In my memory, my mother was always supportive of my plans to go to grad school, to get a PhD, and everything that came along with that. Recently, though, I re-read the journal I had kept while at Neve seminary in Jerusalem summer of 2012.
I had started typing notes about my day and my reactions to little things that happened throughout the day after the first week, when I realized things were passing by in such a whirlwind that I was having trouble keeping track. The journal reads like a dry log some of the time, but I’m really happy I did that, because it reminded me of some wonderful memories, and some not-so-wonderful memories.
I had been in the process of applying for a Marshall scholarship during that summer. The scholarship would cover a Master’s program in the UK. They usually covered a two-year program, but would allow a one-year program if the student gave a convincing reason. I had my eye on two possibilities, both one-year programs, one in Leeds and one in Bangor, Wales.
I knew that my parents wouldn’t like the idea of me going overseas for a year, and two would be out of the question. My mother did muse, when I first told her I was hoping to do a year abroad, that she could contact some Manchester or Leeds shadchanim, and that way the year wouldn’t be lost – I would still be able to go out and perhaps meet my bashert in England. I wasn’t too happy with that idea.
(That was actually the basis for a semi-autobiographical novel I started writing around that time, a novel I could never finish while I was still frum because I refused to end it with the protagonist reconciling herself to a life of happiness in the frum community, and yet I couldn’t bring myself to end with the protagonist, who after all was really me, leaving the community…)
But it was all good. At least, in the memories I’d clung to since then, it was all good. In my mind, my mother was supportive, understood how much this meant to me, and was disappointed for my sake when I didn’t win the scholarship.
My journal tells a different story.
Tuesday, July 24
I spoke to Rabbi Kass after meeting Avivah Zornberg, and he gave me more advice on the UK situation. He amended his opinion on abandoning Bangor and focusing on Leeds, if I could live in Manchester and commute twice a week to Bangor. Could be possible, and he thinks that would be the better option Jewish-wise.
After class, I went straight to the Kosel. I spent 40 minutes there. It was an experience being sort of above time, since I wasn’t looking at my watch to meet up with anyone. And I finished the sefer tehilim. I met Estie Fried on the bus back, and we stopped in Geula for pizza. Then when we got back, we went to Café Café on Kanfei Nesharim for their free WiFi. I researched Bangor’s program a bit more to see if the suggestions were feasible, I emailed Dr. Radulescu and Dr. Ozumba again with more detailed questions, and I checked the travel time from Manchester to Bangor. Longer than I thought. We were there till 1:00. Ouch.
Then I spoke to Mommy until 2, and she told me that Tatty knows I’m applying for the Marshall, which is news to me since I planned on telling him only if I’m accepted, and that both he and Mommy are hoping I don’t get it. Nice to know. And then a long discussion about choices, and life decisions and such, and shidduchim and my lack of faith in all that. I still think I’m making the right choice.
My heart breaks for my past self when I read this.
Image: On my last day in Israel, I made one last trip to the Kosel before catching my flight home. A stranger offered to take a photo for me when she saw me trying (badly) to take a selfie with my camera. I am awkward and uncomfortable, and it shows.