Almost every single person encounters some adjustment in their life. Whether the adjustment is a small or big, they go through it. Yet it is more than that. The effect, the result, of their needing to adjust, will change a person. Gary Shteyngart, author of the memoir, Little Failure, had to make many adjustments in his life. As a Russian immigrant coming to the U. S. during his childhood, created many times for adjusting. I myself had gone through a big adjustment last year, as I had gone to study for the year in a new country.
Thus, I can relate to Gary’s feelings; his ups and downs, his fears and triumphs. And through both of our changes, we came out as different and changed people. We came out as adults. It is customary in my Jewish community to go away after high school. The norm is to go to Israel, our Homeland, for the year to study. Some have been there before, while others are going for their very first time. I have been there when I was much younger and since then have not gone, so this was new to me. I was coming to a new country, away from my family and friends, and coming to live with people I do not know.Order now
It was a life changing experience. As Gary came to a new country, he did not know the language. He was coming from Russia to America at the young age of seven years old. His parents did not speak a word of English which did not help at all. So when he was enrolled in an English speaking school, communicating was nearly impossible. He would try to talk to his classmates, but they would mock his way of speaking and his heavy Russian accent. His parents did not even help him learn the language, since they only spoke Russian in their home.
I too, went to a new country where they only speak Hebrew. Some people did speak English which made it easier, but to have an actual conversation with an Israeli was highly improbable I would go shopping and try to ask about an item, but the saleslady could not even understand what I was saying. I would repeatedly try to explain, but to no avail. So when Gary would explain how he could not communicate with his classmates, I honestly felt his frustration. Language barrier can be extremely frustrating and can make it harder to adjust.
Additionally, when Gary went to Oberlin College, he was going from being an only child to living with roommates. He was used to living just with his parents and doing what he wanted. I came into the situation after being the youngest at home. With all of my older siblings married and out of the house for quite a while, I had to adjust to living with two other girls. Even when my older sister was not married, I had my own room. So I had to get used to not being able to do whatever I want as if no one was there. I could not turn off my lights and go to sleep when I wanted.
I could not bring in all my friends while my roommates wanted to sleep. It was a whole new way of living for me. If I had a bad day, and just wanted to shut out the world and cry, I could not do that. I would be too embarrassed and have to hold it in or make believe I was sleeping if they would come in while I was crying. Of course, like Gary, I eventually became friends with my roommates but it took time. Adjusting takes time. It is far from easy, but it does happen. It is not only hard to live with other people, but it is also tough living with different types of people than one is used to.
When Gary went to high school, it was his first experience with people who were neither Jewish nor Russian. Coming from SSSQ, a Jewish school, Gary was exposed to all different types of people. Gary’s mother even warned him about different type of people and those he should stay away from. Gary was not used to the diversity of people and he had to interact with all these different types of people. When I went to Israel, of course I knew the culture of Israelis, since it is mostly similar to mine, yet at the same time very different. Most people think religious Jewish culture is all the same.
But that is not true in the slightest. Besides the fact that there are different levels of Judaism, every single person is religious in their own way. Yes, we all believe in the same one God, but some are more religious than others. So coming to Israel, it was different to me with all the different types of Jews. Of course there is not only Jews, many Arabs and other nationalities, but I mostly interacted with Jews. When I went away for weekends I encountered different types of people. I had to also adjust to the tough Israeli personality.
There are so many different types of Israelis which was hard for me, since I had to interact with all of them. Likewise, when one moves to a new place, they usually want to fit in with their new surroundings and become more cultural in that culture. So just like Gary wanted to fit in and be as American as he could; I tried to be the most Israeli I could-for that year. I did not want to be looked like an outsider. I did not want to be looked at as an American, but rather, like an Israeli. So in order to do this I had to travel the country and get the most I can about their lifestyle.
I would drink in everything they did and try to act the way they did (although not their aggressiveness). Yet I was only able to be an “Israeli” to a certain extent, as I will always have an American look to me. But I had to adjust my cultures and my own lifestyle to the Israelis ones, in order to be like them. This was no easy task. Changing your mentality and lifestyle as an adult can be very difficult. Yet I wanted to fit in and knew what had to be done. So just like Gary would try to eat American food and try to talk like them, I would do the same.
I would eat the Israeli interesting food, and try to use their terminology. All these adjustments had to come with making one’s own decisions. I had to make my own choices numerous times, without my parents deciding for me. I could not call my mother every second when I was not sure what to do. Things like cooking my own food, washing my own laundry, organizing weekend plans, all had to be done by me. Usually these things are done by mother. When choosing friends I had to decide who was suitable for me. Just like Gary had to decide whether to listen to what his mother taught him or do what he thinks he needs.
And by Gary making these choices it made him independent. Whether it was staying with his friends when his mother was waiting for him at home or if it was leaving his family vacation since his mother lied to him. All these choices made Gary who he is. Just like my decisions paved the path for who I am today. I had to decide for myself what I want, who I want to be around, how I want to adjust. All these small factors combined, created a more mature and independent me. If I did not have to make big adjustments in my life I would not be the independent and responsible adult that I am today.