When I think about who I am at this moment, I don’t think about growing up in New Jersey my whole life. I don’t think about my parents and how I have lost them both. I don’t think about my younger sister, my lifelong love of theater and books, and my academic and professional backgrounds. I don’t think about my relationship to Judaism, or my age, or my being a woman, wife, and mother of twin sons. What I think about is how I’ve been trying, over the past fifteen months, to examine and embrace these parts of myself and let them occupy the space in my mind that was formerly overrun with fear and pressure.
For years, I existed under a veil of anxiety. It blanketed my thirties and stretched into my forties, becoming heavier with each passing year. That burden obscured the good things in my life, exhausted me, and left little room in my brain for anything other than worry. When the pandemic came along, my anxiety became distilled, concentrated, so that the veil began to smother me, and I could see that my life as I was living it was unsustainable. This revelation led me to walk away from a secure and predictable teaching career a little over a year ago. And, just a little over a year ago, I also began the project of crawling out from under that veil and reclaiming myself.
In my old life, I had no room for art, or beauty, or self-expression. Now, I am consciously carving out time for these things. In order to write this blog post, for example, I had to orchestrate a block of time in my house without my husband practicing his guitar, my one son practicing his drums, or my other son wandering into the room to talk to me about Dungeons & Dragons. I had to ignore piles of laundry and stop thinking about how I forgot to buy eggs at the grocery store this morning. I have managed it (hooray!) because I’m prioritizing moments that enhance my life, to go toward rather than through. I am actively attempting to reawaken parts of myself that have been dormant for years. This graduate program is part of my attempt to make room in my life for art, beauty, and self-expression, enhance my skills, and take a look at the world beyond the veil.
So, what does my world look like now? In January of this year, I began a fulfilling (but not all-consuming) job at Kean working with high school students taking classes on campus in their senior year. In the spring of this year, I performed in a full-length play for the first time in almost twenty years. I spend more time with my twin sons and my husband (we’re working our way through The Simpsons in the evenings). I read books. I eat better. I check in with friends. I accept social invitations. And, with equal gusto, I do my homework for my Writing Theory and Practice class on my nascent journey to a master’s degree.