Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Good Life

It’s that time of year again. We’ve got to drop the petty stuff and look ahead and look behind and decide, have we been worthy in the past year? What’s changed? If we had G-d’s job, how would we rate our performance over the last 365 days?

Of course, I naturally look back and start with where I was at exactly this time, right before Rosh Hashanah last year. All I’ll say is, man, am I glad it’s not last year anymore.
At this time then, I was… there’s really no other way to put it, pretty freaking miserable. There was nothing WRONG in my life, perse. I hadn’t suffered any horrible losses or diseases (thank G-d), but things hadn’t been going my way, and I’d faced a few big disappointments and an uncertain future in both career and social aspects. My self-esteem was at an all-time low, and many changes were coming at me full-steam, like a train about to hit some moron wearing headphones on the tracks.

I’m SO glad it’s not last year anymore.

It’s difficult to explain without getting into boring, unnecessary detail exactly what it was that had gone wrong. Up until that point I had been seeing the world one way, and very quickly, things occurred that forced me to see it in another light, and this wasn’t a light I looked good in. I still had faith in THE BIG THINGS, but I somehow failed to see how any of it had anything to do with me. The way I saw it, happiness was arbitrary, and some people just seemed to hoard it, while others were never happy with what they had, and could only cry for the things they weren't getting, like little tantrum-throwing kids in the action-figure aisle at Toys-R-Us. 

Why wasn’t I getting what I thought I needed? And why did it seem like I’d come so close to having it? It was a month of sitting, frowning on benches at my college campus, when I ran into someone I’d only vaguely known for a few months.

He remembered me, from only two months before, as cheerful, involved, and social. Who was this grumpypants on a bench? Is this what I turned into when the fall hit?

Somewhere between the end of that conversation and the bottom of my generic-brand-and-therefore-Kosher pumpkin latte, I came to the realization that something would have to change. A new year was beginning, and until those things had gone so recently wrong, I had been enjoying a fantastic year leading up to them.

And so, Rosh Hashanah, of which I don’t remember much. And so, Yom Kippur, of which I seem to remember every detail. Never before have I prayed so hard. Never before had I kept my eyes on the Siddur throughout all of Kol Nidre and Maariv. Never before (or since, I’m ashamed to admit) did I have such concentration, and such fervent feeling in my prayer.

I’ll be frank. In my silent, Hebrew whispering, my mind begged, and groveled, and threw itself on the floor like that kid in the toy store, wondering WHY the thing that had gone wrong had done so, and pleading for it to be fixed. I asked that Hashem help my family, and I asked that he help certain friends of mine who were going through rough patches. I wondered why the world was so royally messed up and why no matter what we did, it only seemed to get worse.

And I begged that whatever was wrong with me go away, and that by this time next year, things should be better. I pleaded that at least one of my agonizing worries be solved.
Fast forward. The truth is, it’s been a difficult year. I've had my hopes up and dashed again, repeatedly, and had more major ups and downs than any time I can remember. I spent a few months unemployed and out of school and generally feeling like a waste of cells and space. I spent a lot of time wondering when, G-d, when will this horrible year be over?
But sometime between my midwinter despair and now (apparently when I was off doodling or thinking about other stuff), things actually did get better.
I didn’t get everything I asked for, but I got a start. Somewhere between last Rosh Hashanah and this one, my family was blessed with wonderful S’machot (may they only continue to have more). One of my best friends got married, and another got engaged. I graduated, got a job and an apartment, and signed up to take a test which will (hopefully) assure I someday get a Masters’ degree. Some people left me. New people filled those empty seats.

It took (and is taking) longer than I’d hoped, but I guess I really did get most of what I prayed for, or at least the tools I need to achieve those things for myself.

I’m not sending this out to the internet void for any real agenda-reason. I’m not trying to tell people to pray harder (or at all, if that’s not your inclination), or to JUST HAVE FAITH, or even that things will work out. Hey, they may not, and I could just be spewing naïve optimisms for all I know.

But I’ve been given a good life and the foundations to create one of my own, and I’m grateful for them, temporary as they may or may not be. I suppose my point here is to observe that the storm may not have passed, but the despair has, and I’m just so happy that it did.
So this year on Rosh Hashanah, I’m going to attempt to pray as hard as I did last year (though perhaps with less undignified sobbing). I’m not going to make any resolutions other than to improve generally, in any way I can. I can’t say I've become a better person this year, but I have learned a lot.

Shana Tovah to all of you, and may your year be filled with joy, and growth, and meaning.


  1. Yeah, the maccabeats are probably gonna sue....
    Girlfriend's gonna get PAAAAAAID

  2. Just came across this-it was great-thank you


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