if(order && destruction){return true};

I was walking with a friend the other day when he saw my Ahavas Yisrael pin, which I happen to cherish dearly and it’s the only blatantly Jewish pin on that particular jacket. I had just told him I was a Jewish Studies major. “Wow, you must be really into it,” he said. “Not really,” I said, “not really at all anymore.”

I explained it to him and he was the only one so far not to say , optimistically, naively, “You can still be Jewish!” He said something very interesting. He said: “Maybe you were looking for a sense of order.”

It makes sense. It makes so much sense. It makes enough sense to possibly qualify as real closure. It started in community college in 2010, when I wanted to be a philosophy major. I wanted objectivity. I was really against Continental philosophy. I wanted to be against something. I liked the raw logicality of analytical philosophy, and I hated anything that threatened it. I liked my logic classes; ethics I found wishy-washy. Interestingly, that was also around the time when I started thinking I wanted a different way of life…I had just come back from art school, after a failed relationship (if you want to call it that), a failed music career (if you want to call it that), and a failed freshman year of school (literally…I dropped out). Music–what I had always assumed I would do since age ten–had failed me. Being gay had certainly failed me. I had originally enrolled in community college wanting to be a business major (!), but ultimately chose philosophy. By the end of my two years there, I was hooked on Judaism. It was only natural that I would end up choosing Orthodoxy.

This need for order–along with my new goal of becoming a philosophy professor–led me to get something like a 3.9 so I could be accepted to William & Mary (a decidedly traditional school, which was exactly what I wanted). I was still planning to convert to Orthodoxy. I changed my major from philosophy to religion to Jewish studies. I was going to go to Hadar when I graduated, or Drisha. I had it all planned out. And by the end of my first year at William & Mary, I was basically on an inevitable path. Why stop at Modern Orthodoxy? I took an Aish course online, and considered joining their women-only BT seminary. Never mind that I wasn’t technically Jewish. It was painful to think about. It disrupted my order.

That was just the beginning of my growing sense of disorder and liminality. But I was still ignoring it at that time. I withdrew from my classes at W&M and transferred to Brooklyn College. I bought my food from Pomegranate and my undershirt shells from the Shell Station, and not without tons of stares. I didn’t care. Soon I would fit into the framework, if I would only try. I was talking via email to a BT rabbi who lived in Brooklyn, and he was giving me so much encouragement. “I know how you feel, since I felt that way too,” he’d say. I found a minyan and a rabbi who would convert me, and I filed a conversion application with the RCA. Everything was going really perfectly, and of course I considered it a sort of divine will, although I never would have admitted it except to other very frum, religious people.

But then things started changing. I started noticing the stares more. I started getting annoyed by them. I started getting annoyed at other converts, people who seemed too religious, too by-the-book, annoyed at the texts, annoyed at Orthodox Brooklyn.

And then my annoyance disappeared and was replaced by disappointment. Everyone around me seemed to be doing just what their parents did. The “Orthodox culture” everyone had told me about was appearing all around me, suffocating me. I noticed that people were just as religious about having seltzer water on the table as they were having challah on it. I noticed people didn’t finish birkat hamazon sometimes. I noticed that gemara had gaping holes in it, and I noticed that people didn’t seem to mind. I noticed that people were forming their own pathways to get around the inconsistencies. And I noticed that those pathways were called “customs.” Judaism wasn’t being held up by a timeless and flawless system; it was being held up by people.

And, just like that, my sense of order was shattered.

That is what I try to tell people when they insist that I shouldn’t have left Judaism after coming out. I was accepted by the community that I had formed around me. Sure, that encouraging rabbi had stopped emailing me. But my real friends were still there. It wasn’t that. Homosexuality proves to me that Judaism is a flawed system; a human one. Its only answers were to either ignore it or to require celibacy. It took me a long time to get over this, obviously. I felt deceived. When you think you were brought into a situation by some kind of divine imperative, told the system has no flaws, and you find one, and the very people who told you there were no flaws have no answer for the flaw, of course you are going to feel deceived.

