I got back from a leadership institute today and as usual, I’d over-packed–three too many t-shirts, a bathing suit I never used, and a few extra pairs of shorts. I learned on my trip to Belize the importance of rolling, not folding, clothes to preserve suitcase space, so the unpacking process now includes refolding my laundry. I picked up a pair of shorts I hadn’t worn, and all the week’s lessons converged on a few threads of white cotton crisscrossed in a barbed wire pattern.
Integrity, intent, and fashion sense. That’s leadership.
This is not a post about leadership–but leadership is merely an incarnation of the lessons we learned. A recurring thing was the saying “Own your stuff,” and I feel some ownership is at last in order.
I spent six weeks in Israel the summer of 2009. It was one of the most amazing and definitive experiences of my life and served as the perfect bridge from homeschool and Hebrew school to college. One of our writing assignments near the end was to write about what it means to be Jewish. A lot of people despised it, many of us knew it was coming, and I just sat in the computer lab until it was finished.
No matter, as a prelude to the assignment, we were asked to walk around an area of Tel Aviv where we were visiting for the day and see what people living in Israel considered Jewish. We went up and down the streets in small groups. We walked to a cafe. We walked past soldiers. We sat down with some modern Orthodox Jews. It was exciting, yet nerve-wracking approaching strangers in a strange land (alright, it wasn’t that strange, but I’m naturally quiet, so it was surely an exercise in extroversion!). And then, with our classes, we sat down. And then they dumped it on us.
The essay doesn’t stand as my best example of writing (in rereading it, I feel it lacks an air of sophistication about its coherence and structure), but it reflected my evolving views on Judaism and being Jewish at the time, and for that, it did what was intended of it. I hadn’t ever had the intention of sharing it at the time, at least with none other than our teacher, and since length wasn’t it issue, it ended up becoming a fair bit longer than the bit I posted yesterday. So, without further ado, I present to you the essay I called “Recon.”
I had high hopes for Pesach–in fact, I had planned in my head an amazing series of posts in emulation of my week in December covering Chanukah: I had planned to speak about the Seder on Friday evening, about being a slave on Saturday, share a Pesach story on Sunday, talk about freedom on Monday, reminisce about traditional Pesach songs on Tuesday, delve into my personal history of the holiday upon Wednesday, and give thanks today.
As you can see, school has once more kept me away.
It’s not that I haven’t wanted, it’s that I haven’t slept. For nearly the past week, I have run so wild that I have missed deadlines, missed meetings, and missed entire homework assignments by convincing myself I will only sleep for a few minutes before getting out of bed to finish my work and then instead sleeping the entire night. It hasn’t been hell–I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve done, I’ve had plenty of excitement, and I love life in general–but it hasn’t been the happiest time of life. I’ve been critical upon myself, hating myself for my own failures, but unable to figure out how to best pull myself to succeed, how to hold onto everything without letting it all fall.
There’s something ironic to everything, and I think one of ironies of my life is that everything I say I’m not, I become. For example, I’ve never considered myself one for jewelry, and yet I find I wear more now than I ever had before–period. The funny part is, when I forget to put on my watch, or when I lost my Equality Ring in the car, I felt a part of my identity had slipped away. It was like missing a breath and knowing your lungs aren’t as full as they should be–but that breath is already gone and you can never bring it back.
So, although I’m sure it’s an odd thing to say (especially coming from one such as myself, who frequently must refer to dictionaries to divine the meanings of slang), today I’m thankful for bling.
It’s finally happened. Yesterday while I was at work my boss of over three years (and teacher a long time before that) came up to me and asked, “Am I correct to assume you won’t be returning next year?”
I looked at him and said, “My hope is to be at State, so… yes.”
It was only after he had walked away and I was walking back to my kids that I clutched at my chest and shook my head, whispering to myself, I can’t believe it’s finally true. It’s all suddenly real now. It’s hard to believe I’ve reached the end at last.