So, here we are.
The sherut will be here in an hour to collect me and take me far, far away from this place that has become my second home.
How to summarize a summer?
My mind is cluttered with unwritten blog posts, with words that went unspoken, with goodbyes that never happened. My fingers feel full of lead as I sit here and try to string together adequate words to conclude this journey. There’s nothing I can say or write that could possibly do justice to the wonderful, challenging, fulfilling, heartbreaking, and inspiring experiences I’ve had over these past 7 weeks.
There’s so much I wanted to write about, so many thoughts that never got put to paper (or keyboard). I wanted to write about why I love the Talmud so much; to try to describe what it’s like to sit on my most favorite promenade and watch the sun dip below the city; to put words to what it’s like to fall in love in so many ways; to tell you about my first pride parade since coming out; to write about the night where I led a service at the Kotel; to describe the anguish, frustration, and beauty of davening with Women of the Wall on Rosh Hodesh. I ran out of time to be able to write about everything, and there were some experiences that truly defied explanation
For some of these stories, there will come a time to share them-be it through writing, talking, or painting. They will be the stories that one day fill sermons. They’ll be the stories that get passed on to partners, to children, to friends. However, there are a select few stories that shall remain memories, only to be known to me and the people that experienced them. They shall remain safely tucked behind my eyes, never to pass through my lips or fingertips.
I don’t know how to properly give justice to all of the teachers, friends, and classes I was lucky enough to enjoy at the Conservative Yeshiva. I feel immensely lucky to have been able to devote a summer to learning and praying. I’m not the type of person to describe experiences as ‘life-changing’, but the lessons and wisdom learned in and beyond the Beit Midrash will never be forgotten. They’ve made an impression in my mind and soul like bright red tefillin marks on my arm after a morning of praying.
There’s no amount of prose or fancy words that can coat the truth: leaving sucks. It’s just really, really hard to say goodbye to places, people, and things that I love so dearly. The other day, I was asked what it feels like to be going home after a summer here. The only answer I could really come up with was “it doesn’t feel like I’m going home…”.
Over the past two months, I’ve tried far too hard to force myself to enjoy every moment. I knew how much I missed this place, so I was determined to love it as much as I did in my head when I was in Ohio. It’s easy to create a fantasy in your head when you’re far away, but being here has a way of bringing you back to reality. Weaved into every breath was a little voice inside my head saying “enjoy this, because in a few weeks you’d give anything to be back in this moment”. As my time here draws to a close, I’m trying to be easier on myself. It’s okay to not love every second and you’re never going to appreciate the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory. After all, to paraphrase John Green, you can never love something as much as you can miss it.
Throughout this entire summer, one question has being persistently gnawing at me. It’s the question of how I will possibly supply an answer when people inevitably ask me how my summer was, expecting me to give a quick answer. Realistically, I know that I’ll have to say “it was great!”, but that feels like a cop-out answer. This experience was great, but it was so much more than that. It was incredible, terrifying, hard, exciting, too fast, thrilling, exhausting, wonderful, fulfilling, heartbreaking, sad, fun, challenging, and inspiring all at once. Saying only “it was great!” really erases all of the depth to this journey.
A few nights ago, Sofia and I talked about our feelings on leaving. She shared with me the concluding verse of a poem by C Day-Lewis, entitled “Walking Away”. This poem is written from the perspective of a father as he watches his son turn into a man. A strange choice for my final words of this journey? Perhaps, but I’ve been mulling over these words for the past few days, and they’ve eased the pain a bit. I will end with these words which I now know to be beautifully, painfully true:
Selfhood begins with a walking away, And love is proved in the letting go.