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When I was 18, I went to live on a Kibbutz in Israel for 9 months. It was an elaborate way of running away from home and it saved my soul, which started me off on a path to find out who I am and what kind of life I would be living. The traditional life of marriage and children were not for me and I didn’t know what else was there if I didn’t go that route, so being away from my family, from all the influences that family life offers made me open to find out who I am. It was at times like a pendulum going from one extreme to another, without stopping in between. Family life was all I knew, and it was suffocating. Being on the kibbutz, away from everyone was a wonderful introduction in finding my life’s path. Where I wore stockings, a skirt and blow dried my curly hair  straight every morning, once on the kibbutz, I found myself asking anyone with a scissor to cut it off. I ended up with a cute pixie haircut that made me look like a boy. It kept me “safe” from most of the Israeli and Arab men.

Kibbutzim are communal ways of living on land that is mostly owned by the State of Israel. Its’ members work together, the fruits of their labor goes towards support of the Kibbutz. Their members live there their whole lives and raise their families there, many of which stay and eventually raise their children. In 1971 when I was 18 years old, I went to volunteer at Kibbutz Gvar Am near Ashkelon, 32 miles south of Tel Aviv, near the Gaza Strip. At the time their main source of support was in raising chickens, and in growing oranges and pears. There were volunteers who come from all parts of the world, eager to live, work and enjoy a simpler life. At the time of my visit, the other volunteers were young people like me, who were also there to find their life paths. Many were traveling for an extended period of time, had no intention of going home and spent time on the Kibbutz to take a break from their travels.

Being on my own — and living in the Israeli countryside — was liberating. It was  difficult to shake away years of conditioning, but there was one activity that gave me a “jump start” to a new way of living — it was skinny dipping. I was naked in front of all sorts of young men and women doing the same thing, enjoying the freedom of discovering what is underneath our skin. The cool water on my unencumbered body was like an alarm clock waking up my senses. It was the most exciting feeling. If my family could see me now, they’d all have a heart attack because my mother only saw my naked body when I was a baby and my sisters who I shared a room with, well we never saw each other naked. Here at the pool, which we broke into at night, we saw each other at our most vulnerable, but it was more exciting being free than wondering what to do with our collective nakedness. The freedom was intoxicating and in the years following I searched for freedom in many other ways, my independent lifestyle, searching for the right career and taking my time in achieving my goals while I worked full time. I found my partner in life, and enjoyed just being present.

Many years later, I no longer go skinny dipping though I am enjoying “the fruits of my labor” with the life that I created. As an older person and a cancer survivor, I am pleased with the person I turned out to be and many of the choices I have made, but no matter how difficult some of the results of my choices were, I never stopped looking for my inner truth.

When I’m at a public beach I now need to cover up my body while the younger ones are parading around in their skimpy bathing suits, enjoying the freedom that started with shedding their clothes. They are now busy fulfilling their dreams where freedom of choice and freedom to be moves to the fore front.