Posted on December 22, 2009 by Naomi Adland
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the future.
“But,” you say “it’s too soon to be thinking about life after Pardes. You have until the end of May.”
Trust me. I know. After today, I have one hundred and sixty days left in Jerusalem. That’s plenty of time to figure out what I’m going to do next. And yet…I can’t help it. I’ll be the first to admit it – I have a bit of an addiction to planning ahead.
Before I left North Carolina to come to Pardes, I got into a minor disagreement with my mother. We were on a run to Goodwill to drop off some of my belongings (each time I go home, I spend time cleaning my room, sifting through the detritus of the first eighteen years of my life and realizing that no, I don’t really need to keep the candles I received in a high school gift exchange) when my mother asked me the dreaded question. “So,” she started “what do you think you’ll do after Pardes?” Despite the fact that I am twenty-three and have a healthy, wonderful relationship with my mom, I responded like an angsty teenager – snappy, short answers and eventual tears. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t think she had a right to know – it was, after all, an innocent question – but the moment the words left her mouth I felt the dread creep in. The honeymoon period between leaving Avodah and knowing that my life was taken care of until May 2010 had ended, because for me, once someone asks the question I am utterly incapable of not thinking about it.
One of the reasons I find this question so terrifying is that I just don’t know, or rather, I know but I have too many answers. When you ask a child what they want to do when they grow up, you’ll get answers ranging from garbageman to superhero to a personal favorite of mine as a child, a woman (I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t realize that would happen anyway, but there you go). It gets more complicated as we get older and our worlds expand and our options multiply. Now when I think about the future there are so many things I want to do – I want to explore Jewish farming and food justice, I want to work with teenagers doing social justice work, I want to help American Judaism move away from a structure of denominationalism that is more destructive than creative. I want to go back to school and get a Masters in Jewish Communal Service and Public Policy, or maybe what I want is to pursue Jewish Communal Service with a joint MBA. I want to go back to Chicago, but I want to move to the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center in Connecticut and work on the Adamah farm. I harbor a dream of becoming a pastry chef and spending the rest of my life surrounded with chocolate.
I can’t do all of these things. Or, I can, but if I do I will potentially always be reliant on other people to support me and I will probably die destitute and alone shouting at the world about how it’s important to eat locally, and say a bracha but it doesn’t matter which one because we’re all Jewish and why must we apply a further label than that? So I try and find a way to synthesize the things I want with the things I know I need to do to support myself in the world, and I try and make sure that I am always excited about what I am doing.
Recently, I have added another piece into this process – a mantra – “one day at a time.” I write it on everything – notebooks, facebook, gchat, my personal blog, the back of my hands. I am trying to remind myself of the simple fact that I have time to figure it all out. And, who knows – maybe, if I’m able to take it one day at a time then by the time I need to figure it all out, the perfect opportunity to be a Jewish farmer who does food justice work with teenagers and spreads a message of intentional Judaism rather than a Judaism of labels will appear!