Sometimes I feel like a Jamaican bobsledder.
No doubt those guys in 1988 got some funny looks when they first took their positions at the top of the track. What unlikely warm-climate candidates they were for an icy sport. They didn’t look like the other bobsledders, they didn’t sound like the other bobsledders, and their lives, I’m sure, had very little in common with the other athletes of their sport. Yet, down they went, winning the hearts and minds of many with every pulse-racing twist and turn, even though they didn’t win.
So, I’ve decided to jump into my bobsled. I’m doing something most people in my life never imagined I would do, something for which I don’t fit the mold, and I’m going to do it in an a-typical way. I’m becoming a Rabbi, and I’m doing it my way.
I’m not going to HUC or JTS or AJR or AJU (why do ALL of the seminaries have three initials???). I’m going to a relatively new seminary, founded by an inspiring teacher and Rabbi who is starting a movement of Jewish Universalism. Universalist Judaism. I like the sound of that.
When I tell people I’m going to Rabbinical School and explain the kind of program it is, some eyebrows rise and some foreheads furrow. That’s not one of the “normal” institutions from one of the “normal” movements? Nope. It’s not. And I’m doing it this way because my heart is telling me it is where I belong.
It was about 9 years ago that I first starting studying for the Cantorate (and it is only just this week that my mentor has given me the thumbs up that I am finished with my studies). I remember going to my first Cantorial class and saying to my husband, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I just need to.” Now, many years later, with much experience under my belt, I know exactly why I went… I was meant to do this work. Many times I was ready to throw in the towel and forget all of this Cantor stuff, but the Universe would tap me on the shoulder and send me right back into the ring. So, why go to this new Rabbinical school? I don’t know. I just need to. The Universe is tapping me again.
Sometimes we have to follow an idea (it might be a crazy, unpopular, unexpected idea) to feel whole. Sometimes we have to look at the people around us who don’t get it and say “Please join me while I’m on this ride. I’m not sure where it’s going to go, but I know we are going somewhere.” Sometimes we need to be a Jamaican in a bobsled, proving to others that once in awhile the unbelievable is real and that there are many, many paths, traditional and non-traditional, to get where one wants to go.
Besides, life is short.
I know it’s a cliché to say that life is short. But let’s say it one more time. LIFE……. IS……. SHORT. I recently went to a funeral for a man who died suddenly at age 48, leaving behind his wife and two small boys. I cried my eyes out and felt like a hollow shell after the service even though I didn’t know him very well. Did I cry because he was so young? Yes. Did I cry because I felt so sad for his boys who will have to grow up without him and for his wife who is now faced with raising those boys alone? Yes. Did I cry because I imagined my own children having to grow up without me or my husband? Yes. But I also cried because life is short. We might as well all get on with it because we never know what’s coming tomorrow.
My mother-in-law died very young too. Just a few years before she passed away, she followed her dream of going back to school and becoming a social worker. When she returned to school, she was already a woman who had everything. She had a comfortable life, a fantastic marriage and had raised two of the best humans I know. She had travelled extensively, met impressive people, and gone on fabulous adventures. I bet that when she, as a New York City lady in her late 40’s, walked into that graduate school and then started counseling extremely underprivileged families, sometimes she felt like a Jamaican bobsledder too. I bet some looked at her with questioning eyes. And I bet sometimes she looked at herself and asked, “Now, how did I get here?” But she did it, and she had the opportunity to fulfill an important part of herself as well as offer soulful guidance to her clients and to the world before she had to go. She didn’t have to ask herself, “What could I have been?” She was it all.
So, I’m jumping into my bobsled. Because I love outside the box thinking. Because I can’t ignore all of this shoulder tapping. And because life is short.
What crazy idea is tapping you on your shoulder?