I Went to Seminary, Now What?
For nearly six years of my life, I had a group of mentors, cheering me on from the sidelines through every milestone I accomplished. I became religious throughout college- applause all around. I took a year after graduating to explore my roots, rededicate my life to something more substantial, something real for the first time ever- thumbs up, off you go! Fast forward to present day, I'm living in New York City as an Orthodox Jewish twenty-something-year-old- where's my standing ovation? Unlike a four year commitment to a degree, this achievement doesn't get framed and spotlighted on my parent's living room wall.
Now I'm sure if you follow me on social media, you're thinking to yourself, "this girl goes to A LOT of weddings, her life looks so fun!" Thank G-d, I'm surrounded by growth-minded individuals that have worked SO hard on themselves to reach a point where they are ready to invite another individual into their lives, forever. Sure, weddings have been a blast, but what my Instagram posts cannot capture is the sheer amount of hard work that goes into this momentum we call life.
I came back from Israel with high hopes that I could continue to some degree, being the same person I have always been. Yes, some things definitely have changed like where you can brunch with me on the weekends (realistically, only Sunday). Or if you want to try and hug me but boys, don't (sorry not sorry it’s complicated) but ultimately, I was still me. The truth was, I wasn't still me- I was a more refined, confident, and calmer version of myself because I knew where my boundaries were, at least I did in Israel.
Moving to New York has tested me in more ways than I could have imagined, and through the trials, strengthened my relationship with myself and my Judaism. I no longer required calling my mentors before every decision, but I only came to that realization after not being placed on the forefront of their worries. They knew I had it in me to take the tools I had gained while in Israel and over the past six years to live an observant life, but I hadn't registered that. I felt like I still needed my hand being held to cross the street, well mainly to navigate a Kosher kitchen. It was only after being fired from my first job out of college that I came to terms that I had it in me all along to keep the fire burning strong.
Frankly, I began to hate my first job- I tried to reconfigure every aspect of my work life to try and see the hidden blessings in it, but it was to no avail; I was miserable. I was second guessing everything about myself while simultaneously fearing that I had left Israel too soon. I wanted to revert back to the comfort of seminary, the family I had gained over the past year and run the other direction from a work environment that reminded me much of the previous college years I desperately wanted nothing to do with.
Being unemployed for two months threw me off guard, reset all my old triggers, and made me pick myself up from the depth of despair, and hold my own all over again. The time I had between jobs gave me the chance to explore a passion of mine, fashion and rededicating myself to a Mitzvah (commandment/ way to connect to Hashem) I struggled with; Tzinus (modesty). A friend of mine was giving me some good ole' mussar (advice to better my own character) and told me to channel all this frustration into inspiration- and that is precisely what I did. Directing my doubt, fear, and anxiety towards this new Instagram re instilled my Emunah (faith) in Hashem.
Rebbe Nachman made a similar point about emunah (faith): "The verse states about Moses that 'his hands were emunah' (Exodus 17:12). It is not enough to profess to have emunah in one's heart. We need to act on our emunah. If it is genuine, our emunah will express itself in the world of action” (Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky). By finding something I cared about, that helped cultivate and nurture my own relationship with Hashem and his Mitzvot, I found a community of individuals who also craved what I had been longing through Bless Up Dress Up.
Fast forward nearly six months, I have a new job, and I'm writing to that someone ( at least I hope I am) who maybe feels like they've hit a brick wall, that is second-guessing a big decision in their life or just having trouble not snoozing in the morning. I'm with you, I feel your struggle, we all do. What I will tell you is that now, having lived my life based on the Torah in an environment that stands against nearly all it entails, through that shear struggle, I have experienced joy.
I once read a story about Rebbe Nachman's daughter, Sarah, who had a terrible toothache. When she shared her pain with her father, he said, "You should feel joyous." "Even though it hurts me?" she asked. "Act as if you are happy," he advised. "There will come a time when you will feel so happy because of this that you will dance." (Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky) I think the common misconception, especially of my generation, is that the goal in life is to be happy. What I've come to learn, especially during my year post-Israel, is that goal in life is to connect to Hashem and then, only then, can you find happiness. So here's to the little moments, the ones that grant you a clearer vision of the bigger picture and uniting your purpose to that picture.