Cantorial school started last week. I no longer have a full-time job in the software industry and instead I’m a full-time graduate student in the Jewish world.
I was sitting in Panera in May 2010 with my laptop when I registered JHacker.org, which is as good a point as any to mark when I started thinking about a way to return to professional work in the Jewish community. Like all good things, COSEL wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started on that path. I guess my journey has taken me to where I needed to go.
Being in school is a little different as an adult. I like learning and am excited to be back in school. Like school at any age, there are teachers and books and classes, and the chance to grow and change. Also, at this level, school is a big, serious career investment. It’s more professional. Unlike high school and being overwhelmed with extracurricular activities, now being overwhelmed is more like starting a company and figuring out your business model. Compared to college, juggling family and self-care and practical issues is just like being an adult with any other job. More than some of the jobs I’ve had, it matters more now to dress and act professionally.
It’s also a change from seeing rabbis and cantors mostly as people at the front of the room to them being, well, almost everyone, all day, every day. We’re all just people who need to eat lunch and drink water and go to the doctor. And it’s going to be different now that, when I do go to buy a coffee or get a haircut, I’m doing so as a (student) clergy person, and I can’t take off my religious hat now that it’s the answer to “what do you do?” (Even if I actually still can take off my kippah. Especially for a haircut 🙂 ). I’ve known this, but it’s even more obvious that clergy are people with the same characteristics that make all humans weird and beautiful.
In one of our activities, there was a chance to consider the character trait of הכרת הטוב (hakarat hatov), gratitude, or more literally, “recognition of the good.” Gratitude is the first thing Jews pray in the morning (modeh ani). It’s something I’ve learned as a practice from contemporary mindfulness teachers, and something Cheryl has recently reminded me about, too. For too many of the past several years, while sitting in a corporate cubicle—acknowledging that I’ve done some fairly cool things for what you can do sitting in a corporate cubicle—I’ve been envious of people who have started businesses, traveled, learned, taught, sang, and done things other than collecting a salary and sitting in a cubicle. And yet I’ve been anxious about doing anything else. My intention is to practice more gratitude. If I get frustrated about something, I need to be grateful for all the things I have, and especially the family, friends, and colleagues that have been amazingly supportive. If I get envious or anxious about something, I need to recognize how many things have already, and will continue to, work out. I hope to work on this more in the coming year.
As I used to sing in the Shira Kline song with the kids in tot Shabbat, “Barukh atah Adonai—thank you God.”