Thursday, September 11, 2008

It's My Therapy

Having just zipped through all the updated blogs on my Google Reader -- and commenting on quite a few of them -- I am at last finished with just about all of my web activities for the night. I really need to respond to about five emails of pressing importance, if only for the fact that I hate having emails sitting in my inbox for more than a day without a response. But then there's that whole "homework" thing that is quite necessary to attend to, and did I mention it's nearly 11 p.m.?

This week has been rough, and for a while there it was taking a pretty intense emotional toll on me. It started Monday with a class, then another class, then some work, then a seminar, then a Chabad thing and then a departmental thing and my night finally ended around three in the morning after a phonecall with California. I attest most of the anxiety/stress/frustration with my seminar class, which is testing my bounds as a student -- oh, and it's only the third week of classes.

The class is a lot of philosophy -- post-modern thought -- on the Bible, the book of Kohelet and the Song of Songs and G-d knows what else because I seem to get lost a lot. I had a long conversation at the departmental event with a fellow graduate student (someone who is much older, much wiser, and studied at a Yeshiveh in Israel for two years) about my issues with the class, since he seems to be at one with the flow, and he figured out my problem: I am a linear learner, the professor? He's nonlinear, if that's the best word. I find these concrete themes and ideas and I grasp onto them for dear life, only to be cast away after a few moments of chatter on what was once a concrete theme and has since turned into a metaphysical idea somehow relating to Buddhism or near-death experiences. Luckily, this classmate/colleague perhaps can help me float some of the airy education down to a linear level worth writing home about. I want to understand, and I don't want to feel like a complete moron (which is how I've felt for the past two weeks in this class). Did I also mention that I seem to somehow have garnered the status of peon as far as languages go? My Hebrew isn't outstanding, but it isn't bad. I can d'var Torah my way out of a paper bag if necessary, and I don't like being belittled about my level of knowledge. That, though, isn't worth kvetching about.

I feel, at times, like the entire world of students (graduate, I guess) took some class or inherited some special quality of knowledge that gave them the mastery of various languages and the wherewithal to be masters of their crafts. And then there's me, and someone left the light turned off and didn't bother to tell me how to find the switch and the room is large -- we're talking stadium-sized. I'm a smart person. I'm a brilliant, gifted, driven woman who is going to make her place in the world of Judaic studies, even if it kills me. It's just these downs that really smack me around.

And since then, well, I can't say I've done a whole lot of reading or homework or studying. The oomph has been deflated. But today, a ray of light shone through during a three-hour marathon session of Hebrew, in which my class (which has grown pretty close already) was nearly bouncing off the walls at the end. It was a good feeling, the feeling of learning and retaining. Like little seeds of knowledge were really blossoming inside my noggin.

So this is my therapy: blogging. I come here, I feel important and powerful. People scoff at me when I mention that I've spent the past two years doing academic (not to mention personal) work via my blog -- a blog? they say? But this blog is where I found my voice and where I discovered that I didn't just have to dream about pursuing Judaic studies, and where I didn't just have to think about the possibilities. I discovered my academic self in this realm. This is a place where my words touch people, where my knowledge on topics of Jewish studies and living Jewishly resonate and echo across the J-blogosphere. This is the place where I go to remind myself why I'm doing this whole graduate school thing.
Oh, and as an aside and sort of unrelated note: I have reapplied to Birthright via the "Stand With Us" trip at the advice of a friend over at Jewlicious. After looking over the application, I think I have a case. It seems that students at Yeshiveh or Seminary are disqualified, but perhaps not those at secular institutions. So, cross your fingers and hope that it works out. Especially after, well, everything from earlier this year. And if it doesn't work out? Feh. I'll wait and go on one of the trips through the university. But I'm eager to see people in Israel who I know only by name. If only for a second near a falafel stand or something.