“Something missing.”

When you start showing up as your authentic self after years of hiding, something changes inside of you. There’s this reassuring peace you start to walk around with—confidence that nothing meant for you will pass you by.

This peace and quiet confidence changed my mindset a lot. In fact, I noticed I even started dating differently because of it. Instead of subconsciously dating to prove that I was worthy of love, I started going on dates with one goal; to get to know someone, and to let someone get to know me (like, the real me).

This new mindset didn’t just help me connect more deeply, though; it actually helped me accept rejection, too.

When the guy I was seeing ended things because there was “something missing”, I felt the normal sadness and disappointment that it didn’t work out. But something else happened too; something I’ve never experienced before.

If this had happened in the past, I know how I would’ve reacted. I would’ve latched onto that phrase—“something missing”. The idea that if I just had this one thing, or showed him this one thing, or embodied this one ambiguous, meaningless thing, then maybe he would’ve wanted me.

When I thought I was only lovable and worthy when someone else told me so, I would’ve taken “something missing” to mean that there was something missing inside of me. That it was a judgement of who I am as a person, rather than just a statement of his feelings about our connection. 

Which is why I’m so grateful for this divine timing—for this to happen now, when I feel so much love, peace and acceptance of who I am. Because when he told me something was missing, I didn’t sit there, desperately trying to figure out what that thing was.

Instead, I was overcome with thoughts of how proud I am of myself; for showing up authentically, rather than as who I thought he wanted me to be. For not just observing my unhealthy patterns, but actively doing the work to break them. And most of all, I thought about how I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t think it’s enough when I show up as me.

I know that it’s only because I’m able to accept myself as I am today, that I’m also able to accept that not everyone will like me. I can accept that him not wanting to be with me has absolutely nothing to do with my worthiness or goodness or lovability. 

When we act a certain way to prove our worthiness, and then get rejected, we will always look back and wish we acted differently. Maybe if we had acted more chill, more fun, more spontaneous, more lady-like, more composed, more something, they would still want us—but we would be acting.

When someone tells us there’s something missing, it’s easy for our brains to believe there’s more for us to be. That we did something wrong. That who we are isn’t good enough. 

But when you work on loving and accepting yourself, and you show that authentic version of you to the world, you won’t look back and regret it.

Since I wasn’t acting, there was no “more” I could’ve been. I was just me. I can’t be more me.

So, there’s nothing to regret. Nothing for me to hold on to. No reason to wish it turned out differently.

He just didn’t want to be with me, and that’s okay. 

You know why it’s okay? Because I really like this version of me—this authentic and honest me. I finally accept her. And I think I actually love her.

That’s more than enough.

Birthday Reminiscing.

23 was the year I met myself for the first time.

Before 23, I really thought I knew who I was. Now, however, I’ve come to realize that person was almost entirely made up of pressure and expectations–from myself, my family, and the culture I grew up in. I used to be so overcome with anxiety that I constantly had my guard up, hoping that nobody could see the real me–the real, imperfect me.

I was so scared of rejection and shame that I buried my true self so deep down, I lost her. I don’t think I ever even had the chance to know her.

Somehow, moving away helped me leave behind a lot of these pressures. Maybe it was the change of environment, the timing, or the very authentic, expressive nature of Israelis inspiring me. Whatever it was, I finally felt a release from the loop of anxiety, fear, and disconnectedness.

So, what do I mean when I say I met myself for the first time when I was 23?

I mean that, for the first time ever, I’m letting myself just be. I’m releasing the pressure to show up or act a certain way–no longer hiding my thoughts, my feelings, my self.

I sit by the sea every Saturday now. I sit there and I just watch the waves crash towards the shore. I use them as a guide, as I learn to let my thoughts come and go, too.

I let my intuition guide me. I listen to my needs. I validate my emotions.

In doing this, I meet myself. I sit with myself. I reflect with myself. I learn from myself. I heal myself.

These moments of stillness and acceptance show me who I truly am.

Fully accepting–and learning to love–myself when I’m alone trickled into my relationships, too. It’s allowed me to finally lower the mask I always hid behind and close the distance between myself and the people around me. I started showing up as the emotional, open-hearted, authentic, still-imperfect-me.

I showed up as me and instead of fearing rejection, I thought, What if people actually like the real me? How incredible would that feel?

