Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Bad Day Post

Very rarely do I let the words, thoughts, opinions, or -- in some cases -- knowing glances shake me. LiveJournaling and then Blogging has forced me to grow a thick and necessary skin. I'm happy about this. I'm even proud of it. I consider myself one who is driven and passionate. What I dream of, I seek, what I seek, I find (most of the time), and what I find I get really, really flippin' excited about. I am a passionate person. I am the kind of person who gets geared up talking about Twitter's ability to create communities between people who likely wouldn't give one another the time of day on a street corner. I get all tingly and excited when I talk about my blog and how I've managed to help people get through the conversion process, how I've been able to calm fears, how I've been able to turn around the irrational on the web for those who feel disenfranchised, confused, lost, and on the verge of walking away from everything Jewish. I like that people know about my blog, because, in my mind, this means people get what I'm doing, what I'm saying, what I'm trying to create with my words. I assume that people understand that when I talk about my blog and how many visits I get each day and how many emails I get from readers that I'm not tooting my own horn (although, I suppose in some way this is my way of attempting to help "fix" something that I failed to "fix" in other parts of my life, which is gratifying in a way that I don't expect anyone outside of those who know me more intimately than this blog can aspire to delve). I blog and Twitter and evangelize about Social Media because I see its power. I see its power to teach, to ingather, to calm, to stifle, to ... breathe. To breathe some kind of sanity and kinship in all of us. To bridge gaps and create a New Community. A better community. Not a happier or more equal or wealthier or more satisfied community, but a better community. Better in the sense that we're using these technologies to put ourselves one mile marker ahead of where we were before these technologies. After all, if we can't make ourselves better, then what's the point? Luckily, for us, "better," is relative. But it means ahead of where we were. Different. But different better.

But I'm also passionate about Judaism. Everything that that small word captures. Even more so, everything that the three letter word JEW encapsulates, which, let's be honest, is more than any human can grasp. As a result of this, I'm that student. I'm that student that sits in class and answers every question because I hate waiting for other people to respond. I have a five-second rule, that I sometimes expand to 10 seconds. If there's silence, if people are staring at their books or papers (the class, please don't talk to me move), I speak up. As a result, I'm the dominate engager in almost every classroom I'm in (save the classes where the topic os foreign, such as sociology). The point, I guess, is that I get psyched. I want to talk about Jewish things and Jewish communities, and talk about professors who've said this or that -- when I think it's relevant or will give the in-class professor better perspective as to what I'm saying. I like to dialogue, I like to ask questions, I like to get academically dirty. It's who I am, and it's who I've always been. THAT is the one thing I've always had, outside of what everyone else said or thought or assumed about me, I've had academic engagement. In the classroom, I'm someone. I'm someone more than I am online, at least in my mind.

The reason I'm writing all of this is because I'm frustrated. Nay, I'm dejected. In one of my classes, that knowing glance showed up between a few of my classmates when I piped up with a question and mentioned the name of a professor who was connected to the point I was trying to make. That glance, which I spotted out of the corner of my eye, which killed me, which made me want to shut up and not engage, has left me feeling, well, blah. Is it wrong to engage? To be eager? To be passionate about something? So passionate that you want to ask questions and engage and push and interact? Am I a kiss-ass because I know things? Because I have a background? Because I can hold a conversation with a professor on Greek Esther or a tendency toward revisionist approaches to Jewish history?

Okay. You see, my entire life, I had this problem. And evidently, I still do. I'm the kind of person who wants to fix things, fix people, fix situations. Make things better. I do this by blogging about my personal, intimate thoughts (although, seriously, there's a lot y'all don't get here on the blog) and by learning. I learn to educate others, to better myself, to better the world around me through the light of LEARNING. I am passionate about both of these things. I am not a great ego about them. It's just who and how I am. Other people have judged me my entire life for my weight, my eczema (seriously, this ruined elementary school for me), my religious views, the way I dress, etc. Most people get over it. They grow up. They mature. They realize that life is about more than the details and pleasing other people. The one thing I was never judged on, was my passion for learning and having a conversation. And now, now that I'm here and in this new environment, I'm feeling it. I'm feeling the "you talk about it too much" and "who cares" and "get over yourself" stares and undertones of conversations. Suddenly, this one aspect of me, this aspect that I have always owned fully and completely, is wrong.

And, like I said, I'm not the kind of person to let people drag me down. I've become a much more confident person than I once was. When I came to Judaism, I came to myself. I found confidence and strength. And now? I'm worried. I'm worried that these new classmates of mine think I'm someone I"m not, that they have created assumptions, that these Jewish cohorts of mine, think I'm all ego and nothing more.

Is it wrong to be passionate? Is it wrong to be excited? Is it wrong to be me? Do I exude ego and feigned passion?

On a related note to my "Bad Day Post," at the end of my class this evening, the professor suggested that an unmentioned and unconsidered aspect of Jewish history is the idea of family, a shared Jewish family where we're all connected, across denominations or streams, and that it is family that brings it all together, no matter what individuals or groups say or do. An Orthodox rabbi could marry the daughter of a leading Reform rabbi and the world doesn't crumble in on itself. Family, after all, is the undercurrent of Jewish identity and history. The question, of course, that I immediately wrote in my notes was, "What about the convert?" There is no shared family, no connections (well, for those of us that come to this completely blank, without any genealogical tie to be found). Just the soul, the neshama. Is that why it's so tough? Is that what makes the convert sort of a fringe member of the Jewish family? Because we aren't family?

I try to keep it positive here, but I'm having a rough night. Forgive me my Debbie Downer mood (that'll lift you up, go watch SNL), especially before Yom Kippur. In these Days of Awe, reflection is necessary, but this isn't the kind of reflection I want to be doing. I'm just filled these days with a sense of figuring out who I am now. With a sheitel and a new home and new friends and big dreams and excitement about the New Community out the wazoo (whatever that means ... what is the wazoo anyway?).

I'm not looking for y'all to lift me up or tell me I'm great or that people who aren't me suck or anything. This is one of those "hear me, see me, throw me a virtual hug" kind of posts.

Something more interesting for everyone hopefully will come before the Yom Tov. If it doesn't? An easy fast (tzom qal) to you all! And, you know, I'm sorry if I've wronged you or hurt you or done anything in any way to make you think "geepers, Chavi, you suck."