The other day, on a bus ride home from the city where I got to hang out briefly with the illustrious @EstherK, it came to me. A book title and a rough abstract (at least for half of it). So, I give to you, daringly, something I wrote on a NJ Transit bus a few days back. Let me know what you think. Oh, and if you know a book person, hook a Jewess up.
“Judaism (and the Internet) Saved My Life: How My Soul Found and Socialized Me.”
No pull is greater than the pull of belonging. Having some little corner in a greater universe to call your own is to be comfortable, at ease, happy.
When I came to Judaism, I was depressed, alone, and without a place to claim a niche. I was wandering, and emotionally and mentally it was to a most dangerous place. I’d spent my entire childhood attempting to figure out the universe, feeling aged beyond years even as a Tween, and in high school attempting to plan out my own end. The world was too big. It was too much. And I didn’t belong anywhere. I fit into no puzzle, no square hole or round hole or Christmas Tree-shaped hole. I couldn’t take it, and no one was going to stop me from taking it by the horns. I threatened suicide once. Late at night. My world came crashing down at the age of 16. And then, it was like it never happened. My parents forgot, my friends forgot. I didn’t forget. I got better, I told myself. I didn’t need meds, and I didn’t need a doctor. No shrinks for this deep-thoughted teen! So I threw myself into religion, Christianity, the force I’d battled for years, but I needed something. I tried, I made that community my community. At least, I thought I had. But it was a lie. A sham. I admitted to myself and to my friends who I really was, a non-believer, caught in my own mind and my own thoughts, I had my own beliefs. And then, out of nowhere, I was alone. With my thoughts, of course. I had no people, no category, I was statistically the cheese that stands alone. I grew inward, I lost myself. In college, Judaism saved my life. The community, the niche I’d fought so hard to find, to no avail, was present and accounted for. I suddenly belonged, I had people, I had a history, I had a shared dream. I had a home.
When I came into my own on the internet, I was, once again, without friends, without a sense of community, without a place to call my own, even within myself. I was a hermit living in one of the major hot spots for 20-somethings in the U.S., Washington D.C. I even lived like a hermit, in a basement apartment, three steps down through a dirty old garden, and I was in a hole. Like a Hobbit. I could sleep until four in the afternoon without seeing a sliver of light. My loner habits continued, even after I moved to Chicago and became even more entrenched in my e-life: my blog, my Twitter, Yelp, they were my outlets. The internet saved my life. On more than one occasion. It pulled me out of my hole, after a bad breakup, and it threw me into a social scene of like-minded e-thinkers, and it made me whole again. I had e-stalkers, e-haters, and, most importantly, I had e-friends who became IRL friends who accompanied me on outings for prime pieces of meat at local steakhouses and indulged my love of thin-crust pizza. I was re-socialized. I was loved. I was welcomed. I was part of something, something huge and nebulous and beautiful. I was a part of the New Community. The 2.0 e-club. I made it. I branded myself, I became Chaviva. The Kvetching Editor.