Leaving New York for Life in Israel

foreign-correspondent badge finalThe day after I graduated college, my parents and I stuffed the mini-van with four years of memories and the unblemished hopes of a twenty-something aspiring theater professional. As State College, Pennsylvania disappeared in the rear-view mirror I wept. I was not ready for it to end, and I was certainly not ready for what was in store. I was terrified.

But the Earth kept spinning, as it does, and after a few months of sulking, I got my first job out of college as a fundraiser for The Metropolitan Opera. The job had some amazing perks (free tickets to the opera? Yes, please!). But, sadly, cold-calling patrons to ask for money got exhausting rather quickly. I was hung up on, yelled at, and accused of spying or stealing.

I was good at my job, but there is a limit to how long one can sit in a cubicle with a phone ringing in her ear all day. It was then that I confirmed a long-held suspicion: office life was not for me. I had a secure job, but I was restless, and I sat in my coffee-stained cubicle dreaming of far-away places. I had just been promoted to working the major donors when I broke down. After months of being constantly plagued by migraines and back pains, I knew I had to leave.

Leaving New York for Life in Israel

I spent the next two years working any odd job that came my way. I was a waitress, bartender, caterer, hostess, dog-walker, babysitter, sales associate at a Manhattan bakery, and a salad dressing sales girl. Somewhere in between baker and waitress I decided to take ownership of who I was and who I had the potential to be. One night I met a friend from my former job at the opera for drinks. She had left The Met a few months before I did for a great internship that eventually turned into a full-time job and was telling me all about the incredible projects she was working on.

Then she asked “What are you up to?” All I had to offer were a dozen day-old cupcakes. So I took a deep breath, and said for the first time: “I want to live in Israel.” The words hung in the air, dangling before me. I could feel their weight as they slowly sunk to the table and crashed through the floor.

I went home that night feeling stunned. “Just go,” she’d said. It sounded so simple, and yet I wondered if it would really be that easy–whether I would really be able to uproot my comfortable life to leave my family behind in search of adventure.

I wanted to gobble them up, pretend that they had never escaped from my lips. My friend looked at me, puzzled by my embarrassment. She took a sip of her wine, placed the glass carefully back on the table, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “You should do it. Just do it. Buy a ticket, and leave! Tomorrow, next week, whenever. But do it.”

I went home that night feeling stunned. “Just go,” she’d said. It sounded so simple, and yet I wondered if it would really be that easy–whether I would really be able to uproot my comfortable life to leave my family behind in search of adventure.

My heart was pulling me across the world, and nearly two years later I took the leap. I’m now writing from the second-hand couch in my Jerusalem apartment. The windows are open, the breeze is cool, and everything is as it should be.

When I was trying to make a life for myself in Manhattan, I was one of thousands and we were all swimming upstream. New York was too big and I was gasping for air, desperately searching for a line to grab hold of. One week after my arrival in Jerusalem, I was walking home from school with a friend. As we spoke, someone ahead of us turned around and shouted “Hey, America!” He was a writer and he invited my friend and I to a party in the shuk, where I met many more writers.

I went home that night stunned. The universe had a message for me, and had dropped that message on my head with the weight of a cartoon anvil. All doubts about my decision to come to Israel had been erased. That chance encounter propelled me into an entire network of creatives. Doors have flown open and Israel has become the land of opportunity for me. Jerusalem, for me, has become the city that New York could never be.

It is never easy to pack your life into one or two pieces of luggage and leave everything you know behind. But I have never felt so free or so capable. Every morning I wake up in Jerusalem thankful that I had the courage to jump off my metaphorical cliff. My heart swells with love for everyone and everything. I am overwhelmed by it. This feeling—this wholeness—is what was missing before I came here. Turns out all I needed to do was set myself free.

Leaving New York for Life in Israel

About Ariela Rossberg

Ariela RossbergAriela Rossberg is currently based out of New York. She is a freelance writer & photographer, best selling children’s author, and eager travel bug. She offers Imagination Workshops for children and adults. Learn more about Ariela on her  website.

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