I need to put some emotions into words that I yet have to identify, describe, and share with myself. And I am hoping that writing, and being vulnerable, will help me discover what I have disconnected myself from.
In these last months I have grown immensely as a person, I have discovered and improved parts of who I am that have always challenged me the greatest. I am more tolerant, more patient, learned to be kinder, to be more selfish, to prioritize my needs, and to love myself. I have done all these things, and I am very happy with who I am becoming. But today, as I let my fingers express the unknown through words, I feel alone and tired. I realize that I am always giving my best, and I am making all the right choices, but I still miss all my people, my friends, my family, my brothers, and my parents. I am grateful that I get to be surrounded by people that deeply care about me. Humans that have taught me to be better, that believe in me even when I lose all confidence, and that I truly respect. More than anything else, I am extremely grateful for what life has given me - I have a short but condensed journey, and the one most important thing through all of it are the people that added pieces to my story, and that have made me who I am.
Interesting how beautiful writing can be - words are the truest test for authenticity. You write something and you either feel it or you do not. Just now, I thought I was going back to the classic story of having to sacrifice relationships to get to where I am today, and even if that is true, I realized that it is not what is making me feel alone and tired. And maybe alone and tired are not even the right words. So instead of trying to narrow everything down to one single emotion, I will try to share my thoughts.
Paula sent me a picture the other day of us together in one graduation party two years ago. And if you allow me, I will write something directly addressed to Paula and the rest of the people that fall into that bucket - you are my family, I always cared about you, and I always will, so I am sorry if I am not there for you in times that you need me. I wish I knew by now how to be a better friend, and be there for you no matter how busy my life can get. Life is hard, beautiful but challenging, and sometimes, it goes too fast. Anyways, I almost started going off a tangent there, let me go back to Paula’s picture. That picture was from two years ago, and as I stared at myself, smiling next to my friend, I realized that the Gadi of back then is not me anymore. I mean, we obviously share the same body, dreams, people, and some values. But I have changed so much since then that I can hardly say we are the same person.
Let me summarize in a few paragraphs everything that stands between the person typing today and the pretty-drunk person standing back then. That Gadi was very happy but was also pretty broken. Not long before that picture, I was going through my first time struggling with mental health. That same year I was thinking of dropping out from the IB, feeling defeated and alone, doubting whether the people I cared about the most loved me back. Well, I was actually doubting a few things, my self-worth, my wrong sense of superiority, the value and importance of my parents, my friends… I was basically doubting a lot of stuff as a consequence of one of the hardest moments in my life. But I was also surrounded with so many people I cared about, friends I grew up with my entire life, and friends that I only knew for a few years but with whom I felt I shared centuries. I was a lucky guy that was starting to grow quite fast.
That Gadi standing in that graduation party was about to head out to Israel only a few weeks later. For the first time, he was about to abandon what for eighteen years he knew to be his home. So his friends, not used to him leaving, took this departure as serious as he did, and they made their best to spend as much time as they could with me, and I did the same. The last moment I can recall from that chapter was a surprise party where almost everyone I cared about gathered to say one last goodbye. It was beautiful. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane, leaving everything I knew behind, on my way to Israel.
I will not summarize my experience in Israel from this point in time, but instead will quote another version of myself that was feeling a bit reminiscent one night in Minerva:
“I have lived so much. It’s only been one year since I started the Ulpan in Israel, an experience that changed my way of understanding life, and shifted the direction I thought to take.
Who was I before Israel? Who was I before Minerva? I don’t really remember, I can only remember who I was through the lens of who I am, and in that discordance, I am confused. I think I used to be different but I’m not really sure. Honestly, I’m rumbling around right now as I don’t know what I am trying to say.
The point is that in thinking about this constant evolution of myself, I feel confused and anguished. Why? I am not sure, but I do accept it.
Israel…those six months feel like a disconnected bubble from the rest of my life’s experiences. However, six months cannot describe the amount of experiences I lived there, cannot snapshot my growth, my friends, and the connections I’ve created which I will preserve for the rest of my life.
I am grateful, insanely grateful.”
I remembered I had a quote about this but didn’t remember its exact content. Only as I re-read while adding it here, I noticed a common theme between what I am writing now, and that passage - reflecting on personal growth, friends, and change is a common theme through time. The need to write this now is a necessity to caption the change, and through its caption, an opportunity to reconnect with my essence - that indescribable thing that makes me who I am no matter point in time. I do want to add one thing about this chapter. In Israel I healed; I accepted parts of myself that I never before did, and embraced my entire self. Reconnected with the love that I have for my parents, and appreciated the beauty this Universe has allowed us to see.
