I, like a lot of women in their late 20s, had a plan. By the time I was 32, I was going to have a great job, have a great guy, get married, own a house, and have a baby. I have to say everything was pretty much going according to this 5-year plan. In May, my husband and I went on our dream vacation (see previous blog post about Italy) just a week after we closed on a house and the same week we moved into said house, we found out we were pregnant. A lot has happened in a very short amount of time.
Then, on my 33rd birthday, I was called into my boss’s office and saw the HR Director sitting at a table with her hands folded on top of a letter addressed to me. “The Board has chosen to eliminate your position due to a decrease in funding. I’m sorry”, she said. I left shortly after I received this news. Packed my framed pictures and my “J” shaped post-its in a box and left the building feeling terrible, like I had committed a crime. There was no pleading, keep me on – I promise I’ll be better! There was just the walk of shame to my car, holding back tears. Tears of worry for now owning a house and expecting my first child and being unemployed. What should I do? Where should I go?
I write this during the Days of Awe, the 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur or the 10 Days of Teshuvah – return, prayer and charity. It seemed like as good a time as any to write, because other than job-hunting, I don’t really have much going on right now. It also seemed like an appropriate time to write. It’s a time to reflect on the last year and look toward the next.
Judaism and I have had a troubled relationship as of late. I can’t call it a love/hate relationship…It’s complicated. I just haven’t felt connected in a long time. This is odd for me to say considering I was a Cantorial soloist for years, studied Cantorial studies and was a fixture in my Hebrew school on Sunday mornings working as a madrich, then teacher, then private tutor. I sat with my friends at Shabbat services and watched in awe at the Cantor, my mentor. I sang for my temple family, first as a congregant and then as a paid Soloist. Then I looked for jobs doing this at other synagogues. Everywhere I lived, I would seek out a place to gather with other Jews, to sing, teach, and learn. But for reasons I won’t share here, this hasn’t been the case lately.
I joined the Executive Council of Prism specifically to connect and find my Jewish community. I loved the concept of presenting Jewish arts and culture with a modern and more youthful accessible spin. But because of my new job, my house search, and then my first trimester all-day sickness, I wasn’t really able to be as involved as I wanted to be. Sure, I would write a blog post every now and then or I’d advertise an event on Facebook, but other things always took precedence.
Then I got this news that I wasn’t needed anymore, was being outsourced, at the place where I was spending all of my time. And I panicked. How was I going to spend my days? Would I find a job quickly? How would I help to provide for my family? Is what I’ve done for the last several years what I should be doing?
And I resolved that I wasn’t going to spend all my time on the couch eating bon-bons and watching Days of Our Lives. I was going to make a full-time job at looking for a job because my budding family needs me to. I was going to reach out to anyone and everyone I knew, from my past life in New York and from my current life in Greater Boston. And, probably not surprisingly, I found a sense of comfort in my Jewish community – like being wrapped in my blanket from childhood. I felt like I had come home, or that I was returning.
Once I decided to keep busy and not go crazy alone in my house, I thought about places I could volunteer, things I could do that I haven’t had the time to do, people I could see that I haven’t had time for. I reached out to Prism and to a synagogue. Of all the things I could do with my spare time, why would I choose to be back in an environment that causes complications for my spirit? The only answer I could come up with was that it just made sense, it felt like this was what I should be doing. Neither of these places was responsible for the rift so why should I deny them my help? It would make me feel good to provide my time and support, or tzedakah, to my new Jewish community.
On Erev Rosh Hashana day, instead of slaving over a hot stove to prepare the holiday meal, with newfound 2nd trimester energy I went with my family for a 3-hour hike on a trail nearby. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, not too warm, but you didn’t need a jacket either. We stopped at a pond and I thought about how beautiful it was in the sunlight and how magical the trees would look in a few weeks when the leaves begin to turn. And I thought about celebrating the High Holidays which led me to think about nature and creation and of the new life that will soon be born. And it was perhaps the most spiritual I’ve felt in years. And I felt like I was praying. Not in the book sense, but in a very meaningful-to-me sense.
With a child on the way, a lot of Jewish thoughts have been running through my head these days. Public school or Jewish Day school? Should we join a temple? How can we not join a temple? Which temple? Is there a group around here for expecting Jewish mothers to share our fears, aches and joy? Jewish moms would just understand me better I think, because they’re “family”.
Even if I’m not connected to Judaism, I think Judaism is connected to me. It’s like family that’s always there when you need them – to share in the joys of buying a house or having a baby, or to cry to when you lose your job and don’t know how you’ll make ends meet.
I don’t know what’s in store for me. I hope it’ll be to get a job soon and stop worry about that, at least. But I do know that whatever happens next, I’ll always be able to return home again.
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