I’ve always been very suspicious of the way people view me. Not out of fear but rather as to the pairing of circumstances in my life.
My father was sent to prison when I was in 11th grade. Although my family was not very religious at the time, and still isn’t we were deeply involved in the Jewish community. My dad’s story made the front page of my hometown newspaper. Everyone knew.
Certain “friends” treated me funny, some even slandered behind my back. But my true friends treated me the same as always and they remain the dearest of people to me.
My family stayed strong, despite our financial losses resulting in “family friends” cutting ties to us. if anything my parents love only grew from the ordeal. We as a family didn’t seek out pity, nor did we want any.
Judaism became a crutch for me to fall back into. I was accepted, loved, and truly cared for. I hold no resentment as many individuals were extremely helpful to me. But I often questioned if I truly wanted to lead the lifestyle that had been preached to me, or did I wan’t to live in a style of my less intense upbringing. Behind closed doors I never fully adhered to Jewish law.
Fast forward: A year after studying in Israel in an all male program (something I was heavily persuaded to do as this being the step in the right direction) I attended Yeshiva University. Here I self actualized.
I realized that I had felt bad for the countless amount of pity poured upon me from the past and if I were to self-actualize (be the best and happiest Ben I could be), I had to be honest with myself. Although still a proud Jew, I allowed myself to openly reflect my true spirituality and beliefs. Many saw me as lost emails to friends reading “is ben okay? I saw him in class with no head covering..” I had no sickness, I was just being myself and I did not appreciate that type of pity.
In addition to my ordeal in 11th grade, one of my best friends died of cancer that year. I sat by his bedside and saw the machines drop a flat line in his final moments in this worked. He never sought out pity from the onset of his prognosis, and he knew death was around the corner. Perhaps he gave and continues to be the impetus of my strength to be a proud jew and be myself, but most of all, not being afraid to go my path alone- not worrying about the many ways people could taint their views on me through pity. I have the strength to free myself if those self- defeating shackles, hence, “I am not my pride.” Im simply The Ben who has found his inner peace. I am enough for myself – I don’t need your pity. The bracelet i wear is in honor of my dear friend who continues to inspire me everyday.