And guess what?

They do.

And I do, too.

Thank you, 23, for bringing me back to me.

Written by Jessica Bard.

What Can We Learn From Trees?

Having patience when building this life for myself is no easy task. It requires acknowledging all the unknowns and waiting for my story to unfold, however it may.

When I moved to Israel, I knew I would have to practice patience. I knew it would take time to get a job, create a support system, develop routines–to feel somewhat stable here. Although I’m definitely feeling more settled two months later, I am nowhere close to having most of it figured out. I feel like all I’ve done so far is plant seeds, and I’m still waiting for the fruits of my labor to emerge. 

To practice patience in my aliyah process means more than just accepting the abnormally slow pace of Israeli bureaucracy. It means accepting that it’s okay if I don’t have my dream job quite yet. That I have some friends, but maybe not a core group. That I don’t have plans for every Friday night dinner. That I still have quite a bit left to figure out.

Being patient is difficult because it’s in those moments of in-between that messy feelings come up. The anxiety, the stress, the fear, the worry, the doubt. Am I doing the right thing? What’s taking so long? Did I do something wrong? Am I even worthy of…?

Coincidentally–or maybe not (is anything really a coincidence?)–the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat came around right as I’m having these thoughts. Tu B’shvat celebrates the birthday of trees, but on a deeper level, it’s all about spiritual and emotional growth.

It represents the potential that exists when you choose an environment, plant a seed, invest time and energy, and ultimately experience growth because of these choices.

Tu B’shvat lands in the middle of winter because it celebrates the potential; the unlimited ways in which this next year can unfold and deliver beauty. It teaches us that the darkness of winter is where growth happens; that light doesn’t just come after darkness–it exists within it. That this is where the most beautiful trees and gardens begin–with just a bunch of dirt and rain. The dirt, the rain, and a whole lot of love and patience, produce infinite possibilities for the future, and that is surely something to celebrate.

There are days when I get frustrated with the pace at which my life is moving. It’s slow, uncomfortable, and at times scary, and there’s no easy way out. I just have to live in it. I have to inch towards my future and keep watering my seeds. I have to stop comparing myself to people who started their gardens before I did or had different growing conditions. 

Slowly, slowly, roots will take hold and things will start to blossom. In the meantime, I will work on myself and my relationships. I will figure things out. My story will continue to unfold.

I just have to be patient. 

As the saying goes, good things take time. 

And maybe great things take a little bit longer 🙂

Written by Jessica Bard.

A Moment for Reflection.

When we invest in our personal growth journey, we usually focus our energy on learning how to be better, do better, and feel better. We strive towards abstract goals by reading self-help books, listening to podcasts, or watching videos about how to “level up” and become an even better version of who we are today. While this drive to continue learning and growing is crucial, we often miss an equally important piece of the journey.

Acknowledging and appreciating how far we’ve come. 

As we enter into the new year (and before setting new goals), I decided to give myself some time to reflect on how far I’ve come in my own journey. Instead of focusing on physical successes, I contemplated the mental and emotional progress I’ve made. I urge you to do the same. Think, meditate, journal, or talk about it–whatever feels right for you. I’ve always found my best reflections come through in my writing, so here we go.

Letting go. Wow–how this past year has taught me how to let go. I learned how to let go of control, of expectations for myself and others, of outdated visions for my future, of people and places that no longer served me. Letting go is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do, and I definitely still struggle with it, but I am able to see how much progress I’ve made. I’m not even close to being a monk practicing non-attachment, letting things go with ease and peace of mind, but I’ve certainly inched a tiny bit closer.

Trust. I never realized the lack of trust I had in myself until I finally started to develop it. I learned to trust myself so much more this year. I follow my instincts, even when it seems like no one else understands. I trust myself to take care of my body and mind because I’ve proven to myself that I will. I trust myself to get through things that seem impossible, because time and time again I surprise myself with what I can handle. I trust myself to make good decisions, and to know when to ask for help.

This next “success” may appear as a physical accomplishment, but my real pride comes from the emotional journey that got me there. This year, I gave a speech in front of a couple hundred people. 18-year-old me would’ve been horrified if you told her I would ever do that willingly–or that it was even possible for me to breathe through the nerves and enjoy it. Growing up with severe anxiety meant I “blacked out” most times I had to speak in front of people, even if it was only to raise my hand in class. Giving this speech (and actually remembering it) feels like one of the greatest triumphs because it indicates how much progress I’ve made in working through my anxiety; which I used to think I would be stuck with forever. 

