Thursday, April 18, 2013

Potential Energy and People.

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition” -Timothy Leary

I was rushing home from work one afternoon. I had a shitload of physics homework that needed to get done, and I was trying to mentally visualize a potential energy problem involving a vertical spring system. Whilst playing with gravity and spring constants, I vaguely heard my name being called.

It was my friend Esther. We were in high school together. Oh my, i think to myself, that was one chick with loads of “potential” energy. I allowed my inner nerd to chuckle. 

Back to Esther. In high school, she was worshiped by everyone! She wrote deep introspective articles, she was great with the computer, incredibly artistic and was always involved in school fundraising functions and talent productions. She even got hired by others schools for her talents.  She, like everyone else in my class, was married by twenty and started her family. Now, while exchanging pleasantries I couldn't help but notice the empty space where her sparkle used to be. She was leaning on a double carriage, and even with the extra pound, she seemed like a shadow of her former self. She works in a local dry goods shop now.

Same thing happened to Goldy who used to do these adorable little comedy bits between (and during) classes. She now sit at a desk and files her father's paperwork. Malky, the former elimination (remember that game?) champion, is now a stay-at-home mom, and never misses an opportunity to  explain how “fulfilling it is to raise such neshomalech”. Chaya Miriam, the genius of the grade, is now grading third grader's math quizzes. All seems content and perhaps even happy with their current life. One can even be right in saying they are happier than me. But there is no doubt that they are not being their happy selves. They bear little to no resemblance to themselves at all. 

It was a particularly painful reminder at a cousin’s 'vort' - engagement- a couple of days before pesach. Her chosson seems like a nice guy, he will probably treat her great and they might be very happy together. So I should just wish her a hearty mazel tov, eat a piece of cake, and shake all the necessary hands. But as I walked into the vort, I had a knot in my stomach, and had to consciously paste a smile on my face. 

My cousin is the youngest of her family . She is probably the smartest of her siblings, has a heart that bleeds for others and is a blond beauty to boot. She also very absent minded, quirky and  has a this greatest sense of humor that is awesomely silly. As I am thinking of her, that knot in my stomach tightens and I remember why I had to work so hard to paste that smile. 

I have watched funny girls, intense girls, artistic girls, geeky girls, loud girls and thoughtful girls morph into a predefined mold. They all become: A mother waiting for buses each morning and discussing the latest recipe, scandal, or sale. I see girls who are meant to be lawyers, business owners, poets, actors, doctors, writers, innovators and educators morph into a predefined role that they never consciously choose. They might be happy in their roles they were molded into, but all I can see is wasted potential and empty, overworked eyes. That is the reason for my knot and pasted smile. 

It scares me to have to watch that happen again to someone close to me. It scared me to think of that spring stuck, stretched and never really released.

I am not advocating for the career path for all the women around me. All I wish for is for them to realize who they are and can potentially be. All I want is for them to realize that they can choose their future. Although I am far from my goals, I feel so lucky that I am actually working towards fulfilling them. It is a constant battle shaping and defining who you are, but there is nothing like the realization of what you truly are capable of. I wish all the bus-waiting women had the opportunity and resources to experience that feeling too.  At the very least, I wish my own flesh and blood were able to wake up and smell their own greatness.


  1. All very true, and very sad indeed. But at least these girls had a few years where they had a chance to explore their true selves, to discover something that lit their fire. What of the boys, who never had that chance, who were told to sit in front of a gemara from before they could even understand the words they were reading?

    1. The Hedyot:

      Goo point about the boys having no opportunity to explore - even if its only those few years the girls et to explore. I agree that boys have no childhood. However, gone they are married their freedom to explore is unparalleled with that of girls. Marriage is essentially a gateway to prison for girls where they pretty much have a choice of only one very specific role to fill, whereas marriage for boys is their ticket to autonomy and independence and countless opportunities to explore, albeit with minimal to zero preparation for that. Put of the two, it is indeed a tough choice to select the better one. Still, it is undoubtedly certainly the women's individuality that is stifled for the sake of perpetuation.

