“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So, you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future,” – Steve Jobs
I’ve dreamed of living in the United States since my early teens. Thanks to TV shows like Beverly Hills 90210, Dawson’s Creek, and Sex and the City, which painted a picture-perfect America in the eyes of a 14-year-old dreamer. I vocalized this dream to everyone I knew; my teachers, friends, military officers, coworkers anyone who was willing to listen. When I turned 22 and had saved what I thought was enough money, I packed my bags, and off I went to the land of infinite possibilities.
My then young-and-naïve dream was that I would fall in love and a knight on a white horse (or a yellow cab) would sweep me off my feet. We would marry and live happily ever after in the upper west side. Looking back, this was one of my greatest lessons about expectations, disappointments, uncertainty and trust. I had three months until my visa expired to either find someone to sponsor me for a job or find a husband with whom to ride the adventure. Dreamer, did I mention?
As you may have guessed by now, things didn’t happen quite in the manner I had hoped. Instead, I found myself traveling from coast-to-coast looking for God knows what – a job? Love? Direction? Divine intervention? After two months in the city, it became cold and lonely. Reality was hitting me, hard. Money was running out, and I realized that walking in high heels in Manhattan only looks good on Kerry Bradshaw; my feet were bruised, and my heart was aching. The search for the knight fell flat, as it turns out 20+-year-old guys in the city don’t really have a wedding in mind, go figure…
I felt an enormous sense of shame and disappointment. What a mistake I had made, so naïve, what was I thinking? I decided to visit my family in Little Rock, Ark. I needed a moment to breathe, to clear my head and think about my next step. The morning after my arrival, my cousin and I went shopping for her wedding party and there I saw a napkin with the following question: “Am I Living Happily Ever After Yet?” Something about the phrase took my breath away. I felt as if this was placed there just for me to ask and to answer. The answer was clear at that time: No. How can I? I took that as a sign and at that moment, over a kitchen napkin, I decided to go home.
When I look back at that journey, I now can connect the dots and see how things happened in perfect order. Two years later, I had the opportunity to intern in NYC through a college program and that’s when I met my very own movie love, whom I am married to today and with whom I am raising two beautiful children. The dream I once had as a young child finally came true when I was least expecting it.
Fast forward 11 years; COVID hit the west, we were sent to work from home and instructed to stay away from one another, and a void appeared in my life. With the end of all the distractions, business trips, and networking events I was met with myself again. A big realization hit me; In all my years in the U.S., I never stopped to appreciate or celebrate how far I had come. I never realized that I was living the dream of my 14-year-old self because I was too busy dreaming of the next adventure; that at every step, I was planning and thinking about the next moment as if it was going to be better than the present. I was chasing an illusion.
This realization brought with it a calling; to go home to Israel. With that calling came fear and doubt, but also excitement and a sense of peace. Peace with all I have achieved and a desire to go home to the family I left behind.
I would like to share with you three principles I implement when faced with huge life transitions with the hope they will serve you when faced with uncertainty, doubt and fear.
- It is always now – Everything happens in the present moment; past and future are nothing but thoughts in your head. Overthinking every scenario or trying to orchestrate every detail will bring you nothing but stress and anxiety and it will cloud your judgment when it’s time to make a choice. Paradoxically, we overthink and ruminate on things with the hope we will be better prepared for what’s coming. In reality, overthinking takes up a lot of mind space until there’s no room for common sense and clarity. One of my favorite Stoics virtues is to deal with what is in front of you. What that means is that you only do and deal with whatever it is that is in your control, and let go of the rest. Trust in yourself that when the moment comes to make a choice or take action, you will be fully present, and answers will flow to you. Remember, your future plans are only thoughts YOU are thinking and will only happen in the present moment, so stop wasting your present moment for the illusion of a future. If you have doubts that this philosophy can be implemented in high-stress environments or situations, just read the meditations journal by the infamous Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius who was a devoted Stoic.
- Don’t resist what is – We often make plans and often our plans are interrupted by reality. When you realize that there is not just one way to do things, you will find peace and clarity and with that, answerers. When you judge how things should/shouldn’t happen there’s frustration. Understand that things have their own way of manifesting and instead of resisting, flow with what is coming your way and adjust; be flexible and don’t resist what’s in front of you. Understand and embrace that the nature of life is to be unpredictable and uncertain and your need to control doesn’t leave you with peace and clarity to act.
- All feelings have the right to exist – I noticed how I often judge myself for feeling sad, angry or stressed and when I do, it is keeping me in my misery rather than helping me move forward. It’s a vicious circle where I am sad and angry for being sad and angry, sounds familiar? Understanding that all feelings are part of the human experience and in the words of the spiritual teacher-Tik Nat Han, “embracing them tenderly you will be able to transform them and accept yourself with all the complexities of being human.”
As I am going through this transition with my family and feelings of failure surface, I allow and embrace the feelings, reminding myself that the dots will somehow connect in my future; I trust.
In the picture: my daughter Zoe with her favorite doll: Mistake. Who is here to remind us that “making mistakes means that you actually dared to do something.”- Mistake Club