April showers bring May flowers. And here we are creeping toward the end of May—a month that encompasses Mother’s Day and Shavuot, a relatively unknown Jewish holiday that is the anniversary of the Jewish people receiving the Torah. Both holidays occur during Mental Health Awareness Month, and the irony of this trifecta is not lost upon me.
I shared in a previous post that my wife and I struggled for years to build our family. What I didn’t share is how pivotal that dark chapter in my life has transformed how I live, work and move through the world. As we prepare to come together to celebrate the receiving of the Torah, I’m eager to share publicly what I received from my fertility journey.
My desire to parent coupled with the ongoing disappointments of not getting (or staying) pregnant shook my world and exacerbated my mental health challenges. I was forced to explore deep core beliefs about parenthood, biology, fairness, friendships, my marriage and what I had envisioned for my life. I moved through these feelings with the support of a wonderful therapist and some incredible resources in the Jewish community, like Mayyim Hayyim and Uprooted.
I was having a deep internal metamorphosis, yet my professional and “external” presence remained unvarnished. After exploring surrogacy and adoption, I finally carried and had my first child in 2018. After my maternity leave, I returned to business as usual in my professional life. I ran meetings, led public presentations and wrote action-oriented emails…but what had felt professionally normal to me felt emptier somehow. I felt unsure of what to do with all these deeper feelings and felt incredibly stuck. While I was elated to become a mother, I spun my wheels in this empty professional spot for several painful years. Intellectually, I understood that we grow most during the darkest chapters of our lives, but I wasn’t sure how to put this growth into action. I willfully came to ignore a growing whisper that I was called to do deeper work.
As Jews we are commanded and encouraged to engage in life in a community, a minyan, and I turned to a close group of advisors for career support. One friend highly recommended I work with a career coach to find a way forward. With equal parts skepticism and hope, I invested myself fully in my work with my career coach. Together, we determined that my values had shifted and that I had outgrown what once felt so comfortable professionally. I came to realize that I wanted my life—and career—to be rooted in one paramount word: connection. It felt like the most obvious “aha” and I began to feel the fog lift.
Connection sounds lovely, but, I wondered, how do you get paid and earn a living based on connection? With my coach, we narrowed it down to three professional paths forward—becoming a social worker, a psychologist or a rabbi. I set up dozens of informational interviews and engaged in deep dialogue with people about the costs and benefits of shifting careers. When the pandemic began, feeling energized by my career soul-searching work and scared out of my mind, I decided to take the most calculated professional adult risk I had ever taken. I gave my notice, grieved the professional identity I was shedding and began social work school full-time.
While change is hard, my time as a social worker thus far has felt like the most natural and obvious path in the world to me. I graduated last spring and am now a therapist working with women and LGBTQIA+ individuals. In response to mentoring former colleagues to explore their values and career paths, I recently launched my own career coaching business where I’m working to empower people from feeling unstuck to being inspired and engaged in their careers and lives overall.
This month I was lucky enough to celebrate Mother’s Day with my two small children on my lap. I am also lucky enough to celebrate the forward momentum of my mental health journey now that I’m pursuing a career path that feels meaningful and sustainable. Now, as I prepare to celebrate Shavuot, the giving of the Torah, I honor Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum’s beautiful description of the holiday: “The revelation of the truth of the Holy One’s presence in the human sphere.” Let us approach this holiday and meet ourselves, especially in our darkest chapters, with a sense of lovingkindness, generosity and connectedness.
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