I think there is a question that creeps up every so often, especially during those tumultuous phases of life- freshman year of college, post college when the economy left you jobless, or when you're 35 and still single- who am I? What creates my identity?
Lately my decision to pack up and move a zillion miles away has left me questioning not only, "What the heck are you doing?" but "What do you want from life?" and "Why did you move so far from home you can't get back for Thanksgiving?"
The holidays are tough. In the States, during this "Season," all you want is a significant other so you don't look lonely at corporate Holiday parties. Likewise, if you have a significant other, you need to dip into your non-existent savings to out-buy last year's holiday present. Or G-d forbid deal with the pressure of presenting that little black box that better contain a very NOT-little diamond (screaming the "life-long commitment") inside it.
But, this isn't the States. This is Israel. I've never cared much for Christmas time because, other than eating a lot of cookies at friend's houses and seeing pretty light displays in the neighborhoods, I feel left out. I don't celebrate Christmas. Instead, we go to the movies, eat Chinese food, and go to the Jewish Community Center for a good morning work out. Really- it's beyond memorable.
However, Thanksgiving, the biggest American holiday, has had a warm place in my heart for 23 years. I begin a countdown months in advance, salivating over my aunt's turkey, my mom's sweet potato casserole and apple crisp, and endless bottles of wine being poured from noon until bedtime. It is my favorite day of the year, hands down.
Since I made the commitment of making Aliyah, I am in Tel Aviv, far from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Thanksgiving Eve bar-hops, my friends, my family, the familiarity.
Which has resulted in one of my frequent identity-seeking, quarter-life crises: Am I an American Jew, or a Jewish American?
You can say, "That's the same thing." But it's not. Each phrase has an adjective and a noun- the noun being something you identify with primarily, and the adjective being a description of this word (for example, American Jew: American is the adjective, Jew is the noun, and vice-versa for Jewish American, in case your grammar is rusty from middle school). Meaning, which is more important to me- the fact that I am a Jew, or the fact that I'm an American? Or, add this to the mix, the fact that I'm an "emerging" Israeli?
On days like Thanksgiving, I'm 110% a Jewish American. I love my turkey, gravy, pumpkin pie, family, and yes, watching football.
However, the day I made Aliyah, I was a Jew who happened to be American feeling the need to form a permanent bond with the State of Israel.
Unfortunately, making a black or white decision has never been my strength. I want all shades of gray. I want all the choices available, not to actually select one. (I mean who can pick out one ice-cream flavor when you can get a double scoop and get two flavors? Please.) So perhaps today I am a Jewish American, and tomorrow I'll wake up on the other side of the bed and be an American Jew.
Point being: every day is a new day. So can my identity change along with that?