I've made up my mind as to where I'll be going to school.
So let's just say: See you in New York next year!
This past week, I spent a Shabbos at the University of Chicago. It was a beautiful Shabbos, and there were and are many ways in which I would grow as a Jew if I had decided to attend that school. The question is not whether I would stay religious if I went there- that is essentially a given.
The question became- or perhaps it always was- who is Chana? And what is important to her?
And I realized that challenging and honing one part of my mind would not be enough for me. I am a whole person, and as a whole person I need my Judaics. Rather, I need to be challenged Judaically. I can supplement my English studies; I cannot supplement my Judaica.
Which was hard. Because it meant letting go of a dream.
It meant looking at this dream-Chana, the dream-Chana who has the ability to dazzle the world, attend a famous and prestigious grad school, hobnob with intellectuals and future Nobel Laureates, looking at her and saying- No.
Not, "No, I will never do this." Not, "No, my life is ruined, I will never fulfill my dreams." Not even, "No, I cannot be as great as I wished to be."
Because I believe I can still fulfill this dream if I choose to do so. I can be the exception. I shall not be the typical or stereotypical "Stern girl." I will simply fulfill my dream differently.
It meant saying no to one dream, and replacing it with a different one.
Do I want the University of Chicago? Yes, I do. I love their academics, I love their people, I love their facilities, their amenities, their libraries. I want everything there. I want my dream-Chana. But the only way I could go there is if I weren't Chana.
The truth is- if I weren't Jewish I would go there in a heartbeat. Easiest decision ever made.
But what I realized is that not only am I Jewish, but I have the ability to give over Judaism. I felt like there was so much I could contribute to the Hillel there, if I chose to attend, and there was also a lot I would gain simply from being a part of that environment; eating Shabbos dinner with people of all different affiliations. But as I was thinking this, I couldn't help but realize, My God, if I can give this now, what could I give if I knew more? If I can be the teacher-the enthusiast- the individualist- now, then who could I be?
I felt it would be a crime to sacrifice that part of myself- the part that has the aptitude for Chumash and Tanakh. It would be...a waste. And it would leave me only half-fulfilled.
Because I could be...oh, I can be!...brilliant, when it comes to English. My education at U of C would have been brilliant. I would have been tested, challenged, prodded, forced to reevaluate my ideas and opinions- I would have been amidst my peers and equals, and I would have thrived.
But at what expense?
Last night was painful. I was mourning my dream. I let it drift away from me, flying up towards the sky, perhaps to stand before God. I saw myself as I could be...and I realized it could not be.
Perhaps the worst part is that I have made this decision myself. My parents had nothing to do with it. They said nothing. It was and is completely up to me. They were both completely shocked; they had assumed I would go to U of C. Everything I had stated pointed toward that conclusion.
We shall see. I'm going to Stern. I'm going to develop both parts of my mind. And I'm going to do my damndest to be brilliant, but it shall come about in a different way.
כב וְרָאִיתִי, כִּי אֵין טוֹב מֵאֲשֶׁר יִשְׂמַח הָאָדָם בְּמַעֲשָׂיו--כִּי-הוּא, חֶלְקוֹ: כִּי מִי יְבִיאֶנּוּ לִרְאוֹת, בְּמֶה שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אַחֲרָיו.
22 Wherefore I perceived that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion; for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?