When I think of personal growth and self help, these reflections are what it’s all about. Let’s make sure we celebrate the progress and the victories because this is why we do it.

Working on ourselves is a never-ending cycle of growth and pain and love and peace. The progress we make–no matter how small it may seem–is significant. If you’re doing the work to change your behaviors and thought patterns–and it’s making you a better and happier person–then I really hope you’re proud of that.

Here’s to 2023, and all the progress we’ll make (and celebrate) this year.

Written by Jessica Bard.

The Magic of Gratitude.

There is so much in this world to be grateful for, and yet we are fundamentally built to focus on the negative. To protect ourselves, we focus our energy on what went wrong, what we don’t have, and what we wish were different. We are conditioned to have these negative mindsets, and yet, by doing so, we lose out on so much beauty and magic that the world has to offer. 

Gratitude is how we bring magic back into our lives. For everything in your life you can complain about, I promise you–there are 100 things to be grateful for. I think about my apartment: a tiny studio on a very loud street, and yet I love this apartment so much. Yes, it is so small that my kitchen, bedroom, and living room are one. Yes, the kitchen is difficult to cook in because of the size. Yes, I can hear construction every morning and the neighborhood cats fighting every night. Yes, there are a bunch of other issues that I could easily complain about, but I don’t. 

I don’t complain about it because I choose to focus on what I’m grateful for. I am so grateful that my apartment is small because it makes it so easy to clean. I am so grateful to be able to cook my own meals in my own space–even if that space is tight. I am so grateful to be a heavy sleeper, because once I’m asleep the noise doesn’t bother me. I am so grateful to have a place to live–a space that is entirely my own.

Sometimes, I can even find ways to laugh at the problems. Now, every night when I hear the cats, I imagine them having a meeting and discussing something “serious”. I really have no idea why I started doing this, but now instead of getting annoyed when I hear the cats, I simply laugh–and I’m grateful for them bringing me joy.

This is a relatively easy example, but the magic of gratitude is truly put to the test when facing problems that are much bigger or more difficult. 

I often feel like there is a misunderstanding of what a life of gratitude means. Sure, sometimes living a life of gratitude means tearing up at the beauty of the sunset, or truly thanking loved ones, or saying a blessing over your food, or the apartment example I just mentioned; but what people often neglect is the bigger picture. Living life with gratitude isn’t just about acknowledging what you have; it’s also about finding meaning in the hard times.

Gratitude has taught me to look at challenges from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about how I wish things were different, I look at how a hardship can teach me an important lesson, make me stronger, or show me an opportunity I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Often, when we are faced with something difficult, it is because of that challenge that new doors open, or we finally see things from a new perspective–propelling us forward. All of this is true, and yet, when we’re stuck in the moment, it’s difficult to practice gratitude in the traditional sense. 

Sometimes it’s hard to be grateful for a challenge in the moment because we still don’t know what good will come of it. In order to get myself out of the negative headspace and into a place of gratitude, I think of something in the past that felt impossible. Something I never thought I could get through, or a challenge that seemed like no good could ever come of it. 

I think of all the times I have felt so low, only for the light to come in shortly after. This is where I focus my gratitude–the light after the darkness. I have gratitude for the proof that good things come after hard things. It doesn’t mean you have to be glad something happened, because some tragedies are simply painful. It’s difficult to be grateful for those painful moments, but even in the deepest darkness, we can find a little glimmer of light if we try.

When I think back on the toughest challenges I’ve faced in my life, I have immense gratitude for them. They showed me who I am and who I want to be. They showed me that I can do hard things and come out better because of them. They brought me to where I am today. 

Next time you are faced with something difficult, I challenge you to use gratitude to get through it. Gratitude for the strength your past has given you. Gratitude for this challenge–whatever it may be–because one day you will be able to look back and say, I didn’t think I could do it, but I did. 

We are capable of so much more than we think we are. We just have to open our hearts and our minds to the magic of gratitude–and have a little faith that we are exactly where we’re meant to be.

I have to give a lot of credit to the book that opened my eyes to the magic of gratitude — The Magic by Rhonda Byrne. It changed my life (and it can change yours too).

