I remember wanting to belong when I was as young as three, or four years of age.
The children in my neighborhood - ultra orthodox kids from the nearby Yeshiva - were playing. I don't recall what they were playing, but I remember the laughs, the joy, and the togetherness they had. And I remember myself wanting so bad to be a part of it all. Imagine my dismay when my desire to play with those kids, was flat out rejected. Not with any words whatsoever, but physically - they literally ran away as soon as I came close. I tried approaching a couple more times, but they stayed away from me as if I was the plague. (Or, well, a corona virus.) I have a vivid memory of an image of them laughing at me and my sister (my comrade in that era), and gossiping to each other as we walked by. Years later, I found out the lessons they learnt from their parents about us: they were warned to stay away from us, because we were secular. See, our "virus" was that of living a secular life.
The children's parents made my family know very clearly how they felt about our presence there. They fought, started law suits, and even turned violent more than once, in their efforts to get us to leave Mount Zion. Once, a group of yeshiva students broke through a wall to our home, sat there and prayed, declaring that they have the true right to the property. I don't know the exact details of that incident, but I interpreted it as if they believed they were entitled for that land because of their devout faith, and us - as seculars - were not. Of course, a child's perspective is fairly simplistic. And there may have been other issues they had with my family that I wasn't aware of. I may have not known those details as a child, but I knew the feeling of not belonging to the environment I was in.
In a way, we all have moments of that feeling, don't we? Every time we visit a faraway land, or learn something new, or learn a new language or word... we meet that part in ourselves that is of a beginner. When we are welcomed, we learn easily. And when we are not welcomed? Some of us may be driven to prove people wrong and learn anyways, while others will shy away, defeated. I think where I belong (no pun intended) on that spectrum is that I accepted the notion that I didn't belong. I didn't challenge it, I just quickly adopted that notion as my own, and learned to live as an outsider.
As coping mechanism, for my new 'truth' as an outsider, I found a great escape that fulfilled me then, and still fulfills me today: Imagination. Story. Fantasy. Dreams. I was that kid (hey, who wasn't!?) that would wear costumes and put on shows to my family, to passers by, or even to no one at all. I would play all the parts of my created stories, and no one could tell me what was 'allowed' or what wasn't, or that I didn't belong, because these where my own worlds that I created. See, I could belong to all of these 'other' worlds I've created, because they weren't REAL. They didn't have risk of rejection. My belonging to them seemed peaceful, effortless. Seemed right.
I finally belonged somewhere: my made-up world.
It was only natural for me to become a total theatre kid. One that would live, think, and breathe theatre. Since it was the first environment that I truly belonged to, how could I ever, even for a moment, turn my back to it!? I couldn't. And there began my love affair to storytelling.
To be continued...
In April 2020, while experiencing her first ever global pandemic, Tamar Pelzig pledged to write something every day, even if it's only a word, so she welcomed to the world a daily blog to keep her creative writing wheels rolling.
Header Art: Daniel Landerman