Demands, Demands, Demands
I walked into the door at YU already making decisions. Immediately, I declared a major in political science, committed to a shiur in MYP and signed up for housing in Rubin. While I thought that these initial choices would dictate much of my experience at YU, in reality, the choices that I made initially only minimally defined my experience.
Every day at YU, one is met with a myriad of decisions, choices, and pathways they must take. One must choose: “What minyan will I go to today? Whose shiur will I be in? What class will I take?” But these are just simple actions one decides to take. Behind all of these choices are demands one is motivated to address. From nine a.m. to late into the night, one's days are filled with incredible exposure to high-level Torah and academic learning that is coupled with high expectations to match. YU’s schedule demands that one fills their whole day dedicated to one's goals. Goals that must fit the complex needs of one's majors, cores, and Torah study.
But behind all these external requirements the most jarring and important requirement expected of us is the demand to face ourselves. Every day I figure out more and more who I am and what I stand for. This affects the small things, like the group I surround myself with; to big ones, like what values and ideas inspire and speak to me. The exposure to the beautiful tapestry of ideas found here in YU, ideas that sometimes even seem to fight each other, demands of me to find a way to balance it all. With this learned skill, I truly better understand what I value and what I cannot.
I will not always be attached by the hip to a yeshiva or a university; therefore, I can't form my sense of identity around the labels I create there. As I shed the premade narratives that I hold — “I am a YP guy who only has friends from Shaalvim” — the more I recognize the vastness of our surroundings and begin to understand how I fit into it. Thus, the everyday choices I make shouldn't be about whose camp I wish to join; rather, they should be about discovering who I am.
In a world that raises social capital on a high pedestal, where the pressure to fit into a box gnaws at your mind, Yeshiva University demands one to discover oneself and learn how to be a responsible individual. A thought-out individual knows how to love and be part of a community, fights to uphold its values and needs, and knows one's role in it with clarity. The demands of cultivating this mindset strip the false idea that I am defined entirely by the external choices I make. Instead, it's what I find out about myself in the midst of these choices that do.
So, my advice to those still here at YU is to break free of the narratives you've bought into. Hear and think about the other perspectives in YU and try to understand the value they add. If you hear the same cookie-cutter talking point over and over again, as if it's a script one is forced to say, question it and try to discover the real complex truth behind it.
Yeshiva University demands, demands and demands. It demands you fulfill its requirements. It demands you make choices about where you want to be. But most importantly, it demands you discover who you are. Don't miss out on the true gift that really is. You won't find many places that demand so much of you because they truly believe so much in you. There is great power to know how much you are capable of and how it can be directly connected to a great truth. So, meet these demands, and you will cherish the results they produce.
Photo Caption: A cartoon of a confused man by a complicated signpost
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons