We have started the month of Elul, which, I read, means "search." Fitting for the month of release and returning, the month of Rosh Hashana, the New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Elul enumerates a process of cleansing and creating goals, of letting go of one year and starting another.
Tonight I attended my first Rosh Chodesh circle at TBE. I brought C with me, but every other woman there was over 40. There were candles in a circle and we introduced ourselves matrilineally, according to the tradition. We also welcomed into the circle women who were on our minds, but not physically present. We shared our goals for the coming year and we talked about the year that we're leaving behind. I told them what happened last year on Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat before Rosh Hashana.
TBE always holds Shabbat Shuva at the beach. There's something about the end of summer, a bonfire, and the crashing ocean that is perfect for the final Shabbat of the retiring year. I was sitting in the dark listening to the ocean during silent meditation when it hit me. I don't have to be a grad student. Wave upon wave of relief, joy, sadness, and crushing raw emotion. I felt free.
I promised myself on that night that if I couldn't do grad school healthfully, I couldn't do grad school at all. And, as promised, I finished my school year and I have not applied to new programs. I'm working at Hillel, giving back to the community that was always the one space where I never had to be anything but what I am.
Part of me was concerned about losing that space. I mean, it's enough, hoping that I can help create that for someone else. But I was still searching for a Jewish space where I don't have to perform anything - a space where I can just be.
I found that tonight at the TBE Rosh Chodesh circle. I'm so glad they meet each month. I'm looking forward to this. I will make time for it, even after I start my own Rosh Chodesh circle for the students. This one, this time, it's for me.