I don’t know whether to decide that I need to find my order elsewhere, or that searching for order will ultimately fail us. I used to think that order was a sign that God existed. But there is so much disorder in order that I am not sure anymore. If God exists, it is certainly not in the ordered way that books describe. I used to be completely fascinated by the idea of God, and now, frankly, thinking about it makes me nervous. I lost my sense of ego to my idea of God for two years; and now facing that void scares me. The sense of order that I got from being religious gave way to complete bewilderment. It was really like going from having everything–all the answers–to having nothing at all. I felt as if I had lost everything, and all I could do was pick up the pieces. I had built up trust in this thing for two years, and it was gone within a month.

I’m not sad, though. I was sad at first, and really just mortified and embarrassed for quite a while. I’m not really embarrassed to talk about it now, because I think that everyone goes through something similar. But now I still have to tell people I am a Jewish Studies major. “It’s a long story,” I say, although I am getting a little tired of the story. I am feeling more and more distant from my summer in New York, although it seemed so real and immediate and important at the time.

It makes sense that I am newly interested in computer science, since about six months ago. It’s tiring that my interests change almost every year, but there is a common theme at least. Logic, order, reasoning.

And religion couldn’t stand up to that after all.

I love tzitzis and glitter and skateboard helmets, I love them especially all at once

“Where are my presents?”
“You got your present.”
“What present?”
“That the Hanukkah Man gave you.”
“That thing from last year?”
“Yeah.”
“I’ve been gypped by the Hanukkah Man!”

So, I came across this picture:

poo

Those were good times, yet terrible times. They were the best of times and the worst of times.

I look at myself and think: “Why didn’t they ship me to hadar immediately?” Then I think: “How did I get to a place like w&m?” Then I think: “How did w&m get someone like me?”

Want to know what those pins say? They say: “Moshiach, we want moshiach now” and “Tzitzis, we want moshiach now.” They were a gift, OK? (Once, a guy in Prospect Heights saw one of my pins and said, “So, you want moshiach, huh?”)

I don’t try to be eccentric, you know? I am a walking collection. For instance, my mom got me a skateboard helmet for my birthday and so I was sitting there like derp listening to Matisyahu wearing my skateboard helmet. And now I have glitter because the “hanukkah man” aka my mom gave it to me aka she re-gifted it from when I didn’t want it last hanukkah. Also, I collect stickers on the back of my computer. Look closely and you can see a real live leopard.

DSCF0152

DSCF0154

I don’t want tzitzis to be a fashion accessory. I don’t want it to just be a part of my collection of things I seem to acquire. But I know from experience that–unless you’re a halachically jewish orthodox man–there’s absolutely no threshold you can cross where you won’t still be questioning your motives. (I say orthodox cause it’s not really expected so much outside of orthodoxy.)

Honestly, I have no way of knowing whether I’m just trying to have a fashion accessory, and I don’t think anyone else does, either. When I look at a woman with tzitzis I don’t think: “She just wants a fashion accessory.” I think she must be really dedicated to put herself out there like that. I look at that picture of me and I think “Why was I so hard on myself?!” If it were someone else in my situation, I would have judged them favorably. If they showed that kind of dedication, I wouldn’t have done all that, like, pilpul. I wouldn’t care what their lineage was, either.

I’ve had friends who consider themselves gentiles converting to judaism, and I’ve had friends who consider themselves jews converting to judaism. I think the way you see yourself makes you see your conversion quite differently. Maybe it was being in new york, but I don’t think you can dismiss subjective experience so easily anymore. There’s no “official answer,” which I was in denial about for a long time. Of course, though, not having a right answer doesn’t mean there are no wrong answers. I’ve known people who wanted to convert–who believed they had jewish lineage, even–but whose resolve and tenacity I doubted. Oh, don’t think I don’t still judge people! If someone told me they wanted to wear tzitzis and then in the next breath told me they’ve decided to follow Jesus/the Buddha/whoever, I will probably doubt their dedication.

But I also have friends who are converting, whom I wouldn’t doubt for one second, and whom I treat as jewish.