Written by Jessica Bard.

I’m Lonely and It’s Okay.

Loneliness. We often think about loneliness as a bad thing–something we should try to avoid at all costs. Like, god forbid we feel lonely sometimes, then we must’ve done something wrong, or there must be something wrong with us. It feels shameful to admit when we’re lonely because we think it must be our fault–that maybe we are a flawed human being. Yet, the truth is feeling lonely is part of being human.

I must admit that I have felt pretty lonely since moving back to Israel. Last year, I had distractions and obligations that kept me surrounded by people constantly. I was actually around people so much that the introvert in me was desperate for alone time. I thought living alone now would be the sanctuary I needed to decompress after a long day–but now I have entire days where I am completely alone.

It’s clear now that I’m essentially starting over this time around. Unfortunately, most of the people I had become close with last year are no longer here, and the friends I do have here work during the day…which leaves me very bored and very alone while I’m unemployed.

I never thought I would say this, but I’ve had enough time to myself. Actually, I’ve had too much. I am itching to do things and be around people whenever I can…and if you know me personally, you know how crazy it is for me to admit something like that. 

When I realized how lonely I was, I started to feel a lot of shame. I started to compare my life to everyone I saw on Instagram through the picture-perfect lens social media so kindly provides us. I started to compare my life to everyone I know here too, who had more established lives and jobs and friendships. I started to believe that there was something wrong with me because I didn’t have a lot of people in my life here. 

I didn’t want to tell anyone I was feeling this way because I was ashamed of not having it all figured out–of not having the perfect life sorted from the second I stepped off the plane (which BTW, my anxiety told me is a totally normal expectation to have for myself, and when I write it down, I do, in fact, see how totally insane it is).

The shame surrounding loneliness causes us to do everything we possibly can to avoid feeling it. When I’m feeling lonely, I find myself wanting to do things for the sake of doing them, rather than because I actually want to. Loneliness often makes us turn toward things or people we otherwise wouldn’t choose, because all we want is some resemblance of human connection. Loneliness makes people drink more than they know they should, keep unhealthy friendships for the sake of “having friends”, swipe endlessly on dating apps without actually connecting–you get the picture. We all do whatever we can to avoid feeling or seeming lonely. 

But as I finally started to explore my loneliness with curiosity, rather than judgment, I thought: What if I just sit with it? What if I just sit with the discomfort of loneliness and accept that it’s a natural part of life? That feeling lonely isn’t a judgment of my character, but simply a result of my circumstances. What if I just accepted that there is no shame in feeling lonely, or not having a lot of friends–especially when I just moved to a new place? What if I used my loneliness to get to know myself on a deeper level than I ever have before? To find out what I want my life to look like, and then intentionally build that life piece-by-piece?

I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to glamorize the feeling of loneliness because when we are deep in the feeling, it simply sucks. There’s no better way to put it–it sucks to feel like everyone else has their lives together and I don’t. It sucks to feel like everyone else has an abundance of friends and I don’t. Feeling lonely is not fun in any way, shape, or form, and sometimes it sucks so much that all we can do is cry. 

What I am trying to say is that when I challenge myself to “zoom out” and see my situation for what it is–a girl who just made a huge change and hasn’t had much time to settle and meet people yet–I can see myself as less of a failure and more of a person that is just going through the rollercoaster of life. In my case, loneliness is a normal part of the moving-across-the-world-by-myself process. There are ups and there are downs, and that’s okay. I know that with time, things will get better; I will meet people, I will feel more settled, and I will certainly feel less lonely. 

And soon enough I’m going to be so glad I have my safe, quiet, lonely apartment to unwind in.

Written by Jessica Bard.

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Who am I when I’m just myself?

I like to think I enjoyed school throughout my life, but what I really liked was what school did for me. I know I was never the smartest student in the class, but my grades were good enough to get recognition. I used my academic accomplishments to validate that I was not just smart or successful, but that I was good and worthy. Year after year, I buried my insecurities and anxieties in A’s and academic excellence awards. 

It’s been over a year since I graduated from my university, and I still struggle with the loss of my academic identity. Academics always provided a great distraction from my insecurities. It gave me a certain amount of control over how people viewed me. I used my grades to prove my worthiness, my capability, and my intelligence; and I was pretty good at it. 

