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Holy Land or Professional Purgatory?

Today at work, someone peed their pants. No, I am not being idiomatic – nor am I am being funny. I work somewhere where someone literally peed their pants. This would have been quite a tale to tell had it … Read More

By / November 10, 2009

Today at work, someone peed their pants. No, I am not being idiomatic – nor am I am being funny. I work somewhere where someone literally peed their pants. This would have been quite a tale to tell had it been at my last job, a large non-profit in Washington, D.C. As I am currently living a few bus stops north of Tel Aviv, I no longer work there. I now work with mostly 7 year olds, teaching them English for 3 hours after their school day ends. In many ways, this could be an important, even effective job. Some days it probably is, but most days it feels more like glamorized babysitting. Peeing your pants barely makes the headlines.

I use this example not as a vehicle to complain about life or rue my choices (Masters in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies?) or lack of Hebrew (really, even with the masters?). Instead, I wish to examine the life of the immigrant, or in my case, the pseudo-immigrant biding her time on a tourist visa. In a nutshell, I am qualified for nothing. I am not a nurse, nail artist, carpenter, or one of the other very popular categories of job possibilities. I, as many of my friends, have woven a complicated web of education, jobs and even publications that qualify for nothing outright when plucked from an English speaking work world and dropped on the corner of chutzpah and hummus.

I have been lucky in my three weeks in Israel. I have found gainful employment, I have found a magazine who will pay me to write (in English!!), and I have the ever-attractive lure of Hebrew classes three mornings a week to get me out of bed. All in all, it is enough to keep me busy and even make enough money to pay for those Hebrew classes and the bus to get there and back. I am lucky. English is my first and best language and it will carry me the world ’round – if I am willing to take whatever job I can get.

This is the source of my frustration. I am willing to take whatever job I can get as I know that without Hebrew, my choices are limited. I am frustrated that I can’t have the jobs I want. I want to work at a nonprofit and spend the daylight hours dreaming of how I can help hungry people eat and homeless people find homes. There are many things I love–writing, traveling, teaching–but mostly I love to know that I am making a difference in someone else’s life, no matter how small. I am frustrated that without Hebrew that passion of mine is stifled.

I will find a way to express it. I will look harder, I will volunteer, I will network. You always hear about engineers and doctors who come to the US and drive cabs because their qualifications no longer exist once they are an American citizen. Where do they find their meaning? Is it enough to put dinner on the table and some money in savings? How hard do you fight to do what you love even when there is no job title for it? I know the answers are not simple so I will keep searching. In the meantime, I am hoping my students learn to raise their hands when number one is imminent.

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