Tuesday, January 22, 2013

On Hitting One's Stride, by blogger of the month Seth Morrison

The shuk in Beer-sheva

Once upon a midnight dreary,
while I pondered why I moved to a foreign country,
a strange sensation struck my psyche.
Was it elation, bliss, or gladness?
Lamentation, grief, or sadness?
None of these it was,
though for them many an instance gave just cause;
Instead the passion rubbed the middle,
defied assurance, like a riddle.
My heart had gathered all peaks and vales under its tent,
at long last found contentment.

This describes my recent progression through a set of phases people often experience after moving to an unfamiliar and less comfortable place than wherever it was they came from. Although the individual durations of each vary, it is said that one progresses through four phases in total:
1) the honeymoon phase,
2) the resistance phase,
3) the understanding phase,
4) the assimilation phase.

The honeymoon  period occurs when you first begin living in your new environs. The differences in culture and surroundings are still novel and intriguing. Every day is sweetened by new experiences and relationships.

When the honeymoon period wears off, the resistance phase sets in. This is when the question “What on earth am I doing here” is a perpetual elephant in the room. Small, relatively trivial trials and tribulations of daily life compound to appear as a massive, unsolvable problem. Second-guessing the decision to uproot and move increases in daily frequency, just as reversing that decision is decreasing in feasibility. My resistance phase hit its final climax last week, when our class of 2016 was taking final exams and simultaneously a four-day rainstorm hit Beer Sheva and all of Israel. I usually enjoy rain after having lived in Washington state, but Beer Sheva has a peculiar phenomenon some students have been calling “mudstorms.” This is what happens when rainfall and the fine Negev desert sand blown up by the wind mix in the air to create a clay-like mud vapor that tinges the horizon brown and coats any object that stands in its path, as though the desert wind god had taken up abstract expressionist painting. Consequently, the mental trauma of test-taking and dreary weather blended to produce a potent concoction of gloom that made me ask that question above a few times more than was comfortable.

This week, as I wrote about in my January 14thpiece, the final exams were a thing of memory, a fleck of dust in my rearview (provided I passed them all, some scores still pending). It was during this week that I had my midnight insight, realizing that I had passed on into the understanding phase, and thus had gained some contentment to moderate the initial highs and subsequent lows of the preceding months. It was a week of reconnections with friends, such as an evening dinner and conversation stretching late into the night. It was a week of re-enculturation, such as spending a morning shopping for produce with the locals in the shuk (market). And, this week the skies cleared and temperatures rose all week long, as if God had revealed the bright Israeli shemesh (sun) to mark a promising new beginning for our class.
Blue sky in Beer-sheva

The assimilation phase has not yet set in and mustn’t be rushed. It’s both reasonable and prudent to give it ample time and space to develop on its own schedule, for that final phase is measured by a rate of furlongs per fortnight, not inches per instant. For now, my stride has been hit, and I have some work to do.   - blogger of the month, Seth Morrison