The Art of Improvement

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by Richard Patrych

The main theme I’ve noticed in my life since I’ve been in the Tivnu Gap Year is improvement, in many different aspects. While it’s only been 7 weeks since we arrived in Portland,  it is promising to see my personal maturity grow exponentially.

Living with 7 other teenagers helps you become a more responsible person because not only do you want to do the right thing for yourself, but you don’t want to be the one that messed up either. So you take action, and soon stuff like doing your dishes and cleaning the living room become second nature. I know for me personally, all these tasks are going to become more ingrained in my mentality as the program proceeds, and I have a feeling this mindset will carry over with me throughout my life. At the very least, I will have made drastic steps.

Furthermore, living with a bunch of teenagers can definitely be refreshing at times too. Since we are all teenagers from relatively similar backgrounds, we all click for the most part, and socially this a big plus. I’m going to have roommates in the future, so the overall experience is beneficial.

Since this program began, I’ve also improved a great deal in budgeting my money.  In the past, I would have never declined a 2nd or 3rd offer to head over to Chipotle for that week. Now, I can honestly look back and see how excessive eating out wastes a ton of money. I stick to one burrito a week! For the most part…..

Now onto food. Ahhh, food. Everybody loves food. However, there’s a problem when you’re unable to make good tasting yet nutritious food for yourself. I didn’t have much culinary experience coming to Portland because my parents love to cook and it was never really a necessity for me to start cooking on any sort of regular basis. Tivnu has forced me to become a better cook.  I can’t say I would have been inclined to start cooking on a regular basis anytime soon, so this is definitely a positive.  Now, I’m not saying I’m Wolfgang Puck or Emeril, but I can now put together decent meals. I am so glad I have some sense of cooking right now, because it’s one of those things that you really need to have some grasp on to live a fulfilling lifestyle. Take-out and eating out cost a ton of money and if you can make your own meal with budgeted produce, it definitely helps.

The crux of the program……. construction!  Coming in, I could count the times I had used a hammer on one hand. I can write a whole essay just on my improved hammer skills, but I’ll spare you. Working with Habitat for Humanity has been a blast so far. While it’s been a real learning experience, I genuinely have enjoyed volunteering and helping build houses in whichever way we can. Seeing how exactly a house is structurally built is very cool too. We’ve been working with FoxBlocks, a construction technique that’s resembles giant sized Legos. They are tied together sturdy with rods of metal called re-bar. The best part in my opinion is that while the Habitat staff acknowledges we are newbies and keep us very safe, they let us work on the same projects that the 30+ year construction veterans are doing. The first few weeks we were selected to the dirty work such as cleanup, but things are definitely picking up now that the house is coming together.

I have learned so much so far, and look forward to learning much more!

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