should’ve finished hours ago, and eventually going home. By 7 I was talking with my family, with my friends, going out for a beer, reading, or simply sleeping after a full day of emails and meetings that could’ve been an email. I got paid well, had free fruit at the office, played with my dog every day, visited my friends and family, biked, swam, ran. Still, I was tired of all that good life, I wanted more, I wanted out. There is no mastery without repetition but what is repetition without a purpose? I was once told that the definition of madness is doing things the same way and expecting a different result, isn’t that exactly what I was doing? Expecting life to be different by doing the exact same things every day, by maintaining the status quo I’ve decided to be comfortable? I now see I’ve written the word “different”, and what do I expect is different? A more exciting life? Meeting new personalities? Being a James Bond sort and having a new adventure every week? For me, different is to expand the horizons of my consciousness, learn new abilities without mastering any, and find new interests.

What path would I take that would allow me to feel different? The one I was already trailing, one of comfort and expectancy or one of uncertainty and unfamiliarity? I chose the latter. I thought to myself - uncertainty and unfamiliarity trump comfort and expectancy because unless you are looking to be a master in something, you’ll learn much more in a place of discomfort. By allowing yourself to feel something other than comfort you’ll walk down a path that may be harder in the short term but much more fulfilling in the long term. I wanted to feel different and for that reason I joined a strange program, in a strange country with strangers from other strange places. I’ve decided to leave my comfy seat in front of a screen for a day under the sun on a farm, to trade talking in my native language with my friends to talking a mixture of English with bad Hebrew to strangers, to trade in a rainforest view for one of sand and rocks.

As my resignation date comes closer and closer I start to question if opening this new door is worth the risk and effort. Should I really exit my safe space to go explore new ventures? Should I leave my cozy salary behind to volunteer in a place where I can’t even speak the language? The doubt and the nervousness take hold of me while I start to prepare my luggage a few days before departure. Even simple questions such as “should I take this shirt?” start to get harder to answer. In a futile attempt to calm myself, I start to wonder what life looks like for the paths not taken. What would a Kao that stayed in his safe space working dutifully look like in 2 years, would that life be better or worse? As I start to enter this rabbit hole I quickly remind myself that I had already bought the plane tickets - and they didn’t accept refunds. At that moment I decided to shift my mindset to always take the practical route until I was in a different country in a place where I couldn’t outrun the uncomfortable. In the end I decided to take the shirt with me.

Now I wake up at 6:30 just as the dark sky starts to fade in, wash my face, clean the house, eat some pita with hummus. By 8:00 I’m at the farm school, saying “Boker tov, ma nishma?” to my co-workers, checking on the strawberries I planted a few months ago, starting to remove weeds from the garden beds, taking a well deserved break, finishing pulling the weeds I should have pulled hours ago. By 1pm I’m back home, preparing my lunch as I need sustenance for the day ahead, I take a quick nap, a quick shower and I get ready for my next appointment with the city of Lod. It might be reading books for children or it might be teaching English to young Ethiopian Jews. Alas, all days are different from the one before. After all placements are over with, I walk around the city with the new friends I made, order some food, watch a movie. One thing I can say for sure, is that ever since I stepped down from that plane 4 months ago, there was never a dull moment. I was once told that life is like a roller coaster, with highs and lows and very few moments of relaxation. I say we should embrace the roller coaster of life and enjoy all of it, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Fellows Kao and Joshua contemplating different paths


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