May 31, 2013

Journeying Into the Desert

Posted in Interfaith, Judaism at 7:08 pm by chavalah

My artistic display of parental flowers and other graduation goodies. :P

My artistic display of parental flowers and other graduation goodies. 😛

The above-mentioned is one of my favorite motifs within Judaism. It’s largely linked to the Pesach story, which predicated Moses leading the Israelites to wander for 40 years before finding the Promised Land. The desert is the place between slavery and freedom, and the journey that defines these Israelites as part of a greater whole, a community not only of shared history and traditions but of purpose. I dunno, maybe I should sit down with a rabbi or two before spouting off my un-thorough opinions of religious texts.

And today, I apply the metaphor not to the Israelites-turned-Hebrews-turned-Jews, but to myself, Rachel-turned-second-time-master’s-degree-recipient. A couple weeks ago I graduated from my program in Library Science/Information Studies. I’m also about to turn 30 in a month and a half, making this an ideal time for personal reflection.

My cousin’s fiancée, who recently crossed both the fourth decade and the graduate degree hurdles, wrote a very inspiring blog post about her goals and ambitions. (She also wrote it from her Peace Corps assignment in Swaziland, which, although doesn’t have any deserts, apparently, certainly counts as a life-changing journey. Living in Maryland all my life makes me feel like I’m lacking across the board here.) She recently inquired on my Facebook page whether I’d be pursuing a Ph.D next, and apparently I’m already too far removed from my frantic academic schedule earlier this month, because the idea sounded tempting. It’s easy, perhaps, to stay where you’re comfortable and have had relative success, and I always seem to have two additional degrees in mind–an MFA in fiction and a master’s (or doctorate? I think I’ve earned the right by now to add some letters to my name,) in contemporary Jewish American literature.

My actual master’s degrees have been more practical than fanciful–journalism led me to some very fortunate jobs in editing and communications, as I hope that Library Science will lead me to full time employment in collections work at a cultural institution. I never wanted to be a professor (which is surely the only outcome of a Ph.D in the humanities,) and it seems if I’m to indulge in another career change, I ought to wait ’til my forties. 😛 The truth of the matter is, like every desert wanderer, I still need to pay the water seller.

With employment and a liveable wage as a must, I think I should dedicate my 30s to pursuing what I want without degrees. There are certainly ways to write fiction and read quality literature on my own. And there are ways to travel, both literally and figuratively, to expand my mind. It’s difficult to take these steps on my own, but then again, sometimes institutions can be a crutch. Certainly so if the only way I feel I can achieve something is with a grade or a piece of paper. The path through the desert is not always paved.

It’s something I have to take into account with Judaism, too. I have this fantastical, Utopian ideal that if I were just a little less of an introvert, a little less on the autism spectrum, or a little less from an interfaith family, I would have easily found my niche among the Hebrews. The truth is that I don’t have many Jewish friends, and I don’t come from a heavily-defined Jewish family, but I can still be (still AM) Jewish. And there are Jewish activities I want to take part in, and although I don’t know exactly where they will lead, that’s kind of the whole point. You can’t finalize your destination at the start of the journey. The first generation of Israelites to enter the desert never made it to the Holy Land. But their lives were still meaningful, even if they took unexpected turns.

So there we go: my goals for my 30s. Embrace the unexpected. Have faith in yourself. Obviously, some things will require planning (and some bills will require paying,) but don’t be alarmed if you take some twists and turns. Don’t despair if you can’t map out your whole life. Your compass is internal. Stay true to yourself, take risks for what you love even if you can’t see the endgame (because chances are, the endgame is what you make of it). Embrace the journey for the journey’s sake.  And for the love of god already, it’s time to frame at least one diploma. 😛

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1 Comment »

  1. […] shutting on an old year and opening to new opportunities in the new felt more real to me. 5773 saw my graduation from library science school, and the start of my first full time job in more than 3 years. In 5774, baruch hashem, my first […]


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