When I was a child, grownups would ask, What do you want to be
when you grow up? What did that mean – why did I have to
Be something? Wasn’t I something already? Their expectation,
of course, was that I should want to Be…a nurse, a teacher, a mom,
maybe a princess, like Snow White. I had no such aspirations.
I just wanted to Be. A kid. Who played ball – stick, base, soft,
stoop, basket, dodge. Who read voraciously. Who rode her bike
as fast as the wind.
In my teens, I pondered this more philosophically. Shouldn’t
they have asked, What do you want to Do when you grow up?
It was an early lesson on the relative weight given to what we
did over who we were. If I Became a doctor, lawyer, professional,
my status as a person would rise – I would Be someone in their eyes.
What would happen if I wanted my work not to define me?
What if I wanted to do photography, dance, write? What if I wanted
to work with my hands, be a contractor, a plumber? Would I Be less
in their eyes? Didn’t my eyes count?
In my young adult years, I rebelled. Dropped out of college.
Needed to prove I could Be. Value myself without the ersatz
standards of adults. Ultimately, peer pressure, parental pressure,
internal pressure (fed by peer pressure and parental pressure)
won the day. I fulfilled my father’s dream, went to law school,
Became a lawyer, and died some inside. The questions shifted.
People next asked, Where did you go to law school?
New standards or Being. More conflation of values, more
skewing of the scales of justice.
Now, I reflect on what it means to Be. For me. Just me.
How do I value who I am? Practicing law is not part of the
equation (as if algebra could provide the answer).
Who I am as a person matters. My actions toward others
in this world. Am I kind? Compassionate? Loving?
Generous? Do I judge others who are less fortunate
than I? Do I believe I have a responsibility to give back?
These days, how do I define myself? As someone
into whom God breathed life, who tries her best
to understand the blessings bestowed upon her, and
uses them well.
I’ve decided to participate for the first time in #blogElul, which I have followed for a few years. I’ve never had the courage to get my feet wet – this year, I’m jumping into the deep end of the pool! Check out some of the amazing themed posts geared around the work and joy of Elul – of introspection and reflection in the days leading to the High Holy Days (Organized by Ima Bima.) You can read last year’s and this year’s #blogElul posts via the Elul tag.