“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
—Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
I’ve been in Jerusalem for 18 days now. The newness of being in a different country has gradually worn off, which means that I’ve had more time to think about my surroundings. The other day, I found myself really upset, and I was having a hard time articulating why. Now, I realize that it was because I felt like an outsider—I don’t belong here.
All my life, I’ve lived in places where it was relatively easy for me to fit in. I was familiar with the culture and the customs, and I always managed to find food that was familiar to my taste buds. But here, no matter what I say or do, I’ll always look different from everyone else. And while the food here is great and an adventure in and of itself, I really do miss Asian food.
But then I reminded myself why I decided to relocate to Jerusalem in the first place. It is a city flooded with religious and historical significance, and I was eager to learn as much as I could about it all. The cuisine would be different from what I was used to, but I figured it was about time that I grow out of my picky-eater lifestyle. And probably most importantly, I wanted to meet the people who love and care about this region so much that they would fight to protect it.
Every single one of those reasons involved experiencing something new. Of course, it would be uncomfortable. Of course, I wouldn’t feel at home. That’s the whole point of new experiences.
Humans are social beings, and when it comes down to it, all we want is to be accepted. I fell into the trap of thinking that to be accepted, I needed to be like everyone else here. But quite frankly, that’s out of my control.
What I can do, however, is continue learning as much as I can about this region and the wonderful people who live here. My job is not to blend into society here, but rather to stretch my mind with these new experiences. When I leave Jerusalem in two weeks’ time, I’ll be taking with me a new strength: a new lens with which to view and appreciate the world around me.