I have essentially moved back in with my parents. I had to give a month’s notice on the flat, so I’m technically still renting for another three and a bit weeks, but I was so lonely and depressed there, and the noise and smells from the building works next door were so disruptive, that I’ve moved a lot of my stuff back and am sleeping here. If I’m not working, I don’t see the need to be woken up at 7.30am by builders.
I keep thinking about ways my life could have gone differently in all kinds of ways. Just one example: I do wonder what would have happened if I had gone to yeshiva (rabbinical seminary) for a gap year the way I was ‘supposed’ to (i.e. the way the Jewish Studies teachers at my school expected me to do without ever saying anything to encourage me or help me choose one). Eva said on one of my previous posts about this that I would have found yeshiva too extrovert and conformist. I feel that that’s kind of the point, that it would have made me conform, so I actually fitted in to my religious community rather than sticking out from it (or, I suppose, pushed me into rebellion and secularism, although I don’t really see that as a positive). Anyway, a more modern yeshiva might not have been so conformist.
I guess I feel that if I want to be accepted as part of the community, which includes being set up on dates with suitable women (if there are any left, which I very much doubt), I need to conform to the community’s rules: go to minyan more often, learn more Torah, especially Talmud, go to yeshiva, don’t have any unusual interests, dance on Simchat Torah even if I can’t stand it… If I don’t conform, I can hardly be surprised when I have no close friends in the community and am not really noticed or helped. I feel that I should have let myself be ‘brainwashed’ into conformity like so many of my peers when I was in my late teens/early twenties. Then I would have a community, friends, a wife, children, things to talk about to them, like so many of my peers who I run into. The self-esteem that comes from being accepted in a community and having friends and family around me. If I had higher self-esteem, I probably would find it easier to get a job – plus I would probably have been like all the other frum men and got a boring job in accountancy or whatever rather than an unusual job with few prospects and difficulty being frum with it. I might never have got depressed, or never realised that I was depressed (as I have probably been mildly depressed since my early teens). Now I have my individuality, but I’m lonely and miserable and I hate myself. I’m not sure that I got a good deal.
I don’t even know what frum (religious) men are allowed to be interested in. When I try to listen in to other people’s conversations at shul (synagogue) or before shiur (religious class) starts, it’s usually about sport, sometimes about work or politics. Occasionally about something religious. That’s about it. I guess they make ‘small talk’. My Dad is big on small talk. I find it confusing and irritating (one of my introvert/Aspie traits) and when he tries it on me, I find myself getting confused, bored and/or irritable very quickly.
Note: I wrote the previous two paragraphs before lunch. A few hours later, I had been reminded of many of the negative aspects of conformity in parts of the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox) world, from opposition to secular studies, to anti-vaccine campaigning, to the ostracising of ‘outsiders’ and refusal to believe that ‘insiders’ (particularly rabbis) can have done wrong, even in the face of evidence and confessions. So, maybe it’s not such a bad thing to be an outsider. I guess really I would like it if there was a more vibrant Modern Orthodox movement in this country, as there is in Israel and the USA. Here the centrist United Synagogue is rather stodgy and middle aged and, more to the point, it’s seats are largely filled by people whose relationship to Judaism is traditional and by rote at best, rather than passionately and diligently observant. But moving to the US would be very difficult, as would moving to Israel, albeit for very different reasons.
I glanced through the latest magazine from CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals, of which I am a member. It was filled with stuff about becoming a chartered librarian and going to CILIP conferences… all stuff I ought to be doing, but which I find scary from a low self-esteem and social anxiety/Aspie viewpoint (ditto for going to Doctor Who conventions, which might be good for my writing career). Perhaps fortunately, I have just made an appointment with a career advisor for next month. I suppose I should have been an academic, had I been rather more gifted and substantially less mentally ill. I hate this whole business of selling myself, whether for a job or a relationship. It’s hard to sell oneself when one loathes oneself. I have discovered that LinkedIn can be as depressing as Facebook for seeing one’s peers doing much better than you, but I summoned up the courage to ‘connect’ with someone who I did my librarianship MA with, on the grounds that she was very clever and has probably done well in her career and therefore is a good contact to have. I feel mercenary.
Anyway, I applied for a couple of jobs. One I’m over-qualified for, the others under-qualified, but I decided to go with them anyway. I’m not sure if there’s not a lot out there or if I’m just not looking in the right places, or taking too negative a view of my skills and abilities. Someone said I’m not in control of my life, which is true. I feel like a child so much of the time, a rather anxious and timid child with poor social skills and perhaps autism. I don’t know how to take control of my life. I’m sure it would solve a lot of my problems if I could (career, friendship, community, marriage). But I just don’t know how one becomes an independent adult. It’s as if, while I was always academically gifted, beyond a certain point I just failed to learn social skills and, later, career skills. I wonder again if there’s any point in pursuing yet another autism assessment. I don’t know.