Monday, December 3, 2012

Social Interaction, Ready or Not

Two more weeks... dear, sweet Lord.

Two more weeks and I'll be done with this awful, stupid semester, and it'll be behind me forever. Yeah, there are grades, but at this point I'm not thinking about them. My entire world has become a tiny snowglobe. Except instead of snow, there are papers and textbooks and trying to fit the chaos of my brain into twelve, somehow legible, pages examining Jewish Mysticism, or Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, or the history of the Jewish community, or Winston Churchill's relationship to the Jews.

Two more weeks!

So someone explain to me why I've met more people in this past week than I have in the past year. I have my own theories.

One is a line straight from the epic religious debate with a stranger I wrote about yesterday. When the topic verged onto the changing of society, aka, can we really make changes in how the Modern Orthodox community functions now? (The topic, I believe was Agunot and possible actions the Orthodox community could take to solve this problem.) He wondered, is society ready to make a change?

To which I responded, if you're going to wait for everyone to feel perfectly ready, you're never going to take a step. That applies to legislature, social reform, religious topics, even one person's life (and I do not mean cases of 'my child is not ready to start kindergarten' or 'convince your girlfriend she's ready to go one more step when she's not.' In those places, you definitely need to wait). When change comes, you're never ready for it. It just happens, and you find out afterward if you were ready or not.

Sometimes, it turns out you weren't, but successfully coping allows you to catch up. Other times, you retreat back into your proverbial hidey-hole and deny, deny, deny. And if you're going to do that, expect life to chomp you on the butt later. That's all I'm saying.

So, I had a vague plan. I'm like that. I plan everything. If I could plan my life to the minute, it would take me some self control not to. Truthfully, the idea of planning life has of late become exhausting and unfulfilling, so I've largely stopped, but that doesn't stop me from planning the remainder of this stupid, stupid semester.

Two more weeks!

"I will write my paper on this day, finish by this time, after which I'll take a break to Skype with this person, and then clean my kitchen..." HAH.

It never does seem to work that way. I had planned to spend this last weekend reading all Shabbat in order to write and finish a paper on Saturday night and Sunday. Instead, someone told me: "I'm coming to visit you on this weekend. It's the only available Shabbat I've got. Can you host a meal?"

Now, I hadn't hosted a real meal, one I actually cooked and cleaned and prepared for, since July, that far off little castle-on-a-cloud that no longer exists. I didn't feel ready to get back into being all hostess-y. I wasn't ready for the effort, the socializing, the inviting, the coordinating dropping off tables and chairs.

But this was the only weekend, and they were coming to visit me. So I agreed, readiness be damned.

I cooked, I cleaned, I invited a large number of people, equal parts usual friends and new people, even one or two strangers. The ironic part is that the person who asked me to host later cancelled on me, but by then I'd invited the guests and bought the meat for the stew, so I was going through with this meal original intent or not.

And it was awesome. It was up there with some of the best meals I've ever thrown. I made some new friends and met some interesting people. And I pushed off my reading for Shabbat morning. Saturday night, I got invited out to go ice-skating with friends and a whole group of strangers. I went. I got invited to a near-stranger's birthday celebration. I attended.

And on Sunday, I finished my reading. And then I met a stranger and had an awesome debate. And then I sat down to write my paper. And then I hosted a leftovers dinner for a small group.

And then I wrote some more of that paper. It was there waiting for me; it didn't go away.

Now, would I have done any of these things if, say, the paper was due this morning? Heck, no. But the paper's due at the end of this week. And I know that I will get it done. All it really takes is deciding that I will finish it, and I know for a fact that I will.

That's usually all it takes.

You aren't always ready for the next step. Sometimes it comes at you unexpectedly, and turns out great. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes all it takes to "be ready" is deciding that you are, even if two seconds ago, you weren't. Again, this doesn't apply to everything, but when it does, it gets pretty interesting. Sometimes the circumstances are smarter than we are.

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