The 80s get a bad rap. For synth music and terrible fashion. Generalized away in three syllables, faster than you can say, well, The 80s.
The decades before it are nostalgic.
60s – when rebellion was first invented.
70s – when it was perfected, exploding with psychedelia and bellbottoms and afros.
But the 80s, I have come to realize, had a lot of personality of their own. The momentum of the seekers on a journey of self-discovery carried right through the invisible line separating 79 from 82.
Backpackers. Osho. Meir Schuster.
There was something in the air.
There was something in the water.
And I want to know what it was.
I want to better understand the ridiculous choices that led to where I am today. I get you were lost and got found in religion. Why Israel? Why Nevey Yaakov? Why Zilbermans?
Why not be religious in America? They have libraries there, you know, and other fancy stuff. How can someone from a middle class suburb of Toronto move to a garbage strewn slum? How do you trust a Rabbi who never smiles, or a teacher who believes elbows are the devil, with the emotional well-being of your child?
I have partial answers.
I recently visited Mexico, whose overall infrastructure probably resembles Israel’s in the late 80s. Things function, but they are not fancy. There’s a simplicity, a rawness, unpadded by Western pansiness.
I would live in Mexico in a hearbeat, at least for a time. But what about my children? What would it be like to grow up in a foreign country? I’d do my best to combine the best of both worlds. Create a customized hybrid of West and South that tries to maximize the benefits of each. And maybe it’s just not the right place in this stage of my life?
I have experienced the disconnect of living in suburbia, every man unto himself, never truly connecting from either side of the picket fence.
Israelis are much more warm and open. But they are also assholes with PTSD. Even if you dismiss entire cultures like south Americans and parts of Asia for not being Jewish, why not find a warm Jewish community in a country with more manners and less explosions?
Sometimes your life situation changes slowly, and you don’t realize how deep in shit you are until it’s up to your neck. Sometimes the up-and-coming neighborhood you move to slowly transitions into the perfect backdrop for a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Sometimes it takes months to realize that your son is getting physically beaten, every day, by his abusive teacher and classmates.
When you do realize it, what do you do? Now is the time for massive action. For getting up again and moving halfway around the world. To start again for a better life. You know what it’s like. You’ve already done it 20 years ago, and pissed off your entire family in the process.
Except now it’s not you. It’s your 6, 7, 8, 9 kids who need to come along. And they’re… happy? Some of them? Some of the time? You’re creative. You could probably distort reality a while longer.
How did your penchant for radical shifts in geography and world view, for rebellion in the face of status quo, not get you out of what they originally got you in to? Are you a one trick pony? You’ve got one good jump in you, and now you’re permanently stuck on the wrong side of the fence?
How come the biggest change you made was also the only change you made? Now you’re halfway around the world, complaining about government offices not answering their phones, wondering what clothes you should wear if you end up in the hospital after a suicide bombing, having your kids write notes to their teachers because you can’t communicate with them directly.
Are you really as open to ideas and discomfort as you say you were? Or did you settle into your own version of comfort, which happens to look the opposite of everyone else’s? Now you sit, like a pig in poop, lamenting all the losers who haven’t joined you or are jumping the fence to get out.
The void in your life that brought you here must have been great. Now, certainly, there must be a new void in its place. This is life. The questions are much better than the answers. The solutions are always partial. The realties, always evolving.
Why did you follow your heart the first time and now disregard the urgent texts it’s sending you? Are you stuck in a cult? Should we send help?
If you want to be lost, be lost.
But why, for God’s sake, must you be found?