This, so far, is working better for me in everyday life than my outdated system of judging people solely by halachic standards as if I were their conversion rabbi. A conversion rabbi, of course, is concerned with the integrity of the system, but this is sometimes to the detriment of a person’s psychological well-being. I know this well. I can’t know which way of looking at people is the right one. Maybe I really am compromising the integrity of the system. But if God isn’t about to come down and tell us, all we can do is guess. And if God isn’t about to come down and tell us, we can’t exactly feel bad about making a best guess. That goes for anything, really.

And that’s all well and good.

I don’t know what all this means for me, though. I don’t know my own motivations most of the time, but I tend to believe that I should (like most of us, I presume?) And so I analyze it to death, a sound and fury signifying nothing. If I wanted to wear my tzitzis again, it’d have to go beyond “which mitzvos a non-jew can do” and “what does patrilineal mean philosophically.” It would have to go deeper. I’d have to enter a whole new system. I know I can’t be orthodox, and I know I can’t be conservative, reform, or recon either. It’s kind of an open field right now. Everything is free for the taking. I could be anything. I could be renewal (I’m not). I wish I didn’t have to convert (and therefore pick one…currently it’s RCA and currently I don’t want to change that). I wish I could just be. You know, in the margins. Like I do. I don’t feel like a convert. I don’t want to continue acting like I’m converting. I don’t want to be a gentile. I don’t want to be a righteous gentile. I davened like a jew. I learned gemara like a jew. I went off the derech like a jew. I came back like a jew.

Something has to change here.

from an fb ortho conversion group post, although i feel like i re-explain this daily

I just read Judaism and Homosexuality by Chaim Rapoport, and the basic thesis is that “homosexuality is ‘an uneviable position’ and “we just have to show them sympathy in this ‘noble and selfless struggle.'” Basically: “It’s tough, guys. Sorry.”

I spent the last two years of my conversion journey being fine with this–even apologetic–because lots of prohibitions ARE tough. You deal. But reading this book (which is very compassionate, mind you), in which the author lays down other sexual prohibitions–“auto-eroticism” and “willful fantasy” included–made me realize how incredibly cruel this prohibition is. And besides celibacy (COMPLETE celibacy…), they’re denied the very basic tenets that make Judaism what it is–children, family, intimacy, etc. Even for some other mitzvos that don’t make sense or are hard, they’re not actually HARMFUL to people.

When I think about all my lgbt friends and how religion has kicked them around and pathologized them, I’m so exhausted with trying to find halachic loopholes and giving God the “benefit of the doubt.” I’m horrified that rabbis are OK with so many people being denied love and intimacy by a supposedly kind God, and think they can completely ameliorate it with “sympathy.” I’m horrified that while gay people are being harassed, disowned by families, kicked out of houses, and committing suicide, there are still Orthodox rabbis who find it necessary to say things like they’re fine as long as they don’t “parade their sexuality around the shul” or that they “shouldn’t be proud of their sin just like I wouldn’t be proud of eating treif.” And in a way, if halachic decision makers are this insensitive, so too is halachic Judaism.

I felt like I was being drawn to conversion, but at this point I don’t feel like I can or should convert. However, in the space where I’ve been conveniently ignoring all this, I’ve become completely entrenched in Judaism and the Jewish community, and I don’t really know how to proceed. Needless to say, I’m finding it hard to feel connected to religious Judaism much these days, and not to be melodramatic but it’s kind of hard to trust God anymore when you feel like you’ve just changed around your whole life for him to just back out on you. And that’s no relationship.

Like, it’s not even about being accepted by the community. I’m sure I could find a space where I’d be “accepted”–whatever that even means–even an orthodox space. I just can’t believe that “despite it all, God still likes gay people and wants them to succeed” when all evidence, including halacha, including the entire way Judaism is set up, is to the contrary. Either God is terrible and came up with this, in which case I want nothing to do with him, or he’s just like “woops, didn’t see all this coming!” in which case, what makes anything else in the Torah compelling?

Anyway, I’ve just been thinking about this a lot lately. Hope I didn’t bring you down too much.

