451 days ago I sat in a strange room I’d never been in with a lot of strange people I’d never seen before. The strangest part of it all is that I can distinctly remember where each one of you was sitting. I remember walking towards the building and some kid with read hair holding the door for me. I remember sitting and eating a cookie to avoid awkward conversations. I remember the weird looks I got for coming straight from my field hockey game still wearing my uniform and bright orange headband. I remember the feeling of having absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into with this so-called Diller program.
Honestly, I’m not really sure that I could describe what Diller is any better than I could that day. But I am sure that Diller has become more a part of me than I ever could have imagined those 64 weeks ago.
“We’ll sleep when we’re dead!” I can’t even count how many times we said that in the past 15 months, or at least how many times I said that in a desperate effort to convince myself it was a good idea to stay awake through all hours of the night. You see, unfortunately Sundays in Diller never quite agreed with that statement. The first Shabbaton wasn’t too bad, we at least made it fully aware and awake through the Laurel Caverns, but about twenty minutes into the bus ride home we were all completely out. The second Shabbaton, well, I think it’s evidence enough that I’m guessing none of us remember that Sunday very well. Chris, Henry, and Jared had quite a job that day of constantly tapping us on our heads as they hit the table or whispering across the circle at our neighbor to wake us up. And NAS, well that was a whole new level of sleep deprivation. The last night of NAS we pulled a collective all-nighter, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I don’t regret that at all, but once the Israeli’s bus pulled away from the JCC the exhaustion just hit me smack in the face. I honestly barely remember anything that happened that morning. I’m pretty sure we tried to have a wrap-up group discussion and within like 20 seconds at least 5 people were asleep. I remember being so sure I wouldn’t fall asleep yet the next thing I knew I was being awoken by Henry singing or saying weird things into the microphone and then him and Tyler wearing Jamie’s jean vest wall twerking. Just one of the many Diller moments that have made me question, wait what the heck is going on right now.
The defining moments of Diller
Sheep, park bench, football in the snow, marissa in dance (everything marissa did/does), Jamie falling over last workshop, henry on the bus from NYC, last morning of NAS, mini golf at URJ, rope swing, whatsapp, chasing with cupcakes, times square, jumping on beds in hotel, nicknames,
We’ve had quite some interesting travel experiences with Diller this year, but I have to say my favorite moment was when we were stranded on the side of the highway somewhere between here and New York. It was really the ideal situation. We’d already been driving for about 6 hours, had gotten minimal sleep over the previous few days, weird smells started coming from nowhere, and the air conditioning shut off so the bus became an oven. Fantastic. It got even better when we had to get off the bus and trek up a grassy hill on the side of the road. I even saw my life flash before my eyes when a giant spider crawled past my foot.
The best part of that whole unfortunate event was that no heat, creepy bugs, or sleep deprivation could stop us from making the best of it. Within just a few minutes we had began a game of wah, of course. We’ve rarely gone more than a day with each other without that ridiculous game, which is impossible to play without laughing. And as they say, laughter is the best medicine. Somehow just about all of us were running around with smiles on our faces, but you definitely wouldn’t be able to tell from the picture we took where we all tried to look as miserable as possible, except for Henry of course.
And sure enough we were eventually rescued from our hill with a beautiful view of the turnpike and put onto a new bus to make it the rest of the way back to Pittsburgh. Sure, this bus was different, it hadn’t spent the past few days with our messy selves travelling around Philadelphia and New York City, and it didn’t have the same patterned seats. But it still got us home.
This was one of the defining moments of Diller because it so well exemplifies what I see when I look at our cohort. Sure, we’ve had our fair share of breakdowns in the middle of our journey, but we’ve always known how to make the best of everything. Having fun didn’t change how fast the new bus came, or how much the hot sun beat down on us, or how many bugs crawled across our feet. We could’ve just given up and sat there in all of our misery, but we didn’t. That break in the journey, the change in the schedule, just made us appreciate all the more when we arrived at our final destination. Diller, however, doesn’t have a real endpoint. I truly believe that. Yes, going to Israel may be the last official place we go in Diller, but in no way is it our final destination. Diller is about the journey, whatever that means to each one of us. It’s been a crazy journey, one I certainly never saw coming. One with ups and downs and hills and turns and twists and bumps and loops and all different speeds and terrains. But I wouldn’t change any of it, the good or the bad. This journey was all ours, it still is all ours, and it’s one I know I will never forget.