Upon graduation, however, that identity quickly slipped through my fingers. I finished school and decided not to pursue higher education (for now). Instead, I did something I never thought I would and moved across the world to get a part-time teaching job. In this role, I was average. 

I was average, and I was okay with it because I saw it as a gap year-–a break from proving myself. It didn’t matter what my job was because I had a different focus; living and learning about a new country and culture. It didn’t matter if my job was impressive because the simple fact that I was living here was. And it was only supposed to be temporary.

Now that I made aliyah, however, I’m searching for a “real job” in the “real world,” and those feelings of inadequacy and anxiety have started to resurface–but this time, I don’t have academics to hide behind. 

Instead, I’m facing these feelings head-on as I navigate my way into the Israeli workforce. 

It’s both frustrating and humbling looking for a job when I’m not fluent (or even intermediate) in Hebrew. My options are limited to mostly entry-level positions in specific fields where they want English speakers. It’s difficult to accept that the positions I thought I would go for post-college simply aren’t available to a non-Hebrew speaker here.

I feel my anxiety beginning to resurface, but this time it’s zeroing in on job titles instead of grades. I keep searching for a position that seems impressive and proves my intelligence to others. I’ve worked hard my entire life to build this identity, and clearly I’m having trouble letting it go. 

It’s hard to let go, but I’m working on it.

The first step is recognizing when these insecurities start to surface. Next, I try to really think about why a job title feels so important to me (and it usually has something to do with wanting recognition from others). At this point in my life, I know wanting recognition from others comes from the deep-rooted belief that I’m not good enough–or worthy enough–without it. I try to gently remind myself that I am good and worthy and smart no matter what title I hold, or what recognition I receive. I recognize that I am only trying to gain external validation to heal internal wounds. 

I’m also trying to focus on how losing my academic identity created space for something new. Maybe this rigid identity isn’t meant to be replaced by another temporary solution (like an impressive job title). Maybe it’s actually meant to simply be freedom–freedom to let myself wander and grow and experience life for what it is, rather than what I think it should be. I am trying to build a life for myself with meaning and fulfillment, and I have to accept that it just might not look like the conventional vision of success.

I’m trying to give myself some grace (and have some humility). I just moved to a foreign country where I don’t speak the language very well. I’m trying to accept that it’s going to take patience and hard work to find a job that brings meaning and joy to my life in the way that I’m looking for.

Until I get there though, I’m working on filling this space with more things that heal my heart. I’m going to keep writing, painting, watching the sunset, practicing Hebrew, reading, doing yoga, and developing my relationships with people that bring light and goodness into my life. It won’t magically fix all of my insecurities or fears, but I think slowly, piece by piece, it will show me who I am behind the grades and accolades. Who I am when I am just as good and worthy and intelligent as I was when I was a student. Who I am when I am just myself.

My hope is for this blog to become a place where we grow together–instead of me simply writing into a void. In order to create that community, I invite you to scroll to the bottom of this page and comment any reflections you have (commenting and liking on here helps my website grow and reach a wider audience, which is really cool!).

If you don’t feel comfortable sharing publicly, of course, you can also message me privately as usual.

So, in the comments, I’d love to hear more about what identity(s) you are holding on to. How might it be holding you back (or pushing you forward)?

Written by Jessica Bard.

Home Sweet Tel Aviv.

After being in New York for a few months, I felt so disconnected from my life in Israel that I seriously considered just staying home. I could barely even remember why I wanted to return. Of course I knew, but I just didn’t feel it the way I thought I would. I thought I would get sick of being home, itching to come back, with no doubt that this was the right decision. But I didn’t want to leave. How could I after realizing everything I missed while I was gone?

When I thought about staying in New York, however, one feeling remained strong in my memory: the complete and utter sadness I felt over the thought of leaving Israel just a few months ago. When I remembered that, I knew I owed it to myself to see this through.

So, despite the pit in my stomach at the thought of leaving my family and friends once again, I did it. I got on the flight and landed in Israel as an Olah Hadasha (new immigrant).

Now I’m back in Tel Aviv, and–sorry Mom, cover your ears (or eyes)–I immediately remembered all of the reasons why I love it here; why I was so excited to not just move back here, but to make aliyah (become a citizen). For a while, I forgot how much this place felt like the most challenging and rewarding and beautiful home I’ve ever known. I feel lighter here–happier. I can’t explain how, or why, but I do. 

