BY RACHEL LAVICTOIRE /ajt//
This week, my alarm woke me at the following times: 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 8:50 a.m., 11 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. Come Saturday, I slept until 2:30 p.m.
On Mondays, I have class from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., but on Thursdays, I just have one class – Management 100 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. And on Wednesdays, I’m away from my dorm from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m., though on Tuesdays, I spend almost my whole day here.
I mention these scheduling details to highlight the inconsistencies that fill my life. Some days, I’m overwhelmed with things to do; other days I’m bored. Some days, I get too much sleep, and on other days, not enough.
I’m sure you too experience variation. All this change and the emotional swings that can come with it move about from hour-to-hour and sometimes even minute-to-minute.
This past Friday, for example, I woke up at 8:20 a.m. after having gone to bed at 3:30 the night before. At the first sound of my alarm, I was angry and hit the snooze button. I was back asleep in 30 seconds.
Five minutes later, the chime went off again, and this time I was filled with more of a determined frustration. I got up, washed my face, brushed my teeth and put in my contacts. I threw on some comfy clothes and a light layer of makeup.
I packed my bag, went to the dining hall, and immediately unpacked it. I was in a frenzy that left me with a racing heart, frazzled brain and eyes that darted from study sheet to study sheet. At 9:54 a.m., I threw everything back in my bag and walked over to my exam.
With a deep breath, I put my bag in a cubby and tried to relax. I then spent the next hour-and-a-half jumping between confidence and frustration as I shuffled through 50 multiple choice questions. Finally, at 11:30, I was overcome with relief – it was over.
The rest of the day continued in a similarly up-and-down fashion: By noon I was bored, but 50 minutes later I beamed with joy at the sight of a good grade. I was engaged during my management class, then annoyed while setting up for a concert.
At last, I went back to my dorm around 4 p.m. Exhaustion from sleep deprivation kicked in, and I took a nap for over two hours.
I suppose there are some people who thrive off of an ever-changing schedule, who enjoy spontaneity and variation; but that’s not me. I like schedules and lists. I like to know what’s happening on any given day and prepare for it accordingly. Obviously, though, many things happen in our lives that are out of our control.
In a comic and somewhat random way, I tend to link this chaos with the “blob,” a very large inflatable balloon that has become a staple of summer camp water play. It works thusly: Camper A sits on one end of it and waits patiently while Camper B climbs up a nearby ladder for Camper B to jump on the balloon and send Camper A for a short but fun flight.
It’s that brief time in the air that often reminds me of life’s unpredictability. The instant your body is thrown from the blob, you instinctively start thrashing about – your legs flail aimlessly, and your arms swing in circles in an effort to keep your body in a vertical position as you hope to avoid a belly flop into the lake.
It’s like you’re trying to grab onto nothing, praying that, in that split second, something will save you from an embarrassing smack and a tomato-colored stomach.
We do this, in a manner of speaking, every day: You may not realize it, but each of us swings our arms in circles, searching for consistencies to keep us sane. Maybe you eat the same thing for breakfast everyday or go to the gym at the same time. Maybe you call your best friend, or maybe you just take time to scroll through your Pinterest for some “you” time.
In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, G-d recognizes that human need for consistency. In the portions preceding, the Israelites fled from Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, wandered through Sinai, were given the Ten Commandments, received the Torah and built a sanctuary. And only a short while before all this, the Israelites lives were filled with turmoil and agonizing manual labor.
Now, they are a people united under one G-d, with laws, leaders and purpose. Their lives have changed completely, and although the change is obviously for the better, G-d recognizes that it may still be unsetting.
Thus, the parsha begins with G-d’s instruction to Moses:
“And you shall command the children of Israel, and they shall take to you pure olive oil, crushed for lighting, to kindle lamps continually. In the Tent of Meeting, outside the dividing curtain that is in front of the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall set it up before the Lord from evening to morning; it shall be an everlasting statue for their generations, from the children of Israel” (Exodus 27: 20-21).
This light is kindled forever – in times of war and in times of peace, in times of loss and in times of celebration. And while it’s no longer a physical light, today it can still be found in the warmth of the Jewish people.
We can all take solace knowing that, no matter what emotion we are consumed with at any given time, we have people in our lives to rely on – a rabbi, a teacher, a best friend. They’re all part of our community, our everlasting light.
Rachel LaVictoire (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a graduate of the Davis Academy and Westminster High School, recipient of the prestigious Nemerov Writing and Thomas H. Elliott Merit scholarships at Washington University of St. Louis and an active member of Temple Emanu-El and the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta.