Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fulfillment

What makes you feel good? What provides you satisfaction? What gives you a sense of achievement?

A friend of mine who is a respected and accomplished pediatrician recently related to me about a past relationship that she went through. She explained, "I liked him a lot. But I simply couldn't stay with him. He had a very archaic perspective of women and he never really respected me for who I was or what I could be. To him a woman is always second-rate to a man, and even though he didn't overtly treat me badly, I knew that he never truly appreciated me. Even though I love what I do, and am successful and accomplished in my field, to his mind, I should be staying at home, doing what he thinks is right for me. I can't be with someone who views me, and the world, like that."

When I heard those words, something in my mind clicked. What she described was exactly how I recall feeling when I was living in the chareidi world. I don't think I ever consciously articulated it that way, but when I heard them, the words resonated within me. In fact, not only didn't I ever express it back then, I doubt I even realized it until I left that community.

That boyfriend who treated her well was just like that yeshiva society that I grew up in. They never truly treated me badly. They didn't abuse me in any way. Overall, they were kind to me in many ways and treated me quite decently. Even went out of their way at times to show me how much they cared for me. But underneath all that kindness, there was something very basic lacking in the way they viewed me.

I only understood it after I left that world. After I found myself among people who appreciated my skills, my talents, my very nature; who appreciated me for what I could contribute without forcing me to be something I wasn't.

I finally realized that that chareidi world that professed such concern for me never ever truly valued me.

They had a vision of what I should be. A talmid chacham. It's what they value most of all and what they feel each male should be striving for. Anything a person may accomplish aside from that lofty goal is tolerated as a mere consolation prize in the contest of human achievement.

But that's not what I am, nor what I ever wanted to be. It was only after I entered a totally different realm of religious society that I found people respecting me, seeking my input, appreciating my skills, in ways unrelated to any halachic or torah related issues. Only then did I experience that inner satisfaction which made me feel that I was truly valued.

Every society is entitled to have their own barometers of success. I can respect that. But if the qualities which earn one respect are those which a large segment of the society do not strive for, how can they honestly claim to be surprised when people seek their validation elsewhere? Is it any wonder that a person who can never feel truly valued in the chareidi world would want to leave?

6 comments:

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

finally, another post.. and a very good point!
btw, i saw a "Pagan Driving School" car a few weeks ago.

Jewish Atheist said...

That boyfriend who treated her well was just like that yeshiva society that I grew up in. They never truly treated me badly. They didn't abuse me in any way. Overall, they were kind to me in many ways and treated me quite decently. Even went out of their way at times to show me how much they cared for me. But underneath all that kindness, there was something very basic lacking in the way they viewed me.

Great post! Even though I grew up MO and so we had more choices than Talmid Chachum, I felt the same way. People didn't want to know me, they wanted to know the-me-who-would-be-a-good-Orthodox-Jew.

Also A Chussid said...

Even though I truly feel that the Chasidic / frum / chareidi lifestyle is being unjustly mocked and ridiculed in the blogger hemisphere, I do identify with your plight and what you have written in this post. While it is true that art – of any sort – is not being enthusiastically embraced in our world, in recent years it is not being shunned or frowned upon either (like it once was).

I predict that in a decade from now frum people will join the names of other prominent artists / doctors / scientists / professors / engineers / noble – peace – prize - winners…

onionsoupmix said...

But if the qualities which earn one respect are those which a large segment of the society do not strive for, how can they honestly claim to be surprised when people seek their validation elsewhere?

I agree with your post, but this part was unclear. Do you think that large portions of the chareidi society do not strive to become talmidei chachomim/eizer kenegdos ? Why would all the schools increasingly encourage those ways of life then ? I think that the opposite is true. There is some sort of mob mentality in which the best ones must be talmidei chachomim and everyone wants to be the best, so ergo- everyone needs to study and study and study, even if individually they would rather be a chef.

The Hedyot said...

> Do you think that large portions of the chareidi society do not strive to become talmidei chachomim/eizer kenegdos?

Absolutely.

> Why would all the schools increasingly encourage those ways of life then?

Gee, I guess all those women in extremist Muslim countries really like to be treated that way. Otherwise, why else would the society and government encourage those ways of life?

snow said...

Wonderful post. My experience in Bais Yaakov was similar. Lots of love and respect for those abilities and traits that would make me a good wife and mother, but lots of animosity towards the things I dreamed of being/doing or the thoughts I had that I didn't dare express to those in authority.

Unfortunately, sometimes it's more blatant and there are those who don't even get kind treatment. I tutored a bright young boy with learning disabilities. (dyslexia and dysgraphia) He struggled so very hard to do well and sacrificed so much to barely keep up. When I called the principal of his yeshiva to ask if they could make some accomodations for him, he answered: "Sorry, but if he can't handle the work he shouldn't be here. It's not my problem."
It was heartbreaking.