And somehow it’s like I never left. The place I had grown to know and love had waited for my return and embraced me with open arms. Strangers on the plane, the beach, and even the woman I bought a toaster from on Facebook marketplace, offered to help in my job search and invited me to Shabbat dinners. This was the Israel I couldn’t imagine leaving a few months ago. The place that feels like home even when I’m surrounded by people I don’t know, speaking a language I only barely understand. 

The first morning I woke up in my own apartment, I couldn’t keep the smile from my face. I was back in the city I love, living by myself, about to create a life that is entirely my own. My gratitude for this was ever-flowing.

I felt a sense of inner peace I hadn’t felt in a long time–since the last time I was here, probably. It’s the kind of inner peace that lets me know everything will be okay because I am exactly where I’m supposed to be at this moment in time. 

I talk about this inner peace even as I recognize how I felt in New York–that I was happy there too. Happy in a different way, but happy nonetheless. I felt happy in a comfortable-and-familiar kinda way. I was glad to be with family and old friends, but I couldn’t help feeling like something was missing. But here, in Tel Aviv, I feel happy in a passion-and-excitement-about-life kinda way, and, frankly, that’s what I’m after.

It’s a hard pill to swallow that this is where I feel my best right now, because wouldn’t it just be so much easier if I felt happier where my roots are? There are things about New York and people there that I love too, but for some reason Tel Aviv is just where my soul comes alive. I think I felt so lost while I was home because I wished that following my heart didn’t mean leaving everything else across the world. But alas, here I am across the world, and so far it feels pretty spectacular to be back.

Written by Jessica Bard.

I don’t know.

I thought I had it all figured out. I thought I knew exactly how my life would play out, where I would live, what jobs I would have, if I would go back to school, and what kind of relationship I wanted. I thought I knew exactly what would make me happy and fulfilled for the rest of my life. 

Yes, I really thought I had it all figured out at 23 years old. 

Now most of you are probably laughing to yourself thinking, how could anyone possibly know what they want at 23? And you’re right. How could anyone possibly know? We only come to conclusions and make decisions based on what we already know, so, why did I think I had all the answers at such a young age?

Well, I was basing decisions and projections for my future on my first 23 years of life. 23 years (many of which were spent dealing with anxiety and perfectionism) of following a path (a path that was likely the result of aforementioned anxious and narrow-minded thinking). My anxiety made me think I didn’t have a choice. I had to have all the answers, or else my life would fall apart. Dramatic, I know. So I followed the path for as long as I could. Every time I was confronted with a new idea worth keeping, I would shuffle some things around in my brain and figure out how I could repave the path and still end up at the same destination and achieve the same goals.

Since coming back to New York in July, I have essentially questioned every belief I once held about my future. All at once. I have no clue where I want to live–so I had a nice little breakdown after getting accepted for Aliyah and signing a lease for an apartment in Tel Aviv. I have no clue what kind of job I want–yep, another breakdown while job-hunting on LinkedIn. I have no clue what I want in a relationship, or if I even want a relationship right now–yet another breakdown (and breakup).

My therapist says it’s good for me to admit that I don’t know what I want. Instead of chasing after this image I have for my future, admitting “I don’t know” actually allows me to question if I even want these things anymore. She says when I admit that I don’t know, I actually give myself the space to listen to my gut (or my “Knowing”, as Glennon Doyle would call it). 

When I admitted that I didn’t know how I felt about my relationship, I allowed myself to sit with the uncomfortable thought that maybe this wasn’t what I wanted. Maybe I don’t want to consider someone else while making these really big choices about my future. Maybe I don’t want to be dependent on another person or have someone dependent on me. Maybe the type of relationship he wanted was just too different from the type of relationship I wanted.

When I finally just admitted “I don’t know” and sat in the discomfort with my Knowing, it was crystal clear. I had to end things. Not because he did anything wrong (he didn’t), or because he was a bad person (he isn’t), but because I just didn’t want it. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t right–that he wasn’t right for me.

It’s not easy to admit that I don’t know. It’s not easy to admit it to myself, and it’s especially not easy to admit it to a really kind and thoughtful person with whom I started to imagine a future with. It’s not easy to tell people that I don’t have it all figured out. That, maybe, I changed my mind.

