The Almost-Awesome Pond [Revised]

You know how I’ve been complaining about Current Location? How the Jewish community here hasn’t come back post-pandemic? How, forget small pond Jewish community vs. big pond Jewish community – I’d love to just be a fish in a pond instead of a burnt-out piece of coral in a dried-up once-was pond?

Well, we found a pond. An arguably extremely awesome pond. We spent an unquestionably awesome Shabbat there. [Which, given the challenges of spending Shabbat in another community in the pandemic/post-pandemic (whatever you call this) world, is itself kind of miraculous.]

Future self-portrait? Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

Then, after said Shabbat, Husband brought up some points about said pond that were not-so-awesome. I blew up at him. We’d had an unquestionably awesome Shabbat! How could he ruin this for me!

Then Husband clarified, saying (paraphrased) “I thought this pond was pretty awesome too – in fact, this place is probably a better fit for me than for you, and I was just looking out for you.” I found this response somewhat suspicious, but to his credit, Husband is game to move, even ready to make an offer on a house in this place. I should have been thrilled, given how much I have riding on this.

And now, now that we’re talking actual money, and now that Husband has moved on from his doubts of “Is this pond really as awesome as we think it is?” I find myself questioning it, the seeds of doubt he planted earlier that I yelled at him for now taking root.

Hence, I needed to write this post to process.

The Awesome

Vibrant, Active Egalitarian Community

Plenty of people showed up at services. Lots of lay-led participation. Fully egalitarian. Awesome rabbi. I mean, it totally fit the bill. And like, it was the kind of place with enough activity on Shabbat that Husband and I could both imagine ourselves going back to real Shabbat observance again in this place.

Community COVID Comfort

I’ve made no secret of the fact that my COVID risk-tolerance has been on the high side from the beginning. To be clear, I’ve been vaccinated, got COVID, got the booster, wear a mask in any setting whenever it’s required or requested without complaint. But I’ve been ready to get on with normal life and I want to live in a place where Jewish communal life is effectively back to normal.

The COVID case count rates in Current Location and Potential New Pond are approximately the same. However, in Current Location, everyone is way more cautious about everything. In Potential New Pond, people are living life. Going to services. Eating indoors – I forgot to mention, this place had a proper kiddush served indoors. Inviting each other to eat Shabbat meals indoors. You wouldn’t even know there’d been a pandemic. I can hypothesize various factors that may account for the difference, and I’m not going to delve into this here because I want to anonymize these locations. But at the end of the day, I care more about what the experience is vs. what’s driving it. And this new place was like, pretty much normal.

Walkable

Unlike the previous post about a house in a different vibrant, active egalitarian community, finding a place to live within a reasonable, safe, comfortable walk seems feasible. Granted, of course I went and fell in love with an absolutely gorgeous house that was further away, which is annoying. Husband was smart enough to fall in love with a slightly less, but overall still quite gorgeous house that was closer. Look, I’ve made no secret of the fact that Husband is the smart one in this marriage.

The Not-So-Awesome

The Not-So-Awesome. Image by Tumisu, please consider ☕ Thank you! 🤗 from Pixabay

Synagogue Programming

I missed this point when I published this post earlier. The Shabbat services themselves were awesome. There were other aspects of the way this synagogue runs its programming that bugged me.

  1. The educational programs for adults did not appeal to me at all
  2. They did a lot of “age group” based programming. Eg. “For 20s and 30s“, “For young families”, “For Baby Boomers”, etc.

To be fair, I don’t care for the educational program in Current Location either, so that’s a wash. And this pond certainly isn’t the only one that does the whole program-by-age-group thing. And practically speaking, I get the appeal. But philosophically, I dislike the practice because I fundamentally believe that synagogues should be places where we form multigenerational communal bonds. I also think, and this is a controversial opinion, that in the long-term, this doesn’t actually engage and retain young people – more on that in a future post.

Young Parents

This pond is one that attracts a lot of young parents.

Husband (who, for the record, is older than me), thinks he is a young person with plenty of time to become a parent and he has a great deal of optimism about this. (Personally, I think Normally-The-Smart-One Husband is kind of an idiot on this point.) So Husband views the presence of so many young parents is a huge bonus.

