Yesterday, I found myself in a small shop on Bar Kochva trying to pick a fight with a tailor.
It was 5 p.m., I was standing in a room resembling a scene straight out of Hoarders, and I was arguing with a man who could only supplement his accusatory gestures with bursts of angry Russian, a language I do not understand (both Russian and angry Russian).
I had come to pick up a dress, only to realize that the tailor was charging me five times more than what I had previously been told I would be charged––and, really, about half the price I had originally bought the dress for. I was furious. Anyone who knows me knows that I am non-confrontational, but this was about the principle. Yes, it was the principle; I wasn’t about to let this man rip me off, at least not without a fight.
But as the rest of the store jumped in to gang up on me in the man’s defense––“He’s an honest man! What’s wrong with you?”––I had a change of heart. I handed the tailor his money and walked out of there with the sobering realization that I had ruined at least a portion of my evening, and his, over what came down to a measly $13.
All I could think on my way home was: what am I doing?
It’s a question I’ve entertained quite a bit over the past few weeks. I find myself letting negative thoughts about my future, my abilities and my self-worth in general seep into moments that I’ve normally tried to keep sacred: my morning meditation, night runs along the beach, and get-togethers with friends. The sheer uncertainty of what lies ahead for me––a characteristic that I knew from the start would accompany my interests in journalism and international affairs––has taken a toll on my optimism. I want answers.
And more than that, if I’m completely honest with myself, I want validation in all aspects of my life.
I know realistically that these answers won’t be coming as soon as I want them to. I also know that I can’t allow my happiness to be dependent on things that I have no control over, whether they are answers or external validation, material items or guarantees about the future. So I’ve come up with a metaphor for myself of what I can control, to keep me pushing through the negative thoughts.
I picture myself sitting at a table with a stack of cards spread out in front of me. Face down and with no apparent order, the cards look daunting from where I’m sitting and I have absolutely no idea which one to choose. That’s the point, though. I can choose one. I can pick one up and go with it and just see where it takes me; it’s the beautiful part of uncertainty. It can lead me to a wonderful year-long adventure in Israel, like the card I picked up last year. At the same time, it can also lead me to dead ends in job applications, insecurities that I didn’t realize I had, and a general fear of changes.
I finally realized how crippling these thoughts could be when I met with Middle East analyst and writer Meir Javedanfar for coffee this morning, and he asked me what my dream is for myself.
I had some ideas, but I just told him that I didn’t know.
“Do you really not know?” he asked. “Or are you just scared?”
It was the latter. I had said I didn’t know because I don’t know which of my dreams can actually end up realities, and which ones will just stay dreams because of the economy and the state of the industries I’m entering, the opportunities that will be available to me, and the amount of strength I can muster up to go on despite the rejections, and there will be many.
Here I was thinking about all the negatives again, when to be able to do something as simple as voice a dream is to allow yourself a certain amount of self-confidence in the person you are.
Really, it was the validation that I was seeking from others, except that I realized I could give it to myself. My level of self-confidence is one of the rare things that I have complete control over, no matter which card I end up choosing.
Because there will be many things in our cards that won’t be in our control or necessarily positive. Sometimes you’ll get ripped off by tailors. Sometimes you won’t get the job you really wanted. Sometimes you won’t be ready for endings––with people, places, particular moments or entire periods in your life––but they will come anyway.
There will be times when you have to stand up for the things you believe are rightfully yours and be relentless in your pursuit of them. Dreams fall into this category; $13 contributing to a tailor’s modest livelihood do not.
But there are other times when you just have to believe that the things you think you’re lacking just aren’t meant to be, for the time being. They’re not in your cards.
Luckily for me and anyone else finding themselves in periods of change, self-doubt and uncertainty about what’s to come, we have plenty more cards waiting for us. Stay strong, and you will find the right ones.