But, oh, what a relief it is. I don’t know, and it’s okay. The world isn’t falling apart. Life still carries on. I can still create an awesome future for myself, and maybe that future will be even more awesome than I originally thought possible. I don’t know. And. It’s. Okay.

I want to say I made a mistake (or many)–that if I could go back, I would do things differently–but I didn’t and I wouldn’t. Every choice I made was the right choice at the time, but with new experiences and new information, I started to feel differently. 

I wish I could have all the answers now; to know where I’m meant to be and when and with who. But that’s just not how life works. So, from now on, if you ask me a question about my future, don’t be surprised if all I can give you is “I don’t know”.

Written by Jessica Bard.

When home doesn’t feel like home.

Two weeks ago I wrote a draft that was so depressing I cried every time I tried to re-read it. Frankly, it was less of a draft and more of a brain-dump. I poured every single sad thought I’ve felt these past 2 months at home into a google doc page in about 10 minutes. 

I wasn’t even processing as I typed. I just let it out, typing as the tears rolled down my cheeks. When I finally finished, I reread it once and started crying harder; so I did what any normal person would do and shut my laptop for days, refusing to read those words again. But I knew it then just as I know now, I was about to face the feelings I had buried since landing in New York.

Nobody really warns you about how difficult it is to come back home after being gone for an entire year. Well actually, that’s not true. They warn you about “culture shock” and “re-entry”, and those are both very real–but those were the least of my problems.

The hardest part about coming home for me was finding that the people and places that once felt so familiar become somewhat foreign in the blink of an eye. 

When I came back, I expected things to be the same (more or less), but, wow, a year is a long time to be gone. What I initially thought was just sadness about an incredible year abroad ending turned out to be so much more than that. I found that a large part of me was actually grieving the loss of the life I had at home before I left. The life that wasn’t patiently waiting for me to return while I was away. 

When I first came home, I felt completely and utterly alone. I thought nobody could possibly understand what I was going through. Plus, not only had I changed a lot this past year, but so had almost every single other person in my life. I felt like I no longer fit into anyone’s routines. I felt like I didn’t even know these people anymore (the new versions of them, at least). Mainly, I felt like my home—the place that was supposed to always accept me and comfort me—was rejecting me. 

This past year, I had been so wrapped up in my life on the other side of the world, I hadn’t realized just how much changed in my absence. I know it sounds ridiculous because of course I know life goes on, the world doesn’t revolve around me, blah blah blah. I know that, but life doesn’t just go on. People don’t just change a little bit in a year, they transform. 

When I was finally ready to re-open my laptop and face the words I left on that page, I began to realize why I was so uncomfortable. So sad. Overwhelmed. Conflicted. I came to understand that my home wasn’t, in fact, rejecting me. For the first time, I was just truly confronting the reality of moving so far away from home. The reality that no matter how much I call and FaceTime, I still wasn’t there. 

I missed a lot–but I didn’t just miss birthdays, holidays, or even special events like my brother’s graduation. I missed out on the little things that are actually really big things; like family dinners or late night talks on the couch. I missed the ways people subtly change over time, like my brother starting to mature and build his confidence, or my sister healing and becoming really happy, or my family slowly grieving and healing after my grandpa’s passing. I missed so much and it feels impossible to know all of this and just accept it. 

Since writing that first draft, I’ve done a lot of “soul-searching”…if you want to call it that. As it turns out, my version of soul-searching is crying a lot and questioning everything—including my own sanity. Thankfully the tears have (somewhat) slowed and I concluded that I am a (somewhat) sane human being. 

The funny thing is that once I finally processed what it meant to “come home”, I was able to see how many of these changes were actually good. Even if I wasn’t there to witness these changes gradually, there’s also some beauty in getting to see how much progress someone has made so clearly–a perspective I had only because I lived far away. 

Since confronting my feelings, I also took it upon myself to finally stop moping and make the most of the time I have left before I leave again. Pushing people away and avoiding my feelings wasn’t making things better in the slightest. So now I’m making more of an effort to show the people I love that I want to be a part of their routines, I want to see and embrace the ways they’ve changed. It’s not easy, but it helps.

And just like that, home is feeling a bit more like home again.

Written by Jessica Bard.