Over the past week, I have had a series of interactions and experiences which separately may not have done much, but strung together really made me stop and think.
Before diving into the meat of the matter, allow me to recap my subtly inspiring week. Monday the announcement was sent to my colleagues and our boards about my impending move to Israel, which allowed me to share it here and speak about it openly. | Tuesday I had my first learning session with my Partners in Torah chevruta (study buddy) and was thrilled to get to do some serious learning with a great woman. | Wednesday I started connecting about part-time job opportunities for while I am learning, was asked to study the halachot (laws) of head covering with a friend who is interested in learning them, and had an amazing heart-to-heart with a friend while helping her set up for her son’s Bar Mitzvah. | Thursday I attended the first gala event for a local campus chabad and met my rebbetzin doppelgänger who gave a very inspiring speech about humility, where she asserted that in order to be humble we must embrace what we uniquely have to offer the world. At the same time, I was celebrating the recognition of a good friend, mentee, and future chevruta as the amazing young leader she is. | Over Shabbat, I found myself listening to my husband learning Pirkei Avot on the balcony with a friend (sorry D and A!) and when I finished my book, I turned to Inside Outside, rather than the next novel on my list.
So much of my identity has always been built around what I do, as opposed to who I really am. I have let career goals define most of my adult life, and before then it was other activities I was involved in. While these are all a part of who I am, none of them alone is me. Melissa is a dynamic person with many hats (literally and figuratively), and being able to transition amongst them and even discard ones that no longer represent where I am or where I’m going is ok, as is boxing them up and taking them down to try on periodically to see if it is time to put them back in rotation. Just as I have favorite hats and scarves because they are comfortable and steady reflection of me, so to do I need to push the boundaries and try something new once in a while.
The decision to learn in Israel was very difficult for me. The idea of wearing the hat of a student without a degree at the end was extremely uncomfortable. I vacillated more times than I can count between getting a second masters degree (I already have an MSW), learning, volunteering, working, and every combination thereof for the two years we intend to be in Israel. My close friends and family would ask “So, what’s the plan this week?” when we spoke, and knowing that I was changing my mind constantly. In the end, I decided to focus on learning torah lishma (essentially, learning for the sake of learning) because it is a once in lifetime experience to learn like that in Israel. And while I hope to have some part-time work, it is to make living more comfortable, rather than from an inexplicable need to define myself by a job.
So what did the above mentioned events of the week have to do with all of this? I found myself wanting to learn and grow and engage with my newest hat: student without a degree goal. I am embracing this next step of my life in perfect alignment and timing. It is as though making it public allowed me to shift and embrace it in a way I had previously been unable (or unwilling) to do. In allowing myself to make a decision and get excited about, it has permeated my life – intermingling with the components which were already present.
I am more than any one part of who I am. I am a career oriented woman. I am an observant Jewish woman. I am a lifetime student. I am a blogger, a mentor, a relative, a wife, a future rebbetzin, and so much more. I am all of these things, and yet none of these things. While none of them completes me, they each add something to who I am. I am creating a new reality for myself, not defined by any one piece of who I am, but looking to unite those things together. (I know that I mentioned on Monday that my new career goal embraces this type of blending, but it took a bit longer for it to become a part of my bigger picture.)
So while I have a bit of a road to go before I can really redefine rebbetzin, I’m excited that for the time being I can redefine myself instead.