Like · · Unfollow Post · August 26 at 10:07pm

PS if you reblog this with my name attached, i’ll shank you. actually i’ll probably just rick roll you

Dear God

“No pearly gates, no thorny crown
You’re always letting us humans down”

I still like Drisha. For the first couple of weeks it really helped my observance, cause everyone else was doing it, it was frum but with it, and it was nice cause even though the teachers were all JEDP theory we were all Torah miSinai, and we discussed this occasionally with the teachers, as a matter of fact. It became like a thing. But we respected each other. It was all going very well. But then I started happening. And I started coming to the surface. And everyone there thinks I’m incredibly interesting, “you’re like a frum hipster” one person said, but it’s just cause everyone else went to seminary and Israel and I’m just a poor kid from public school. I like being the diversity and everything, but it’s just underscoring what I’ve always suspected, which is no matter what will I ever really fit in? Everyone at Drisha is so fantastic, but even at Drisha is there a Great Divide. At a certain point, there’s them and there’s me. And that’s what I think. I will never have had a nice upper-middle class Modern Orthodox upbringing, I will never have a nuclear family, I will never have a heimishe extended family, I will never have “that hasidic cousin,” I will never have gone to seminary or yeshiva or camp. I’ll never have those experiences. And that’s what it will be, no matter what I do to try to change myself nowthere will always be then. The Baggage.

So when someone casually says “I just don’t get homosexuality” or “who are Violent Femmes?” I am reminded of this. And every time a teacher at Drisha says something like “I know you were raised to believe that minhagim are also from Sinai” and everyone can relate but me cause I was raised to believe that Judaism was Hanukkah. Not that I don’t appreciate being in different situations. Believe me, I never heard “I just don’t get homosexuality” throughout my whole life. Even in the Bible belt south, I guess that kind of talk was reserved for the Baptist youth groups I was never in. And it’s interesting and everything, sociologically speaking, but I hate that I feel like if I don’t become the type of person who comes out of a upper-middle class Modern Orthodox upbringing, I can’t really be Jewish, not really. And, as I said, I can do whatever I want. I can have ten children. I can stop wearing colors. I can only listen to soft folk and Israeli music. Nothing will matter. I’ll never be that person.

And so hence my last post, a lot of what Judaism “is,” (i.e. what’s not in conversion books, but what just is) is totally out of my scope, for better or worse. Like, for instance, I wanted to deal with my teenage boy hormones, so I did what any good citizen would do and decided to read half the tehillim to knock it out of me. Short of rolling in the snow if you know what I mean. But what are most of the tehillim about? The “enemies speaking of war” and “Hashem will support your burdens.” I’m sure Hashem will support your burdens…if you’re the right kind of person. I tried to imagine being, like, one of my neighbors or something who probably has an easier time believing Hashem will support their burdens, cause their burdens are supportable and not actually condemned by Hashem himself, if you know what I mean. I feel like he wants nothing to do with this. Not sure why, hm, though I can suspect.

And I don’t know who the “enemies” are supposed to be, contemporaneously speaking.

And so, pretty much, what Judaism “is” is that if you’re having trouble you’re supposed to be able to relate to tehillim, but I get my stuff elsewhere. (And that elsewhere is called my post-punk and grunge 90’s music.)

But I try it out anyway. And so I go to the index to see if any of the subjects can relate to me: “On the day of marriage.” No. “At the time of bris milah.” No. “For one’s sons’ success in learning Torah.” No. “Upon giving birth.” No. “For recovery from illness.” No. “When the land of Israel is in danger.” “To have children.” “For success.” “At a cemetery.” These are direct quotes from the ArtScroll Interlinear Tehillim, by the way. I just…I don’t know. Where’s the one for “I’m surrounded by thirty girls all day long and I feel like a boy in the girls’ locker room”? I can’t decide between “For teshuvah” and “An intimate plea for God’s guidance.” Neither seems like an entirely appropriate choice. If I picked the teshuvah one it’d be like rolling in the snow and frankly at this point I don’t really think that’s going to help.

But I also feel like “God’s guidance” is another terrible option. God seems to kinda back out when you’re too “different,” for whatever reason, so I’m also backing out. “God’s guidance” only works when you’re both already bros. Religion doesn’t really seem to want me right now. Behold: I’m immature and irresponsible and play guitar during the nine days. And so it goes.

