Usually when I eat, I like to eat alone. Food time is me time. I’m willing to eat with other people, but it’s not my first choice. So I was probably in a weird mood this evening when I approached the tables after gathering food at the cafeteria on base today and decided to sit next to a stranger and start talking.
We had a conversation that I’ve had dozens of times, but haven’t had very recently: the Chayal Boded conversation. The Israeli detects my accent (or, if I’m being generous to myself, simply my ridiculous grammar) and asks where I’m from, asks when I moved to Israel, and finally, asks if I’m here by myself.
There are a couple different ways that conversation can branch. The most annoying one is “You’re from Florida? Why in the world would you move here?” But there are a couple more, and this one went the opposite way: “You know, it’s really amazing what you’ve done.”
As I was leaving base, I got a call from a family friend who’s going to help me figure out what I should do when my service ends in January. It occurred to me during the conversation that I hadn’t spoken to him since before I started my service, that he’s suddenly jumping into a picture that I’ve seen develop over a year and a half. And as I’m explaining what’s going on in my office, he cuts me off and says, in different words, “you know, it’s really amazing what you’ve done.”
It took that second instance of hearing that over the course of an hour for it to really sink in. Because sometimes I forget. I forget that it’s not normal to do the things I’ve done. I forget that, over the last 6 years alone, I have learned, experienced, and done things that most people won’t in their lifetimes. I forget that I moved to the other side of the planet at the age of 19, to a place where I didn’t speak the language, and only remember that it’s taken me longer than I’d like to learn it. I forget that I earned a B.A. in one of the most respected schools in Israel, and only remember that I did it in four years instead of three. I forget that I chose to obligate myself to two years of serving this country where most people would try to get out of it, and only remember that I wasn’t good enough to go for officer training.
It’s easy to forget those things when they become normal. When I’m constantly around other immigrants. When I’m constantly around other soldiers. When I’m constantly around other people who have also done amazing things. Because, on top of being surrounded by people who are incredible on their own merits, I tend to only look at the best aspects of people. I don’t see the things they’re insecure about, or if I do see them I don’t give them much weight. And so I subconsciously give myself high expectations which I perceive as normal.
Instead of being discouraged at what I don’t manage to accomplish, I need to, every so often, look back and realize what I *have* accomplished. Not so often that I become full of myself, but often enough that I don’t start thinking I haven’t done anything at all.
I think stepping back is a good solution to most problems. We tend to get too invested in details, in insignificant aspects of what’s going on, and forget to look at the big picture. You shouldn’t get too caught up in the big picture that you miss details either, but you should have it in mind most of the time. It’s nice to have a reminder of that.