For me, the American dream was never about owning a big house, driving a fancy car, or wearing designer clothes. The American dream was about reinventing myself.
At the age of 15, I immigrated to New York. I still recall how ecstatic I was to start anew in the Big Apple—full of dreams, hope, and so much excitement to meet people from all over the world. But after a few months, I realized that things weren’t all unicorns and rainbows. In fact, I was suddenly dealing with depression, anxiety, and both verbal and physical abuse. I felt completely lost and discouraged…my antidepressants were no longer working. My religion and my beliefs were the only thing that kept me going.
But guess what? That, too, was taken away from me. Although I had been raised Jewish by my grandparents, I was suddenly told that my mother wasn’t Jewish at all. Why the lie? It’s beyond me.
I was left spiritually empty. I was homeless and had hit rock bottom; I questioned my existence, and I could not even tell anyone what was bothering me because I did not have a good command of the language. But as they say, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” So I took a pen and paper, and I jotted down everything I wanted as if I already had it:
I am so happy
I finished school
I speak English
I am a wife
I am a mother
I help people struggling like I was
More importantly, I am Jewish
I am becoming the best version of myself
I looked up, and with tears in my eyes, I prayed to HaShem to give me the strength that I needed to accomplish each and every one of these things.
It wasn’t easy working 2 jobs, going to school, and having so many sleepless nights, but I have accomplished the majority of things on my bucket list—except for the last one, as I see every day as a new chance to improve more and more as a person.
I retrospect, everything that I went through was exactly what I was supposed to go through, and without these experiences, I would not have become the person that I am today. Today, I’m able to smile and be thankful to HaShem for every one of the challenges that I had to go through. If I hadn’t come to America, I never would have found out that I was not Jewish, and I never would have gone through a conversion, met my husband or had two beautiful children.
A lot of people deal with similar issues each and every day. Believe me, it gets better. I promise you. You just need a little help to change your life. Today is the day to make a decision and think about who you want to become in the months/years ahead. Grab a pen and paper, write down your goals, and repeat them until you are convinced that you will be able to accomplish them.
And don’t forget that at the end of the day, HaShem says, “בדרך שאדם רוצה ללכת בה מוליכין אותו”—“Whichever path a person decides to take, in that path he will be led.”
I decided to take the Jewish way…which way will you choose?