Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Brain Drain

Looking back at the many friends I have who've spent a year or so learning in Yeshiva, one of the phenomenon I've noted is that many of the most "successful" ones seem to have done so at the expense of their personalities. I prided myself on retaining my uniqueness even while gaining a new appreciation and committment to a full-dose religious lifestyle. But as with all attempts to write off everyone more extreme than yourself (because of course, I'm "centrist"), I think I overlooked my own flaws in a misguided attempt to pat myself on the back.

Some of the funniest guys in high school, with the craziest stories, are the ones sitting in Kollel today. We joke when we get together that since they've done Teshuva, we can't bring up their stories, no matter how much harder it may make the rest of us crack up. As proud as I was of their turnaround and choice to lead a positive lifestyle, I always felt like they had compromised in their attempt to retain their fervor, by letting their unique personality fall by the wayside as they progressed. Wasn't it a shame that they could no longer entertain the neighborhood youth, and with the entertainment went their influence? A shame that they couldn't find the happy medium, like myself, and had to run off the extreme.

But a conversation I had this week made me realize how much I've changed too, albeit in more subtler ways. The rediculous, often inappropriate side of me? Still intact and thriving. But in molding a lifestyle that fits with my evolved outlook on life, I've denied myself a lot of normal, fun things. I've framed a very rigid model for my life, my goals, and how I spend my time. I'm certain people look at me as an ascetic hermit, who gave up many normal lifecycle activities after spending time in a foreign fanatical seminary, not too unlike my hatted friends.

Do a couple of dirty jokes make me better than the tamed Beis Medrash guy? Should I re-evaluate my extra-Halachic lifestyle restrictions? Or is it time for me to give up my outrageous one-liners? Or perhaps I'm perfect just the way I am...

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