I remember last July when I left my position as the education director at a Conservative synagogue. I went from knowing what was my weekday routine to having to create it from scratch. I had no website. No book (just a manuscript). No publishing house. And my daughter was about to get married. What was I thinking, leaving a predicable, secure position?
I want to believe that all the steps I took in life that led me to my position of 16 years as a director of education, all that happened while I was in this position, all the teaching that I have done prepared me for the next part of my life, what journalist David Brooks calls “the second mountain.” I just listened to the amazing Oprah Winfrey as she interviewed Brooks about his life and his second book, The Second Mountain, and I realize that I am doing just that—I am on my second mountain. That mountain, while very challenging, is for my soul. This mountain is for me!
I remember one person, advising me to keep my eyes on a smaller target. I like that person and that person likes me. I remember at the time, I was investigating the idea of self-publishing vs sending my manuscript to a publishing house and I liked the second option, but I knew no one in the field. I heard stories where an author submitted their material and did not hear for three months, if at all. How would that work? What will I do If my book would not be published…what will happen to my dream? That person also told me that because I am not “famous,” no publishing house will look at my material, so I better set my expectation to self-publishing…after all, I am not famous!
And I listened…and I thought of it…but not for long!
You see, I often speak about my heart and the four chambers the I have, one of which is the chamber of my roots. In that chamber, I have access to the values with which I grew up. Values to call my own. It’s the window to who I am! And in that chamber, I have learned to trust my instincts and not allow other people to define me by what they think (and say) I should be/do/act/produce.
I am reminded of a story that I usually tell during the High Holy Days when I led services for the last 17 years. Here is the story– Rabbi Zusya passed away and went to heaven and was about to meet “his maker” (God). He was afraid that God will challenge him—“Why were you not like David, or Abraham, or …?” But when God finally met him, he asked Zusya, “Why were you not Zusya? You see, God does not want us to be like someone else. God wants us to be US. Live to our potential. Be authentically us.
The way I interpret this story in my life is that I have a choice. I can be like other people, and act in a way that other people expect me to be, or I can be my true authentic self. I learned that it’s up to me to be the person I want to be. That no one else defines me as when people try to put me down or place me in some pigeonhole with the intention of “helping” me. They are not.
They box you to protect you. Each one of us has the power within our capabilities to decide and pursue where we want to be in life. Let’s not let those who don’t think we are “Oprah” prevent us from reaching out potential and making a difference in this world.