This isn’t about Judaism. No other religion would do me any more good. This happened in high school. Now I remember why I wasn’t religious. But at this point I have nowhere else to go. Whoops. What I’m doing is what I’ve always done instead, listening to my “sad.txt” playlist which I made specifically for boy in the girls’ locker room circumstances, and when you feel this bad, when it’s between mourning for the Temple and trying to comfort yourself about the fact that you can’t tell anyone about the girl you like, even her, even God, who’s supposed to be there for you, well I generally pick the latter.

Wherein I consider something someone said.

I take 1 1 1 cause you left me and 
2 2 2 for my family and 
3 3 3 for my heartache and 
4 4 4 for my headaches and 
5 5 5 for my lonely and 
6 6 6 for my sorrow and 
7 7 for no tomorrow and
8 8 I forget what 8 was for and 
9 9 9 for a lost god and
10 10 10 10 for everything everything everything everything
Violent Femmes “Kiss Off”

So, Drisha had this chaburot thing where different people gave talks on stuff, and I just followed a group of people into a room, which happened to be housing the topic of Loving God With All Your Heart and All Your Soul or whatever, which I’m not especially into lately. I’m actually surprised–maybe I shouldn’t be–how easy it is to forget about God when you decide he’s not paying attention to you anymore. I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of days, and I wasn’t really paying attention during the chabura but suddenly she said something that related to my life. She said “You can’t just start ignoring God after he gives you everything you wanted,” or something like that, and it made me wonder if that’s what I’ve been doing.

I don’t think of it that way, of course. Like, for instance, I got to move to New York and come to Drisha and even stupid little things like I got a good deal on rent and I just got an interview at a coffee shop and Patti Smith is signing books next week in Brooklyn. My life isn’t too bad currently. But I’m not very thankful. Not cause I’m all “OK God, it’s been real but I’m done now,” but really for the more existential reason that I don’t see a pattern. I feel like–and I’m reminded at regular intervals–that it’s going to be really hard to fit into Regular Jewish Life in the way that Converts Are Expected To. The extent to which it will be hard you can determine yourself I guess depending on the degree to which you know me~

But anyway, it’s like I’m getting all these things just to fail. It’s like when you make a friend who you start becoming BFFs with and you spend all your time with them and then they turn out to be maniacs and just start dragging you down with them before you even saw it coming. How are you going to be thankful when you know that’s what’s about to happen?

I can’t relate to all the stuff we’ve been reading lately about the rabbis who will go through all obstacles cause they believe so strongly in olam haba or how you have to “love God as you love your wife” and I just don’t get it. I mean, maybe before I didn’t REALLY get it, but I could imagine it and I could get into it. But now I can’t even listen to stuff like chaburot about Loving God With All Your Heart, cause it’s going over my head lately. I’m not connecting to it. Instead, I ask: “Why? And how? How are you supposed to feel strongly about this distant and seemingly flaky if not downright inactive God?”

Moreover, I don’t see how it’s possible. According to all this mussar, you should just get all your joys from Torah and mitzvos. I did, and it was very nice, but that was when I think I was living under a delusion that I could fundamentally change because of Torah. But it’s not happening. And now it seems like Torah and mitzvos are just secondary, if not getting in the way altogether. And it seems like I, in turn, am outside the radar of Torah. Like it wasn’t meant for me. Like it’s meant for straight married people, preferably in their 30’s. I’m, like, not its target audience. Why try? Even trying to make it even seem like I could be its target audience seems arbitrary.

Intermarriage: An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative rabbis

Crossposted at Frum Satire

An open letter to Orthodox and Conservative rabbis:

You say you’re against intermarriage, you know there’s a 50% intermarriage rate, and you know some kids who come out of those marriages aren’t going to be halachically Jewish–maybe 30-40%. So, about 15-20% of all Jewish marriages will result in non-Jewish children. You say you’re against intermarriage, but what are you going to do about it?

I’m one of those kids. I got lost in the system. To be told by someone that you’re Jewish one day and to be told you’re not the next, well it’s pretty disconcerting, if you can imagine. And as much as I’d like to believe the former, I’ve decided to convert. I’m tired of wondering in which contexts I can call myself Jewish, and in which contexts other people would be offended if I did. I’m tired of wondering whether the words of the Torah were meant for me or not. I’m tired of having it implied that the God of my fathers doesn’t want my davening. I’m tired of thinking that’s actually true. I’ve been trying to convert since I was nineteen, but I keep running up against you.

