When I hit rough patches in my life, I often try to make myself feel better by looking back at the crappier times that came before. Progress tends to reveal issues that were always there under the surface; only when they come out into the light can I begin to deal with them.
At present, I feel lost in a broader way than I used to. The confusion is not just about Jewish identity anymore. That issue, once in crisis, has stabilized, allowing previously shelved questions about how to make my way as an adult in this world to take center stage.
I have struggled to find the kind of job that could take care of my various needs. Right now, I teach at school, which I enjoy and which nurtures my soul (in a figurative sense) – yet it is constricting because the school is yeshivish, and it is socially isolating because I have no real peers there.
I have a dream – publishing fiction – and better yet, I am actually pursuing it. I got here through boldness, leaving the comfort and prestige of a top law school to live life based on my priorities, not anyone else’s. I give myself top marks on this one. I knew what needed to be done, and I did it. However, it is still only a budding enterprise, and at this point still takes from me more than it gives back.
I am lonely. I lack family. My parents’ love is no longer enough for me and hasn’t been for some time; I suppose that is just a mark of adulthood. I have friends, even a small budding community; but most of my deepest, oldest friends, the ones whom I really love, are far away, separated by marriage, graduate school, and physical distance.
Many or all of these problems are common, maybe universal. They are not connected to the difficult road I have traversed away from religion.
The fact is that my struggles with religion and Jewish identity tore a three-year whole in my life, delaying my development as an adult. Instead of grappling with these questions at 21, I am doing so at 24.
Beyond that, merely being in the frum bubble set me back far longer. Frum cookie-cutter young men do not sit on these questions as real people do. They squirm a bit as they feel their choices and individuality passing them by for good, and then they go to law school, marry frum cookie-cutter young women, settle down in frum cookie-cutter neighborhoods, and raise frum cookie-cutter children. It should hardly be necessary to explain that growing up in this environment was not conducive to my development as an adult. I could have been learning how to make choices and take care of myself in the big bad world when I was eighteen, or even younger. Instead I find myself at 24 trying to build the structure of an adult life while having no shelter (except for the one I’ve outgrown) to fall back to when a storm hits.
I mention all this less to rue the past (though what is more fun?) than to rationalize putting this blog post on Freethinking Jewboy. I appreciate that it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to puzzle out causes and to distinguish frum-bubble factors from the factors of my superior personal attributes. The possibility that I am just a numbskull is not lost on me. Though I generally prefer to downplay that side of things.