On the seventh night of Hanukkah…
My entire life can be described in one sentence: it didn’t go as planned and that’s ok.
I like routine and structure. That sounds terribly boring, but being able to expect certain things to happen at certain times is soothing to me. Judaism is made up of ritual and routine, from the holidays and how they’re scheduled on the Hebrew calendar to how we observe Shabbat and mourning rituals when a loved one dies. However, Judaism also emphasizes finding meaning in what you do and Temple Emanu-El (a Reform congregation) taught me that it’s okay to do certain things that are meaningful for you, like lighting Shabbat candles every Friday while choosing to not do other things, like keeping kosher. Judaism is a balanced blend of the routine rituals and freedom to build upon that tradition.
When I was in college, I spent hours studying the upcoming semester’s course catalog and created at least 4 different possible schedules. When I was at Texas State studying for my Master’s in criminal justice, I had a definitive and detailed plan for my career post-graduation and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I have veered wildly off that path. I’m still trying to find my way to a track that makes sense for me but it seems that perhaps I am meant to wander around for a great while. Sometimes I’m okay with not knowing what my next step is, but more often than not, it gives me a lot of anxiety.
Converting to Judaism was a gigantic leap of faith that was unforeseen and definitely not on my life plan, but I have never regretted it, even when I question why I chose such a foreign religion. A perfect example of this was the congregational Hanukkah celebration that was held tonight. I did not stay in the sanctuary for the whole service, but I was in there briefly to help with the lights. Holidays are painful and exceedingly difficult for me to cope with, so I try to shield myself from them as much as I can. I thought that by this time in my life, the holidays would be easier to get through, but that’s apparently not in the plan for now. For now, the holidays still hurt, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life, and I’m frustrated that nothing has worked out as planned. But I am grateful to have these Jewish traditions and history to wrap myself in, like a protective blanket, and I’m ok with that for now.