I like to think I’m doing the right thing, you know. Next to all the halachically Jewish kids my age, for whom you are happy if they just light some candles on Shabbat or something, I’m gladly taking on a whole lot more. I don’t know about them, but I have the extra burden of knowing I’m the only one in my family left to keep it going. I’m here. I’m ready. Heck, I’m even completely willing. And yet–I get no compassion. You don’t even notice. In the halachic world of categories and laws, I have no category. I fell through the cracks. Do you care what happens to me? Am I a part of klal yisrael? If so, what do I do about it?

Nothing would make me happier than having you tell me you’d like to see me convert because it’s my responsibility as a part of the Jewish people. Instead, it’s as if you hope I don’t mention it too much. It’s as if you simply cannot tolerate the subject, so instead you always come up with the same line: “You are Jewish if your mother is Jewish.” And the conversation ends. And I feel terrible. And you don’t notice. Your hands are tied, you say. Just be patient, you say.

My request isn’t that radical. I’m not asking that you accept patrilineal descent. Hey, I’m with you: my childhood was a perfect case study of the mixed messages kids get from an intermarriage, and therefore I’m against it because intermarriage caused this.

I’m only asking two things, and I think they’re pretty reasonable: Make it easier for people like me to convert, and stop reacting with such horror when you hear the term. It’s not a “death sentence” for continuity unless you make it one. Look, I’m on your side. I want to do this the right way. Why make it so difficult? There’s a lot of people like me out there, and I bet the number is growing. Ignoring it isn’t going to help you, me, or us. Telling me that I’m 100% a gentile and you couldn’t care less one way or the other whether I convert or not is pretty hurtful, you know. I know it’s easy to say it anyway, especially now that it’s an “issue.”

I want to know something. What do you suggest I do? What would be ideal? Do you want me to be Reform? Convert to Christianity, maybe? Would that be convenient for you? Do you really think keeping the children of 15-20% of married Jews alienated from Judaism is going to be a good thing? I didn’t choose the religion of my parents, but I am choosing what I do next. I love Judaism, I’ve never had another religion, I don’t want it to die in my family, and I don’t believe you really do either. So, can you help me out here?

Sincerely,

A Patrilineal Conversion Candidate

God is (Like) a Socialist

I try to get nearer, 
But as it gets clearer 
There’s something appears in the way, 
It’s a plank in me eye

-Kate Bush, “Suspended in Gaffa”

I’m still thinking about the whole “You’re here for a reason!” concept. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I was rejected from Stern and JTS and came here to W&M instead. Of course, it was nowhere near my first choice, but to appease myself, I and others said “Maybe there’s a reason you’re going to W&M!” (Worse: “Maybe the reason is that you need to learn a lesson to be patient!”) And this rhetoric started to get to me. I tried to figure out what it was. And I really started convincing myself that it was because I had to come in and save W&M’s Jewish students from a certain destruction!

Indeed, I wrote about this a lot more than I thought I did:

When someone asks why I won’t eat that pastry or that slab of meat, I tell them it’s because it’s not kosher…not that I ate earlier or that I don’t like that style of meat or whatever. I like to assume doing this “honesty” thing has the added benefit of making people think about how if I can do it, they can do it—all in a nonintrusive way—but maybe it’s backfiring. [April 17, 2011]

I hope I came to this school for a reason.  I don’t yet know what that might be.  I’d like to think that I’ll bring the Joy of Observance to these people, but somehow I doubt that anyone will be receptive to my archaic and outdated ways.  I guess I’ll have to take on the rhetoric of Modern Orthodox kiruv experts; that doing mitzvot is a good and pragmatically useful “choice.”  Fine; I’m up for that.  I think I have to be. [Sept. 11, 2011]

