A Scrap Of Paper That Changed My Life

3 Mar

I was numb with shock as I drove home that day. Although I was only 22, life had already jaded me to the point where I never believed that anything good would actually last, but I had no idea, when I woke up that morning, that things would change so abruptly.

I went to work that morning, just as I did every other morning. It was my first real job  – a job with a regular paycheque AND benefits – and I was so proud of it. I had been there for about nine months, and for the first time since my early University days a few years previously, I felt as if I was starting – just starting – to get some direction.

I had emerged intact – bruised and damaged and hurting, but intact – from the wreckage that my life had been, and I had somehow managed to create the semblance of a normal existence. I was proud of this. I was starting to like myself again, to feel kind of OK about who I was.

I was starting to think that just maybe, I was not a complete failure who was capable of nothing more than disappointing myself and everyone around me.

That day, I lost my job.

It was a crushing blow. All of those feelings of failure and disappointment came flooding back. I hadn’t sorted out my life at all. The sense of direction, the sense that things had been getting better – that was all a mask, something to hide the fact that I was and always would be a complete screw-up.

As I drove home, I didn’t know how I was going to tell my parents. It seemed as if they had just seen me through my last crisis, and here I was, about to show up with another one. How was I going to face my Mom and tell her that I had lost the job that she had been instrumental in me getting? She had made the initial contact and arranged the interview for me at a time when I would never have been able to do it myself. And now it was all gone. I was a disappointment once again.

I felt low. So low that I actually contemplated wrapping my car around a telephone pole with me in it.

When I got home and blurted out the news, my parents wrapped me in a bear-hug. Their love and support covered me like a soft, soothing blanket. Take your time, they said. Catch your breath, give yourself a chance to recover, and then try again.

They assured me that this was not a reflection on my worth as a person, that I would indeed make a success of my life. I didn’t believe them, not really, but I really needed to hear it.

About ten days later, I was at a loose end, so I decided to tidy my desk drawers. I must have had six years’ worth of old papers and notebooks in there. It was a veritable time capsule that took me right back to my high school days, to the time before.

I went through my old diaries and books and scraps of paper, and reminisced. I reflected on the days when my whole life had stretched before me like a blank canvas, when I had not made bad decisions that would create emotional tsunamis that would ripple through time. Most of the items went into the garbage. I was sad to throw away these mementoes of my youth, but that stuff hardly seemed relevant to the way my life was now.

I pulled out an advertising leaflet and automatically started throwing it in the garbage bag without even looking at it. Just before it went into the bag, though, my eye caught the word “Israel”.

Curious. Why would I be in possession of an advertising leaflet that had anything to do with Israel? Presumably it must have been of some value to me at some point, otherwise I wouldn’t have kept it.

It turned out to be a travel brochure for people wanting to go to Israel to experience life on a Kibbutz. The brochure posed a series of questions in the form of a checklist. Do you want to see a part of the world that is like no other? Are you trying to decide what to do with your life? Have you reached a difficult crossroads?

Yes, yes and YES. As I read the brochure, I grew increasingly excited. I called the number on the brochure and asked some questions. Yes, the company that produced the brochure still ran the Kibbutz program. Yes, it was true that all I needed to pay was the cost of the airfare plus an administrative fee. No, there was no waiting list – I could leave with the next group to depart in six weeks’ time.

With fumbling fingers, I dug out my latest bank statements. With the money I had saved up, I could just about cover the costs. I wouldn’t have spending money, but that was OK. I didn’t want to go shopping. I just wanted to go.

I booked my spot there and then, and then, with my face involuntarily pulled into a completely unfamiliar-feeling expression that I later realized was a smile, I went to talk to my parents, to tell them that I was going to Israel.

Little did I know how completely this spur-of-the-moment decision would alter the course of my life.

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3 Responses to “A Scrap Of Paper That Changed My Life”

  1. Eva Fannon March 4, 2011 at 2:26 AM #

    Wow – you’ve left me hanging – I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story!!

    • runningforautism March 4, 2011 at 6:38 AM #

      Thanks, Eva! I’m planning to tell this story in weekly installments. I’m messing with the idea of putting it all into a book.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Taking Flight « Running for Autism - March 9, 2011

    […] This is a continuation of the series I started last week… […]

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