I’ve never viewed young people as a Jewish community selling point generally. And you know how I feel about young parents. And in spite of my misleading blogger handle, I do not think of myself as young. (Don’t worry, I am Jewish! I haven’t completely misled you! “Professional” is kind of subjective though…) But Potential New Pond has a lot of Young Parents. Young parents who are way more sociable than the Young Parents of Current Location (and there are reasons I won’t get into here for that). Young parents, a couple of whom I realized I already knew and still liked. Young parents who were super excited to meet us and hang out with us without making us befriend their children. But still. Young Parents.

If having children actually materializes, this will be a wonderful place to be. If it doesn’t happen, this will be hell. Although it’s not like there’s another place that would be a massive improvement should we not have children.

Rich People

Skip this part if you don’t like tone-deaf first-world problems. In Current Location, we are at about the same socio-economic strata as our peers. In Potential New Pond, there will be people who are considerably richer than us. As a general rule, I don’t love socializing with people richer than me. I always imagine them looking down on me for not making more lucrative career decisions even though I actually do alright for someone bad at goal-setting. I don’t judge or look down on people who make less money than I do. But I can never shake the feeling that the richer people around me will not extend me the same courtesy.

I know, this is a non-problem. I should at least be focused on legitimate issues like whether we can afford to live in Potential New Pond and if the market is better or worse. I should stop first-world whining about imaginary problems like the supposed thoughts of rich people.

Potential New Pond also makes me wonder, in a way that does not feel good at all, how the seemingly not-rich-peers of Potential New Pond make their finances work. I have met enough rich and not-rich people to know that looks can be awfully deceiving, but still. And I do not like the fact that my mind is thinking this way and I don’t even live in Potential New Pond yet.

If You’re Depressed Here…

When I first started therapy, I talked about feeling depressed. Even with my life overall pleasant, there were a lot of circumstantial things I was unhappy about – job, marriage, living situation (both location and physical space.) I made the point to my therapist that I couldn’t tell if changing those things would indeed make me feel happier and less depressed or if I would still feel depressed even after changing them. She acknowledged this.

For better or worse, we both wound up totally ignoring this insight and instead, it wound up being all about changing shit. I got a new job. It didn’t help. Then I got another new job. (I might not have picked the right career path nor am I all that good at my job to be honest, but I am very good at convincing people I’m good at my job.) Of course, I didn’t change everything. I’m still married to Husband (things kind of improved.) I stayed in the same location/apartment (things did not improve at all.)

This isn’t really a reflection about Potential New Pond. It’s more that, while I can think of ways in which living in Potential New Pond would make me a lot happier (The awesome synagogue! The post-COVID normalcy!) I can also see ways in which I’d be just as miserable, if not more so, surrounded by young parents and richer people. The truth is if you’re depressed here, you can be depressed anywhere.

***

Enough rambling. This went on longer and got darker than I’d intended.

44 comments

  1. It sounds like new pond is less stagnant, and has better smelling fish. I’ve heard the social strata thing is a much bigger deal about who mixes with who is some parts of the country. It’s not that big of a deal out here, but you also touched on a point about looks are not always reality between apparently rich and apparently poorer people. I might think being in the mix of young families would be more of a social issue than dealing with plain old run of the mill social strata. But I’m am from a completely different cultural background. And basically being hermits, social status makes little difference to us.

    We have a young family with five kids who live on the property just north of us. The rest of the people around us are our age or older. We live in what has become an expensive, rich area. So most of our neighbors who have two to four acres pay people to mow their lawns the should not have and blow leaves from one side of the property one day and blow the leaves to the other side of the property the next, making lots of noise and dust in the process. The sound of kids screaming and laughing while they play is so welcome compare the the constant noise of mowers and leaf blowers.

    I think the new house in a new pond would probably help your depression a lot. More space and a place you can call your own is very empowering. You can make it “you” and it gives you a place to look forward to getting back to after a day at work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think all of us fish smell about the same, but yeah, new pond seems a lot less stagnant. For me, it’s less about who mixes with who and more that, outside of professional networking where you kinda have to suck up to the more successful, richer people, I just don’t love spending lots of time with people more successful/richer than I am. But you’re right that I enjoy spending time with young parents even less so that could really prove a problem. I will say that these parents seem different (and dare I say, better) than the young parents of Current Location, but I definitely have my reservation. Still, none of these choices are in a vacuum and it’s not as if Current Location is a massive improvement (I do know more non-parents in Current Location, but they can be shitty too. One of my few non-parent friends excluded me from something I would have really enjoyed so now I kinda hate her.) The question is really if there’s another awesome pond with a better balance of young parents (to make Weirdly Optimistic Husband happy), non-parents (to make me, the eternal pessimist happy), rich people and non-rich people, and that still has the awesome egalitarian community.