Wow, my first experience trying to engage Jews who vehemently don’t want my engagement – probably the first of many. I mean, look at me, I’m ready to alienate our only Hillel, to invite pro-Israel speakers onto our anti-Israel campus, to waste any favor I might have had with Hillel by running around with my radical ideas, or even doing my own events entirely outside of Hillel. It’s because we have 200 Jews and only ten of them are doing anything about it. I can’t stand it. I would do anything. Hillel is bored, jaded and doesn’t care that they don’t care. I may need to overthrow it. [Sept. 25, 2011]

It’s admirable. I’m not saying it’s not admirable. But I think I overestimated myself. I think a lot of people probably would like to change their environment for the better by “living by example” or helping others and things like that…but you’re not supposed to think about it. You’re not supposed to come into a place thinking from the get-go that you’re going to lift them out of spiritual desolation. That’s weird.

It’s a good thing I failed at that goal because it was a bad goal. What kind of 20-year-old is “meant” to save a dying community, like in a movie? But that’s the best thing I could think of at the time. But really, I had it all wrong! Who says my “purpose” here wasn’t to save $3500 so I could move to New York? Cause that’s what ended up happening instead. Moreover, I have to admit that at some point being here, at the very least, I realized I absolutely couldn’t stay here, and I think that should count for something, cause it was a pretty painful lesson as it was. It wasn’t something you can learn just like that, and then check it off your list when you’re done. I knew coming in that it would suck, but I thought I could do it anyway, and now I know that it’s living a lie.

Or maybe I didn’t learn all that. After all, I was ready to stay until I heard the school in New York accepted me last month, and I was still waffling even just two weeks ago. The point is, no matter what you think you’re doing you’re probably doing something entirely different. So it’s no use trying to think of the “reason” you’re doing anything. Cause you’re probably wrong.

I don’t know if the “you’re here for a  reason” idea is the consequence or the reason, but it all seems so fatalistic. “Socialist” was what I called it in my mind at about 3 AM while I was trying to go to sleep. When I was a tot, I thought that socialism was basically sort of like 1984 where the government would assess your strengths for you and then tell you what your career would be, and you just did that. I guess socialism is kind of fatalistic. You’re given what you need, right, everything is paid for you, and in turn you are compliant and let it happen. In the religious sense, you can be sure that everyone is equal and has an equally important role in life, but the downside is that if you happen to think your role isn’t working out, you can’t really work your way out of it, cause there are untouchable forces at work, and they know what’s best for you and everyone…and who are you?

Like sometimes I wonder how I got myself into this, like it’s so insane. In the past three years, I went from being an atheist theater major in art school who wanted to be a playwright and mixed media performance artist, to a Jewish studies major who just passionately argued with someone about whether Christianity is idolatry. I feel like that theater major in me is still there, of course it is, but I imagine the community I’m about to join, and I wonder: Why me? How did I get here? How did this become my thing I “need to do”? Surely, a reasonable projection coming out of where I was when I was eighteen would never include converting to Orthodox Judaism (not to mention actually believing in it! I would have died).

And I know I can’t do anything about it.

And yet, I suppose it’s rather exhilarating to watch yourself going down a road you would have never, never imagined for yourself. Let’s just say that this is “what God wants,” hypothetically. Nothing I do will be able to change it. I can think I’ll never fit in all I want, but for some reason I know I have to keep going. It’s like watching yourself from above at times, although you are entirely in control of your actions, you can’t help but wonder where you got all the momentum. I suppose that could be freeing in a sense.

And yet, remember the downside? If you’re not the one guiding yourself into this role or “purpose,” you don’t really know at any given moment what you’re supposed to be doing, or what’s supposed to come next. So you turn to the unknown forces. And you plead with God. But he doesn’t answer because there’s nothing you can really do here, he knows what he’s doing for you, and therefore you don’t have to, and you’re at once both lost and not lost, but to your everyday life all you’re seeing is that you don’t know where to go next. And that’s a little frightening, I think.

So I don’t think I was “meant to come to W&M” for some lofty purpose anymore. And while I still don’t really know whether this totally random year of my life had any “purpose” to it, I also know that I can never really know. But everyone can’t help but wonder. And it’s just such a bizarre feeling to think that you are on a path but have no idea how to follow it. It’s like you’re blindly following someone through the jungle; someone who refuses to talk to you.