Tuesday, March 5, 2013

So Much Can Change in Two Years

Being unemployed, my life often feels like Groundhog Day. I don't always keep up with the date, and I count myself lucky if I know the day of the week. (And that's probably only because of Shabbat.) Because of this, I almost missed the significance of Sunday, March 3. Two years ago, this day changed my life in ways I never expected.

When I started this blog in October 2010, I was a full-time law student with three jobs and working on the Law Review. Less than six months later, one of the two closest friends I'd had by that point in my life passed away, just as he was helping me plan a whole new life in New York City (where he was originally from). 

The two weeks after his death were one of the lowest points of my life, though there is stiff competition for that title. After Ilan's passing, the "truth" came out about the rabbinical issues I didn't even know I had. A bully tried to ruin my life and any chance I had of converting. Thankfully, I had already planned to leave that part of my life and start anew in New York, but that doesn't mean it hurt any less.

Less than two months after that, I graduated law school and moved from CA to NY. Me, two boxer dogs, a 3-legged cat, and everything I owned in a sedan. I hadn't even seen my new apartment before I moved in. Thankfully, I was now living about 15 minutes from my best friend, but other than her, I didn't know anyone. It was the best chance I ever took, and I've started from scratch several times in my life. Ilan's friends knew that he had planned to help me acclimate to the community he had left, so they stepped up and took me in. I experienced more kindness from strangers in my first year in NY than I have experienced in my whole life. 

That support was needed when the poor economy kept me unemployed for almost a year. Eventually, I found a job I loved, and six months later, the economy stuck again...causing me to be laid off. Another 8 months of unemployment later, I'm not sure that I ever see myself practicing law. Thankfully, I'm ok with that, and I've found a field that can include law, but more importantly, will make me happy on a regular basis. Two years, and only 6 months of employment. Oy. This is a hard blow to the self-esteem for anyone, but I've always worked at least 2 jobs since the age of 19. I haven't taken it so well.

But while the professional side hasn't gone as well as I had hoped, my personal life has changed so much in two years that it's hardly recognizable. 

Based on estimates I received from my old conversion "situation," I couldn't expect to be converted before turning 30. At the time when I moved to NY, I was 27. Today, I'm 28, converted, and married. From zero to 60 in 18 months.

Two years ago, I had lost one of the two best friends I'd ever had. I was stomped upon by every person involved in my conversion up to that point. I feared I would now be blackballed from the RCA conversion courts. And I still had to finish my law school finals and coordinate a cross-country move with three pets. There was a lot of crying, needless to say.

I came to New York in the summer, and the rabbis weren't around for the conversion court over the summer. I finally got things rolling when the school year began and I had finished the bar exam, and I had to deal with the investigation of the accusations against me. I was asked to undergo a psychiatric evaluation. I had no expectation of converting before 30. And I was unemployed and quickly running out of money. Things were bad. 

When Chanukah came, I was in very bad spirits. My roommate reassured me that it's always darkest before the light. While she was right anyway, she was proven partially-psychic when the approval for my conversion came erev Shabbat Chanukah. I expected several more beit din meetings ahead of me, so I was shocked by the news.

Come January, I was converted. I didn't know what to do with myself. We had parties, but I wasn't ready to start dating. I got the much-loved job in February. By the time of the year anniversary of Ilan's death, things in my life were so much better than I could have ever hoped for. I felt like my life had undergone a 180 degree change.

A week later, I met my husband through Ilan's mother. 

Now, at the two year anniversary of Ilan's death, I realize how much a life can change in just two years. And quite honestly, I think I'm ready for it to slow down. It's surprising to me how life continues after tragedies. Life goes on, except for those who know the sad events of years past. I suppose we're all that person at least once or twice a year.

But, because my life resembles Groundhog Day, I didn't know the date. I knew it was coming, but I mixed up the days. I unknowingly spent Sunday in a very happy way: spending time with nearly-free books, my new husband, Doctor Who, and a comfy couch. The happy moments of normal life, a life that wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't known Ilan Tokayer...and then befriended his family. 

Gd works in mysterious ways indeed. How can the happiest and saddest parts of a life be so intertwined? So much has happened to me in two years that I'm both excited and frightened of what the next two years might hold. If you're having similar rock-bottom situations, be comforted by how quickly the positive can be revealed or created. 

May 2013 be a year of revealed good.


  1. Best wishes for a year of little change! :)

    It would be interesting to know just how many conversion candidates have to move in order to complete their conversions...I'm betting the percentage is rather high. In any case, it sounds like a tumultuous 2 years and that you are getting some much-needed respite from it.

  2. Beautiful and honest post. I recently discovered your blog. I'm currently experiencing a similar situation. Unemployed, feeling lost, personal life isn't that swell either, etc. But,as they say "hope is the thing with feathers..." Thank you for sharing your experience. Oh, and congrats on your conversion! May G-d continue to bless you and yours.
    I would also love it if you checked out my blog for the 20-something Jewish woman. It's a fashion and lifestyle site and I hope you'll like it.

  3. I'm sorry for your loss two years ago, but your friend lives on in your's and now our memories. His legacy of kindness will not be forgotten. Thankyou for sharing him with us.

    Right now I find myself in a difficult place, as I have been unemployed for almost two years. Due to medical issues finding a job I can physically do is tough enough, finding one that will hire me in this economy is even tougher. If I had a job by now, I would be living near a Shul and already on my way towards conversion.

    I hope two years from now I can look back at all this with a smile and a "thank you HaShem" for keeping me going. May HaShem bless you for your words of encouragement.

  4. What kind of accusations did they have against you? My guess is those accusations are against everyone and they're bogus.

    I'm also having a hard time with rabbis, after 2 years in the process, they want 1-2 more years and really, I've been doing everything, but they don't know what to invent anymore.

  5. I'm glad that your situation has changed so much for the better. I'm also going through hard times including an employment element(although not quite the same as yours); while the financial hardships of unemployment and the independence and self-esteem issues that often go with them are undeniable, I try to tell myself that society is wrong to place so much of a person's worth on their career status: one's relationships and interactions with other people and with G-d are more important; a career is just one way of interacting with others among many. I hope things continue to improve for you.

    On a positive note: good to find another frum Doctor Who fan! You might be interested in this semi-serious post I wrote for Purim on one of my blogs many years ago.

  6. Hi Kochava,

    Could you cover up job related issues such as being shomer shabbat in a legal firm, covering one's hair (wig/hat) and tznius in general..

  7. This gives me hope that, regardless of what is happening right now, hakol oveir, and gam zu l'tovah. I'm so sorry for your loss, but may things continue to go in such a positive direction (with time to breathe also!).

    - Chana, giyoret-in-training.

  8. You know, I read this when you published it, and I found it very sweet then, but today, it really spoke to me. In the last two weeks, my entire life has gone from on-track and exactly how I wanted it to what feels like rock-bottom. I really need to believe in the light coming after this darkness, so thank you for this bit of testimony.