    2. P. s.
      please excuse the typos. My phone was not cooperating here.

  2. All I wish for is that those who do make the choice to pursue a dream different than what their parents and community dreamt for them, at least those should be allowed to pursue their dreams.

  3. How sad so much potential lost--even if they are happy. Frum and fulfilled to all potential need not be a dream denied. Reminds me of a friend's always frum daughter, college professor of math with a PhD and a dozen children. Male or female living up to one's potential need not be had only at the expense of being a Torah observant Jew. (GS)

  4. Mamish hasgochah pratis that Rabbi Fink wrote about a very similar topic today.

  5. Brother Timothy would be having nasty bad trip reading this post. His entire philosophy was about finding happiness and exploring other dimensions of conciousness. He was running away from where you are heading miss iwnbt. Doctors, lawyers, and embossed papers called 'degrees' will NOT actualize your search for meaning and happiness.
    It is a westernized scam; an illusion of importance created by western man.

    Now i get it that you just quoted Timothy as a catchy blurb. However the contradictions you are living in just gushes forth.
    Women, in the eyes of Leary, were foolish for persuing the man made/ labels created by men. They would be much better off seeing through the balogney "right for fullfilment paradigm" western society brainwashed women with.
    "You can take the girl out of beis yakov, but you cant take beis yakov out of the girl"
    You may be right that frum society may be stifling, however your solution will not be found in "shitloads of physics homework".

    Eventually you may come to realize that happiness IS way more important then that "fulfilling your true selves"tantalizing illusion.

    And when you will realize that truth... you might begin viewing chava sara and her happiness from hes cutest neshamelech in a different light.

    Hasidic Hippy

    1. I'll have what you're having buddy!


    2. You are funny! I just used his quote cuz I liked it- I don't have to agree with everything he said.

      Shitloads of physics homework works for me. Doesn't work for everyone. I would love for there to be a drum circle on 13th avenue once in a while for these women who prefer getting their "whatever you are having" on. That would make me very happy actually :)

    3. "Whatever im having" is actually quite unavailable at the 'societal moment' we are currently in.
      But im really glad to have found the 'drum circle on 13th ave' right within my mind. I take it along with me wherever i travel actually.

      And i have grown past associating hippies with drugs. Or fundamentalism with shtreimels....
      after all, i wouldnt want to spend my whole life being stuck; allowing myself to feel happiness only when i reach a certain bar of adapting cultural habits or being 'in' on information so that others will then allow me to 'be myself'.

      I am who i am where i am in my shtreimel or out.
      but again. I get it that self identified 'shtreimels' need to associate hippies with "being on somethings", just like they associate their unhappiness with their shtreimels. Or their hope of finding that magical drum ring on 13th ave...

      Life is too precious to waste it on self discovery through new identies. The new boxes and labels.
      I"ll stick it out in whatever box/label/culture/shtreimel/ the higher power evolved me into and find ways to create meaning, purpose, and happiness for myself in it.

      Hasidic Hippy

  6. You dont know what the hell you are talking about. Hasidic girls are getting college degrees just like you. Walk into any touro graduate program, you will see thousends of beis yakov girls getting degrees including, doctor of physical therapy, occupational therapy, psychology, and education. You are complaining about a problem that doesnt exist!

    1. First: awesome tone... Very productive in conversations...

      Second: a very small percent of chassidic women are getting college degrees, and of the few who are, it is not about careers, or ambitions- its about making that extra few bucks.

      Third- many Bais Yaakov girls are not living up to their potentials either, but I am talking about the chassidish girls- the satmar, bobov, pupa, skver etc....Theses school actively discourage college, and just encourage sticking to the standard mold- the standard equation set forth for women.

      I very much do know what I am talking about :)

  7. Hi!
    So going to college made you happier?
    Have ya read 'the road not taken' by Frost?
    I wonder if somewhere down the line with a life influenced by oh so many nuances, if regret would set in.
    I agree that there are many who would feel more fulfilled by a more secular society, greater education or more person choice. many would be happier if they remained in the dark?