Sunday, September 6, 2009

Familiar Faces

I just spent my first Shabbos ever in the Heights.

In some ways, I liked it much better than I thought I would. I was incredibly nervous to stay in for the first time - and alone. None of my apartment mates were in for Shabbos. After the last one left, I really felt emptiness settle in over the apartment. It wasn't like being alone at home - the Heights is still very new to me. It was like being alone in a new environment.

When I first realized that I was going to be alone in the apartment and that a lot of people were going home this weekend, I was sorely tempted to do the same. It would be easier. I wouldn't have to agonize over finding meals (which were hard to come by, since most people were not going to be in the Heights), and I wouldn't have to face the Heights on Shabbos for the first time alone.

But then I got annoyed with myself. Was I so insecure that any time Shabbos proved a bit difficult, I would go running home? What kind of independent young woman was that? So I made myself stay and I'm glad I did. Nor was I as alone as I felt I would be - at least, not most of the time.

Though I had never been to Mt. Sinai (the shul) before, I had heard a lot about it. I'd heard it described as "overwhelming," "such a social scene," and even "meat market." I have friends who "don't like Mt. Sinai" because it's too much of a "scene."

I have no way to compare it to anything because the only time I was there was last night. To be honest, I liked the fact that I was in a completely new place and yet knew so many people when I walked into shul. It made me feel less alone. And I feel like the scene is only there if you stick around for it and make sure you get in on it. Otherwise, who cares if there are a lot of people around? If you don't like it, you don't have to socialize with everyone there. No one's making you, you know? But then again, like I said, I was only there for last night's davening and it was kinda an off week - a lot of people were away because of Labor Day Weekend (side note: when I was in Israel for the year, the British girls were so confused why we had a day called Labor Day. They thought it sounded like a day when all women go into labor or something. Other side note: my bat mitzvah was on Labor Day. This year will be 11 years since my bat mitzvah. Yikes).

Anyway, I felt a lot better (and I mean a lot) when a particular friend walked in. You know how sometimes, when you're in a new place, or a strange place, and a friend from a much more familiar place in your life walks in, you just feel all your nerves rush out of you like jelly? And everything suddenly feels completely safe? Well, that's what it felt like. I was so astonished and happy and relieved.

Then I went to C2 for the Friday night meal. Two other girls were there and it was really, really nice. What was funny was that all Shabbos, I kept meeting people who are in school for education, which is what I want to do - and not only that, but in the two particular schools I'm looking into.

Night was harder. I was alone in my apartment, which wouldn't have been so bad except I felt awful. I really felt sick. I felt so bad that it actually kept me up nearly all night, and for the two or three hours that I slept some, I had really bad, detailed dreams where I was getting bitten by scorpions and other unpleasant things that hurt a lot. I remember pinching myself in my dream to see if it was real or not and actually feeling the pinch, but somehow knowing that it didn't feel quite right, that I didn't really feel awake, that I thought I was awake, in a filmy sort of awakeness, but...wasn't really sure.

Consequently, at around seven o'clock I finally fell asleep for a while (still with some weird dreams) and missed shul. I got up just in time to go to D2 for lunch.

D2's lunch was also really, really nice. A bunch of other people were there - but not too many, so it didn't feel crowded. One girl had just moved to the Heights and knew absolutely no one. She had been planning on eating by herself when one of D2's other guests met her in shul and insisted she come eat lunch with us. She turned out to be a really nice girl, and so was everyone else who ate there (aside from D2, I was not good friends with/didn't really know the other girls there, but we all had a really nice time together).

And some friends who are reading this will be pleased to know that I was not as shy at these meals as these friends might be used to or expect. In fact, I came away from them with more friends than I had before Shabbos started. And that is one thing I really do love about the Heights. I love the opportunity to meet new people and become reacquainted with others. It's like everyone is starting over in the Heights, so someone I never spoke to at Stern is suddenly someone I could speak to now. Girls whose paths would never cross mine in Midtown are suddenly in my path Uptown.

