Monday, December 27, 2010

One Year Later

That's me, the then-Amanda Edwards, circa May 1985.

It's now 20 Tevet 5771 on the Hebrew calendar. On January 1, 2010 -- aka 15 Tevet 5770 -- I converted as a Jew under Orthodox auspices, post-blizzard and pre-Alec Baldwin spotting near Bagels & Co. on the Upper West Side. That means that I'm sort of half-way between my Hebrew conversion date and the Gregorian conversion date and a blog post probably is in order to commemorate or reflect or acknowledge that a year of my life zipped by without me really noticing it. And I really mean that.

Between last year and this year, I was converted and engaged and then I finished school, took grad exams, got married, got my first M.A. in Judaic studies from the University of Connecticut, moved in to Evan's place in Connecticut, moved out to New Jersey, got a job working for a Jewish organization in NYC, started my second and third master's degrees at NYU, finished my first semester there, and left my first job for a new job working for another Jewish organization, but this time in New Jersey. Did I miss anything?

I mean, I missed a lot -- in all of your lives. I have to mention that amid all of that hullabaloo many of our friends got married, had babies, moved, got degrees, and so on. Our lives are so flux-y. Right?

The interesting thing about my first year as a halachic Orthodox Jew is that it really did fly by without much fanfare. It feels like I've been living this way my entire life. Only those fleeting moments of people talking about camp or visits to Israel as a child or how their grandma kept kosher or family tradition do I remember that I haven't been living this way forever. It's funny how fluid it all is. How keeping kosher and Shabbat and covering my hair and dressing modestly and celebrating simchas like weddings and bat mitzvahs and deaths have become normative. How even some of these have become mundane in some way or another, making me an Old-School Jew who suffers the same struggles with making things fresh and meaningful as people who've been doing this since birth.

Perhaps this is how it was meant to be. After my Reform conversion, I almost instantly felt like I was changing, morphing, moving forward. I spent all of those years between April 2006 and January 2010 learning, growing, and becoming comfortable in my skin. So comfortable, perhaps, that when that mikvah date rolled around back in January, I sort of stepped out of the mikvah as myself.

Finally, at last, me. Who I always was meant to be, like HaShem's note to Abraham, Lech Lecha. Go forth, become who you were meant to be. Realize yourself in all things.

A year later, and I'm still marveling at how it all happened. How I went from being a proud member of the Nebraska Fellowship of Christian Athletes jaunting on Weekend of Champion retreats of praise and worship to being a kosher-keeping, hair-covering Orthodox Jew in Teaneck, New Jersey of all places. Those memories are all so vivid for me, and I relive them every day. It's how I know I'm in the right place today. But still, it's so bizarre how I've become who I've become.

I'm lucky. I'm really lucky. How often do people figure out what community and religion and lifestyle makes sense to them? I suppose if anything, that's the take-away a year later. I'm lucky. Really lucky. To be who I am, where I am, and living this life surrounded by friends and family and people who love me for who I am, who I was, and who I will be.

So thank you, every one of you, for standing by me through everything. I know this blog began a mere 4.5 years ago, and that means there were 20 odd years before that that you all didn't know me. Over the next year, I hope to tell more stories, relate who I was as a kid, a teen, and an adult, telling the story of how I became who I was always meant to be: Chaviva Elianah bat Avraham v'Sarah ...