      The sound of the mowers and blowers is really annoying.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Let us know what you decide. Not an easy decision to make, I can see, but it looks as though the new location has a few advantages whereas you don’t mention any about your present place. I’ll just say that I have taken numerous leaps like this–to date, 8 of them, and I’ve never regretted even one.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. hey jyp, you sure have a knack for over thinking things. it’s great your relationship is improving. it’s great you can identify the drags on your life, and now you are even hinting kids are a (remote?) possibility. you are on a roll. in the context of the very little I know about you and your life I would say – keep it going and move on.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I hope things improve for you. A change is as good as a rest they say. I hope you make some good friends in your new community. But that won’t happen overnight. But get involved. Do what you enjoy: try things out. You don’t have to continue with everything. Enjoy the changes and enjoy your husband. He certainly seems to enjoy you

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah. Therapist did make the point that maybe it was worth trying to change some of these circumstances. I think she wasn’t wrong in the sense that what was the point of staying in a job I wasn’t crazy about. But in retrospect, I think we should have both considered how to become less depressed independently of circumstances

      Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds positive overall. Obviously only you can decide the weighting of those positives and negatives. The shul programming by age is annoying, but would someone throw you out for being too old (or too young)?

    The “would I still be depressed” question is bigger, but, if you’re going to be depressed anyway, wouldn’t you rather be depressed in a more enjoyable setting?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Actually yes. I chose the week to visit because they were having a Shabbat lunch program for Boomers and I thought, “well, we are charming; they won’t turn us away if we’re willing to pay for Shabbat lunch and hang out with the Boomers” – and they totally did! It worked out for the better because they set us up with “fellow young people” for lunch and we had a great time, but still, conceptually it bothered me

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You said a mouthful with “The truth is if you’re depressed here, you can be depressed anywhere.” Not many people recognize that you usually bring your baggage (whatever that may be) with you.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It’s such a tricky question. I tend to be a church hopper, always looking for the next best thing. I realized this the other day when I found myself planning to skip Mass at my usual church (which I go to because I starting skipping going to the church that I started skipping another church for which I had gone to because I skipped a different denomination) in order to go to Mass followed by a birthday party with some church-goer friends. So yeah, I don’t have any good answers on this one. Have you made any friends yet, friends that you can honestly talk about faith with? I find having a core group of people to whom I can just say anything I believe because they won’t think I’m crazy is really refreshing in this world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s awesome that you have a core group of friends with whom you wish you could say anything to! It is a really rare and incredible thing.

      I don’t really have friends I can discuss this with at present. I do have a husband, with whom I’ve had both productive and unproductive conversations. (Contrary to what my blog would imply, not every conversation we have ends in an argument that I probably started.) But I don’t feel like I have friends with whom I can openly discuss the question of a potential move yet. Hence, as a blogger-friend, you get all the joy of these rants and rambles!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This was interesting. We joined our local temple earlier this year, and I found myself shaking my head at some of your observations even though your age and “pond” are so different from ours (my wife and I are in our sixties). We joined because we wanted to meet more people in the community, and we’re hoping we’ll be able to make some friends. My only worry is that our temple has too many people our age — it’d be nice to see more younger people! I hope things improve for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope it works out well in your new temple community and that you make new friends!

      To be honest, I’m in my thirties and I don’t really get the mystical appeal of young people to Jewish communities. I mean, I get it, but like, in my experience, the younger people are not more friendly or welcoming (the older folks are much friendlier), and they aren’t the ones who volunteer or really help sustain the community.

      Thanks, I hope things improve too.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Someone once told me if I wasn’t happy, I had exactly two options: change my circumstances, or change my attitude. Or, in the context of employment, as one of my supervisors once told all of us during a gripe session, “McDonalds is hiring.”
    Or Buddhism, I suppose.
    I used to struggle with this all the time. Not so much now that I’m retired and 1.) don’t have much going on to be unhappy about, and 2.) not as energetic, so it’s easier to just not care. All I learned from working, and from marriage, I guess, too, is that the biggest contributor to stress and/or depression is a lack of control. But who has control? My personal solution, back in the old days, was to “change my circumstances.” It works, but you have to keep moving.
    Anyway, this is just me. I hope you resolve this, or at least move in the right direction, which I’m sure you can.

    Liked by 1 person

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