Find Work You Love, Subjects That Interest You & Your Passions

Q. I’m 26. I grew up in a very close-knit family, and finally gained independence when I moved from the suburbs to the city for college. Last semester, I studied in Israel, met an Israeli boy and we fell in love.  Now I am back and we are trying to make a long distance relationship work. However, unless one of us moves to the other country, we will be apart for 6 years (until he finishes his mandatory army service).


My family is very important to me, as is my future career.  However, I want the relationship to work. The advice I’m most looking for is how to navigate three paths at the same time – academic, family and my relationship.


A. See your family often enough to never feel alone but not enough that you sacrifice your independence and learning to make your own decisions. Learn how to study efficiently and avoid cramming so you can make time for the social skills that will serve you well in career and life.


When it comes the guy, most women felt you shouldn’t uproot your life. It’s rare that college relationships last and long distance is hard in the best of circumstances. If it was meant to be it will still be there 6 years from now. To find that out some suggested going to graduate school in Isreal or just saving your money for visits.  That is the short answer.


We also have a very special answer from Ann Sheybani, A life coach, lifelong adventurer and author of the blog, Starting OverAnn shares her story and lessons learned from her experience falling in love and marrying her Iranian TA when she was 21. It’s well worth the read. 


Years ago, when I was 21, I fell in love with my Iranian T.A. He was 10 years my senior, handsome, opinionated, charismatic, and he seemed to know exactly where he wanted to go.  For someone quite aimless, who had no strong family foundation, no real direction, I found him incredibly appealing. I wanted that sense of self that he possessed.  I wanted an exotic life–something that my North Dakotan parents had not delivered on. And I thought that if I married him, I would somehow absorb all those qualities without having to actually earn them myself.


We married against all caution–this was after all, less than a decade after the Iranian hostage crisis–and moved to Iran.


In the beginning, I loved my exotic life. I was thrilled that I had done something none of my other friends had. I thought I was pretty saucy living in the Middle East while they scurried around with the guy next door, bought their mini vans, and a house on the corner lot. And then culture shock set in.  And the large, close-knit family I had envied my husband became annoying, overwhelming, and invasive. I had more in-laws in my living room at any given time than I could shake a stick at. My husband became far more Iranian, more “traditional”, and I found myself wanting to slit my wrists more days than not.


After 5 years I left Iran. And I came back home with 2 little kids to start over. I had to find a career. This was something that I should have done when I was 20, but had put off because I’d been so frightened of making a mistake. What if I chose wrong?  What if I committed to a job and I hated it and I was stuck for the rest of my life?


But the thing is, you eventually have to go through this process of finding the work that you love, the subjects that interest you, your passions. You can put it off for years by marrying, by becoming a mother, by moving to another country. But eventually, the shit comes back around and slaps you upside the head.  Like death and taxes, you can never escape it. You can only put things off.


Interestingly enough, I visited Israel this summer with my husband. At the various vacation hot spots, we’d see the American Jewish Associations carting their charges around.  Man, did it look like fun. One gigantic band camp, where everyone got along. There were campfires and marshmallows and everyone sang Kumbaya. Where everyone was Jewish and felt like they belonged.


So different, I’m sure, than the average high school experience for any Jew who doesn’t hail from Brooklyn or Long Island. The sense of belonging a Jew would experience in Israel on one of these trips must be a kick in the pants. It is–this emigration, this reclaiming of your birthright– what you are meant to do, what is encouraged by every synagogue I have ever set foot in.


But I looked around Israel and let me tell you. The only thing an Israeli Jew and an American Jew have in common is the religion.  Maybe you wowed them at your Bat Mitzvah with your Hebrew, or you picked up some impressive vocabulary the year you spent abroad, but believe me, you are as much an Israeli as I am. And that’s not saying much. (I can speak Farsi, but I am by no means, despite the extra passport, Iranian). Israel, as I am sure you have concluded, is hot, and dusty, and tense, and fifteen seconds away from a total war. Not the place I’d like to settle down (this coming from someone who moved to Iran during their cease fire with Iraq).


All that being said.  Find yourself a nice American boy. A Jew. A man who loves to travel, and have outrageous adventures. A man who shares similar values. You will not regret this.


Stay close to your family. Enjoy them. Love them. They are a gift.  I know. I never had this sense of closeness with my own.

Study. Experiment with different subjects. Don’t be so afraid to get it wrong. To choose something and then find out you don’t like it after all. Try different careers. You will have, I guarantee it, at least 4 separate careers in your life, maybe more.


The Israeli soldier is just a distraction—a lovely, lovely distraction. Someone who taught you much and who quite possibly was put on earth so you could experience the joys of a passionate fling. Someone who showed you a quality or two you will require in a mate. Thank him, and then move on. Let him go, so he can find a woman who will never require him to leave his homeland, who will always feel at home where they are.

It’s all part of the process. There is no balancing act.  It’s not about that.


One last thing. You don’t have to marry someone from a given country to own the place. Go back and forth as often as you’d like.  It’s already yours. There’s nothing wrong with a few extended vacations.

About the author:

Ann Sheybani is a professional speaker, writer, and coach best known for successfully coaching women in transition on the simple strategies that help them revamp their image, reclaim their personal space, uncover their passions, and pursue exciting new goals that will re-ignite their life. Ann’s clients successfully attract better jobs, more clients, and exciting partners and friends simply by embracing the person they were aways meant to be.

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