In this final look at the last decade, everything comes full circle and my tale is finally told.
2008: The year my life ended (and simultaneously began)
I graduated from high school in May. I’d been homeschooled my entire life, and ergo I was the valedictorian by default. I had to write my speech five times before I settled upon something worthwhile that I actually liked. I had a small ceremony, only my family and a couple of friends. That’s not to say my schooling was finished, however; on the contrary, I continued to study mathematics and now also Hebrew. My love of the latter kept me interested in the language of God, but it was my love of physics and my intention to major in the field upon starting college that made me know I had to understand mathematics to a degree I never had before. Unintentionally along the way, I began to enjoy applied mathematics, but decided I could never be a physicist: although I’d come to like math, I could never make it through calculus.
The day before my graduation ceremony, I had my confirmation, during which I read Torah and gave a speech about what being Jewish meant to me. It took five rewrites to find something that was personal enough to be meaningful but general enough to be understood by the masses. In the end, I said being Jewish meant teaching and learning from everyone. In a way, that’s still what it means to me, but it now means so much more than just that. Perhaps I’ll elaborate some day.
I participated in NaNoWriMo again this November, reaching conclusions I could only draw through my characters, but it was in October that my life ended and a new soul was born: I’d been torn in two for years, one half Jewish, the other half gay, and this year at Yom Kippur—the Day of Atonement, the holiest day for all Jews—that chasm inside me was crushed and my two halves became whole in the most inharmonious collision at all possible. A gay Jew? It was unheard of—it simply could not exist! I stared toward the ark as the Torah was read, standing there, torn from God and sent asunder, and upon the parchment in my mind wrote the words of the day:
An abhorrence, you called it, this thing I call love
but you gave it to me, my creator
I stare at the gates as they swing shut above
I’ll repent for this sooner or later
I cried to sleep that night, when finally I was able to calm myself for sleep. But at the same time, the pain showed me the path to healing. I found people I could talk with, and I talked, and I researched, and I found patches to cover my wounds and strings with which to sew them shut. Not all the time could they keep the blood in, but no longer was the spiritual bleeding profuse. I could breathe again, and with every breath, I became closer the ultimate truth I now sought.
2009: The year that changed everything (for the last time)
I spent the early months of the year studying faith and facts, and through this I gained confidence in myself not only as a student of the sciences, but also as a budding scholar of Judaism. I became comfortable being gay and Jewish; I began coming out to more people, something I had never had the courage or the confidence to do beforehand. I was a new person, and would only continue to become newer as the year went on.
In April, for the first time in my life, I considered the prospect of becoming a rabbi. It had been suggested to me by both family and members of my congregation for as long as I could remember, but there was always something holding me back. Now that the chains had fallen, a doorway opened up to me, and a new path began. At the same time, in May, I wrote my first drash (commentary on the Torah) since my Bar Mitzvah seven years sooner.
In the summer I went to Israel on the Alexander Muss High School in Israel program. It helped me break out of my shell, become even more confident in myself; it taught me new ways to see the world, and for six short weeks I saw the glory of a world once only imagined. One of the scenes that stands out most: lying under the stars of the Negev, staring into the Milky Way, stuffy-nosed and sick from a newly discovered allergy to camels. Go figure. My luck.
I came back a better person, and no number of words will do it justice how much that trip changed me for the better and affected and influenced every second of my life thereafter.
Two weeks thereafter, in fact, I started college. I had great teachers, and I learned to appreciate history and sociology like never before, and I came to love math in ways I had never imagined possible. My love of math beforehand had been friendship at best; now it was intimacy. I changed my major from history and education to math and science education and Jewish studies. That defines me pretty well: the convergence of science and faith, teaching and learning.
That’s the definition of wolves, too: They’re savage in the face of danger, but similarly familial animals that teach their young with more love and compassion than some humans I know of. They’re harbingers of dreams, guides in the astral plane. Likewise, I’m kindred to them. I’m a teacher, a guide, and family often means more to me than anything else in the world.
And I write. That’s altogether why I’m the Writingwolf. It’s in my blood. It’s who I am.