[The Listserve] I will be what I will be?
“Cause we are broken
What must we do to restore our innocence
And all the promise we adored?”
- Hayley Williams
Pretty cliche, right? When I was an angsty teenager I found it profound. Now, burdened with the self-conscious self-awareness of an angsty adult, I proclaim to find it less so. Sometimes, though, I feel stuck. Trapped in my present. Without peace of mind. All those trite feelings of undeveloped existential angst that only a relatively comfortable suburban youth has the privilege to complain about, and which said youth is expected to grow out of with the conferment of adulthood. And in those moments of unbridled pessimism and crushing self-pity, I turn on Paramore’s We Are Broken and stare at my ceiling.
It doesn’t make me feel better, but I don’t expect it to. It feels familiar, though. And more, it’s affirming. Not in the confidence-boosting self-assuring kind of way. But in the kind of way that seeing your family that you’re not so close to and didn’t really miss all that much does, in that it surprises you with hints of comfort as it reaffirms that some things in this world are constant and that, despite the vast loneliness of life’s uncertainty, you exist, as to have parents you must have been born. But most of all, in those moments, I turn to Paramore because that’s what I do. Leead loves Paramore– everyone knows that– and at times, if I want to keep being me, I have to listen to We Are Broken.
But sometimes, when I’m feeling really down, I’m not even sure I want to be me anymore. In those moments, not even Hayley Williams can help me.
I want to be a rabbi to help people. To change the world. To mobilize my community for good. To play out my not-so-secret Messiah complex and test if I really am as special as I think. But in those moments where passion wanes and religious flames fizzle, I push forward on my path because that’s what I do. Leead wants to be a rabbi. Everyone knows that.
I was never really into prayer. I could give you a psycho-theological laundry list of reasons as to why it’s important, but that never really changed my opinion of it. But I pray. I could claim it’s because I’m devoutly religious and feel compelled by some sense of divine imperative that supersedes my personal feelings, but really, it’s just because that’s what I do. Leead prays. Everyone knows that.
The intellectual realm of Judaism is a world that I have always loved. Prayer might not excite me, but an unexplored Talmudic concept does. But what about when it doesn’t? What happens when my past pleasures become present pitfalls? Sometimes I think I’m just not as smart as I used to be. A decade of smartphone use has finally gotten to me. My attention span is shot, my ability for synthesis impaired, and my intellectual peak is behind me. But maybe my intellectualism is alive and well. I’m just not me.
Sometimes, I stand swaying in silent prayer or posed engaged in religious ritual, and I feel a hint of something. It doesn’t make me suddenly feel inspired or passionate, and it’s not some kind of supernatural communion with God. But it’s affirming, in the kind of way that seeing a family member you’re not so close to and didn’t really miss all that much does. For me to worship, He must exist. I must have been born.
So I stare at the ceiling and listen to Paramore. Because that’s what I do.
New York, NY