Follow Your Bliss
I remember being on the elementary school playground with my 3 best friends looking for termites (we were convinced termites might eat our wooden playground structure causing it to collapse upon us and we might die or better yet receive attention) when I said "guys we're so old. We get through fourth and fifth grade, middle school, high school, seminary, college, and then we're married! Where did all the time go?"
I found the time and changed a bit of that schedule along the way. But for many years my dreams were dreams that I had built for myself in third grade: get a college degree that was good enough to work just enough to be a "working mother" and raise my kids. Don't go on frivolous vacations or make crazy purchases because the money I saved from babysitting-starting in sixth grade-could be part of the downpayment on my house.
That was the life I saw around me, my friends' older sisters all seemed to get married at 20 or 21 and if they didn't we davened really really hard for them and they got married at 23 instead. We even had a teacher who taught us when she was 19 and got married at 21.
As a kid I had this fear that the time that was for me was being used up. I knew my mother's time was not for her. She spent every spare second making snacks, wiping up vomit, keeping our home dust free, and providing for the needs of a large family-including being a full time soldier trying to maintain the peace between 5 warring nations whose allegiances were constantly in flux. So, before I became as busy as my mother was, I wanted to hang out with my friends and play belts and ride roller coasters and star in the school play. All of the things, I felt, were my due of fun before I entered marriage.
When I went to college I put this on hyperdrive. I spent only 3 years in college (I had high school and summer credits to pad out a fourth year) and I was in New York City, a place I had admired since I saw it at 9 years old, walking up the steps at Penn Station. I tried to see and do everything, as many Broadway shows and days in the park, and tall buildings, and cheesy popups, and late night talk show audiences as I could. I was dating in college and figured at any time my reign of fun would end.
The year after college I spent adrift emotionally. Working was draining on my soul and I was not given enough vacation time to go away and still have days left to take off for Yom Tov. I had the selfless life of earning for my family I had always wanted, but no family.
I moved back to New York City. I began to have fun again. The concept of big fun still felt foreign to me. Big fun are big trips and events that needed to be planned in advance and I figured that at any given point, in 4-8 months I would be married.
A friend reached out to me and told me she was buying us tickets for a concert (GUESS WHO?) 9 months away. 9 months felt like an eternity, I knew I would be married by then and my investment would be lost. But my thinking began to change. I would make this concert priority since it was there first and let everything else fall around it.
A second opportunity arose that summer. USAGymnastics announced that nationals would be held in Boston, a four hour bus ride from NYC. I threw caution to the wind, bought tickets, and planned a two day getaway to Boston.
I was able to go to the concert and to the competition that summer and I discovered that I love to do things. I love to plan big trips and explore other cities by myself. I like to find an urban park 800 miles away from anything I know and pull out my book and read. I like to sample the Kosher cuisine and discover it's basically the same as New York but not as good as Miami.
This past weekend I followed my bliss to Dallas where USAGymnastics held national championships. I had two nearly perfect days where I watched the competitions and was able to meet some of the competitors afterwards and hang out with them. A security guard even gave me a free shirt because he saw me there so often.
I also had a beautiful shabbos where I met many members of the community and proudly announced to them that though I do not do gymnastics, I was there to watch championships because that is what I love and doing what I love gives me chizuk. I was surprised at how excited for me everyone was. They loved that I had a hobby, and I used it to see new places and meet new people and just enjoy myself.
I have itineraries planned for many cities in the US, some of which I'll experience this year. I have tickets to a competition in October of 2022 in Liverpool, England. I hope I'll be married by then, and we'll have to find a way to both go. But if not, I'm going to enjoy it anyway.
This weekend while in Dallas, someone asked me what my priorities are. Would I love to move out of town and have central air and in unit washer dryer for a quarter of my current rent? Of course I would. But that's not the top priority and I am able to sacrifice that idea for other priorities. The priorities I have for right now are:
Continue on my journey to get married
Do well at my job and advance in my career
Maintain emotional stability and experience real happiness.
I have done my hishtadlus on #1. #2 I work on from 9-5 (or 10-6) (or 11-7....) every day.
3 has morphed and changed throughout the years. I didn't think I liked hiking that much, and turns out I love it. I'm following my bliss, I'm meeting people, and I'm moving closer to my goals #1 and #2 even if I can't always see it.
Third grade me might be disappointed if she heard I was 26 and not married. But then I would tell her that I went down the tallest waterslide in the northern hemisphere and that I've met almost all of my heroes. That I've seen flamingoes in the wild and eaten some of the best food in the Kosher world. That I have seen so many cities and I have plans to see more. That I have read the best books and seen the best films and I don't have to get them approved by my mother anymore. That I am enjoying the world in a healthy way and that I am happy.
It's not the same. It'll never be the same. But it is bliss in its own way and I plan to keep following it (as long as it remains healthy) while I have the opportunity.
Maybe someday, someone will come with me.