This blog post was written by Ansel Lewis, a member of the Tivnu 8 cohort from Atlanta, Georgia. He enjoys playing sports, making people laugh, and advocating for immigrant rights. Ansel is an avid collector and searcher of various gemstones, fossils, and rocks, and is interning at Innovation Law Lab, in addition to construction at various houseless villages through Tivnu.
My friends in high school are my best friends, and have so much in common with me. I love those friends to death, and still keep in touch with all of them. They shaped my high school experience, and me as a person. So, going into Tivnu, I was curious how homogenous the makeup of participants would be. I figured, given it was a program for Jews, it would most definitely not be just made up of athletic dudes, but I did think, based on the mission of Tivnu, there would be some sort of like-mindedness among the other nineteen participants and me. The thought of trying to make friends with people I wouldn’t have hung out with in high school terrified me, to be honest — to the point I thought about trying to change my persona to fit whatever the status quo was of everyone there. Fortunately, for my sake, and probably everyone else’s as well, I decided against it, just to “be myself” or whatever cliché fits.
When I got to the house on move-in day, as hard as I tried to make them disappear, preconceived notions and judgements swirled around in my head as I took in the few people that were already moving into the cavernous 13th Avenue house. Some of those preconceptions turned out to be true; a few I could tell would be the people I would play sports with, others I could tell I wouldn’t interact with in high school unless out of necessity. However, as the day moved on, more people moved in. I saw the other Tivnu house just a few blocks away, too. And pretty soon, instead of actively dismissing any judgements based on appearance or impression, those judgements started fleeting without any conscious thought. Those preconceived notions were replaced by genuine curiosity to get to know what life was like in California or the difficulty of maintaining a vegan diet or what their thoughts were on the upcoming consent workshop. We had all been placed in two houses to spend the next year with one another, and yet conversation and interaction felt anything but forced.
Over the next few days, those foundational interactions only became stronger, roots digging deeper into the Portland soil with every pickup basketball adventure or trip to the Saturday Market. I started to think less and less of how I wouldn’t previously have been friends with most people, and more of how I was becoming friends with nineteen amazing human beings that each brought a different perspective on life – even if a few of them were Mets fans.
Flash forward to now, the week after a long and sometimes lonely winter break, having these people back in my life is as good a feeling as it gets. Every workday feels a little bit shorter, knowing I go home to people that I can be both caring and carefree around. The pressure of conformity and cliques and reading too much into people’s words isn’t there. Instead, there’s simply a concoction of exuberance, vitality and warmth that, looking at it now, is formed by our differences, our individual strengths and our weaknesses.