Due to the fact that I was still not feeling amazing - and I'm sure the fact that I barely slept on Friday night did not help - I went back to my apartment after lunch and didn't leave it again the rest of the day. I humored myself and the fact that I was not feeling well by spending the late afternoon lying on the couch reading a book from my childhood. (Those sort of books are always a source of comfort for me.) I suspect I felt worse because I felt a little lonely and little disoriented. I didn't quite feel like I was in a place I could identify. I know that doesn't make much sense, but it was like I didn't have a good grasp on where I was. Everything is too new here, too unfamiliar. For instance, even though I was not at my house, I would still feel at home when I stayed in for Shabbos at Stern. I even feel more at home when I go away to close friends, like when I go to SerandEz. But not here. Here I don't know how I feel, but it's not a feeling of being at home. Not yet, anyway.

I read until it began to get too dark to comfortably make out the words on the page. Then I reached a dilemma. I had forgotten to look up when exactly Shabbos ended. The only way I knew to find out would be to go online or call someone - neither of which I could do until Shabbos was over! Hmmm.

I figured I would just wait until I could see three stars, but the sky was really cloudy. At a certain point, I could make out two, and it was already really dark by then. It seemed really late. I couldn't imagine Shabbos wasn't over yet. I waited a bit to make absolutely certain it was late enough, and then figured I would make Havdalah for myself (another thing I didn't really prepare was sort of makeshift) and then take a chance and go online to make sure Shabbos was really over. I had done the math based on when candle lighting was, but I couldn't really trust myself. What if I was wrong? What if Shabbos wasn't really over yet?!

It's one of the oddest things to go on your computer and check myzmanim to see if Shabbos is over. Luckily, it had been over for a while already.

Anyway, that was my adventurous Shabbos, which followed an adventurous Thursday. I've been having a steady stream of adventures on my own lately. It's interesting how that happens.

This post is more like a journal entry, huh? Well, I guess that's how it goes sometimes. I'm still feeling somewhat disoriented here, like I don't quite know where I am. But I really am making myself face this new place head on. Hopefully this disoriented feeling will go away soon, and then Heights will start feeling like home.

Though at the moment, the familiar feels like a breath of fresh air.


harry-er than them all said...

time to get a real calendar...

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoy living in the Heights - Mt Sinai is a nice Shul.
Alternatively, you could always try the KAJ - only a few blocks away and more German than the Yekke shuls in London or Israel!

Princess said...

Congratulations on surviving your first Shabbos in the Heights! Meals are actually a nice way to meet people, and then if you can find a way to get in touch with those people not on Shabbos, it's a way to get more meals. You should try to host a meal sometimes . . . people who you invite to meals will often invite you when they make meals, so that's another way to get meal invites. Next time I come to the Heights I'll try to remember to invite you to my sister for a meal - we usually do shabbos lunch (my sister gets home very late on friday afternoons, so she usually just eats alone in her apartment), and you totally should not feel any obligation to come (especially because I don't think you know my sister), but this way if you need a meal, it's available . . . of course, I don't even know when the next time I'm going to be in the Heights is, so this is a little premature.

I don't know what it was like this past Shabbos, but the reason why I don't like the "scene" at Mt. Sinai is because if I'm not having anyone for meals and I just want to go straight home, somehow, in the short period of time it should take me to put away my siddur at the end of davening and leave the building, 9 times out of 10 I run into at least 2 or 3 people I know and I feel like I have to talk to, which delays my exit. I think that if you're not trying to rush out of there, it's not too bad. Mornings are also a little better because not as many people are there - some people sleep in, and a lot of people daven at Shenk, so the scene's a little bit less crazy.
But if you don't mind davening at Mt. Sinai, that's good, it's a nice shul.

And in terms of when Shabbos ends - firstly, if you remember when candle lighting was, it's around an hour later, so if you wait an hour and 15 minutes after candle lighting, you should be relatively safe. Secondly, I don't know where your apartment is, but if you're in the Mt. Sinai eruv, I think they have a weekly bulletin that you can grab Friday night that will tell you all the times you need to know. They also have a monthly calendar, but I don't know if they have that available at shul or if it's just something you can print off the website . . . of course, none of this helps if you're not in the eruv (except the printing it off the website thing).

Enjoy all of your future Shabbosim in the Heights!

Anonymous said...

you can print the calendar off the website: (get a nicely formatted version for printing under "schedule/monthly bulletin" and click on this month). they also have an eruv map there and all kinds of other info about shiurim, etc.
very handy.