Between Israel and Minerva, there were a few months I had to be Uruguay while getting ready to leave again. Considering that this wasn’t my first time leaving home, I expected it would be easier, and to my surprise, it was much harder. I knew how much Israel changed me, and perhaps, this made me a bit scared of seeing all my friends again, and not feeling like it was the same thing, the same connection. Worried that I was too different, and that something has changed, I came back, and met all my friends again. And again, to my surprise, I hung out with them as if nothing had changed, as if everything was the same. Sure, new stories were shared, everyone grew up a bit more, but that unbreakable bond, that sense of brotherhood was still true. This taught me something; we may change, we may grow, we may learn, but there are some things that stay constant. Some things that adapt and transform, but are always true. And affection towards those we love the most is one of those things. It is hard to be vulnerable and allow ourselves to feel, but when we are brave enough to do so, we immediately go back to being that kid that wants to love and be loved.
Anyways, there I was, about to leave Uruguay again, and soon to start a new chapter, Minerva. A place that would challenge me in ways I never imagined possible. A community where I met some of the most important people in my life. An environment that made me a much better human. Minerva was a ride, I started it with a huge ego, but very low self-confidence. Or let me explain, I started this college with the idea that I was the smartest person alive, and that I was better than anyone else, but I also came to this place with an extremely low self-esteem, basically thinking that being smart was all I was. This idea of superiority did not last for long - immediately Minerva broke me, and showed me that there were people out there much more talented than I was, forcing me to reevaluate my worth, and a few wrong assumptions I had about life. See, until then, I always wanted the easy way out. I expected things to happen, and I had a binary understanding of progress and change. you are smart or you are not; you know an answer or you do not; you are the best or you are a failure. I grew up used to being smarter, and to not need to work my way through much. I thought I was so good that academic accomplishments just came to me. Not my proudest trait, but one that was definitely true. I had a living conflict inside me (still do) between two extremes - a sense of superiority versus an overwhelming feeling of shame for being lesser in other ways. A clash I still have inside me, and that I proudly acknowledge to continuously bettering myself at.
As someone used to being surrounded by people that cared about me so much, I felt lonely in new uncharted waters. Yes, at the beginning I felt lonely, and unfit. My first semester was a challenge, with so many expectations of how I should be seen through the eyes of others. And all these expectations were faced with a harsh reality - the one inside my head, whispering how unloved I would be in this new place. In hindsight, I was confused but not alone. I was privileged to have one real friend those first days, Guillermo. This guy deserves a line for himself, my life would not look this way right now if he would not have forced me to be brave, get over my fear of rejection, and apply to Minerva. He believed in me so strongly, and was there alongside me all the way, supporting. I then met a few other great people months in, and started building my third circle of family.
But life that first semester was not becoming smoother as I was struggling with anxiety and self-doubt. Not used to this new approach to learning, I was, for the first time in my life, failing at school. Or at least failing for my standards. In face of such “failure”, all my defense mechanisms were kicking in; for more than a month, I was not capable of falling asleep. From such despair, I was seriously considering the idea of abandoning Minerva, going back to Uruguay, and giving up.
I will never forget the moment I realized I was self-sabotaging myself - that I was subconsciously building myself a story for which I could lean onto after accepting my defeat. I was not able to tolerate the idea of not being good enough, so I could not afford failure being my fault. There had to be an external reason I could blame to safeguard myself from one of my darkest fears, that of failure.
I was taking a shower, depressed and angry, when this realization just hit me, as an act of fate, making me connect with my worst fears. I saw my fears straight to their face, and rejected them. I realized I was trying to have the easy way out, and became aware that that is not the person I wanted to be. The rest of it can be untold as it was a radical change in my behavior, I started sleeping again, fighting again, caring again, and working my ass off to become better. This was the first time I fully realized self-growth and intent are much more valuable than an impossible expectation to just be better. I stopped wanting to be better, and I started working towards becoming better. I am very proud of this moment.
The second semester in Minerva was very chill compared to the first; by then, I had found my people, my new family, and I was at a much better place with myself. For that Christmas before the semester started, I went back home for a few weeks to see my friends and family, and it was such a great time. In short, I stayed in a party town with all my friends from highschool, and got to see my friends from childhood here and there. Everyone I loved except my parents were in this one-mile radius, and I went back to being a 19-year-old kid that was going out, getting drunk, and having a blast. I want to say one thing from this trip, to everyone that came to my house the night before I left to say goodbye - sorry. You were shocked to meet an extremely-high-Gadi that wasn’t capable of much interaction. What happened was that as usual, I tended to exaggerate scenarios, and I was convincing myself I wouldn’t be able to go back home for almost two years (due to the global rotation). And facing that possibility, the not-seeing-my-friends-for-so-long, was breaking me. But now we are past that, I just wanted to say it.
Still a lot to add about Minerva, and everything that happened next. But I love you all very much, my people.