Tuesday, September 14, 2010

am i a grown up?

I turned 30 on Sunday. the month leading up to this momentous life event has been, shall we say, rather stressful. Lots of life things, and then just this melancholy that always creeps in around birthday time, which was extra strong for this decade anniversary where I leave my twenties behind.

Am I a grown up? Legally, yes, but we all know that means very little. I thought that by the age of thirty I would have lived a full life and be solidly traveling into middle age, with a spouse and multiple children giving me wrinkles. I find myself here, having lived a very full life with a start of a career, and feeling still like I have not yet been released from adolescence. And I would like to be. Blame it on the culture, blame it on my own expectations, but growing up is, most often, indicated by marriage and children. A home, perhaps, if you can afford it. In my religious surroundings, as a "young single adult" (though only for one more year! gasp!) I am separated from the "family ward" into a separate congregation, where the religious teachings are the same, but with the extra added benefit of activities to help me keep an active social life. Activities that, let's be honest, haven't changed much from the time i first became an adolescent at the age of 12 (more speed dating. less scrap booking). Of course, we all get an education and live life, i'm not saying that we are trapped here just waiting to be married, we do all continue onward into adulthood and responsibility for the most part. Bur for me, my own insecurities crept in here recently, mocking me with the whispers of-- you are thirty! but are you really a grown up without having a family? I think that thoughts like these lead to this somewhat frantic, constant social interaction where we remain constantly in motion, hoping to find someone to love or at least, by gum, not be lonely by spending time with other spinster friends.

Well, i am tired. I want to be a grown up. I don't want to have fun all the time, I don't want to feel the pressure of being social. i just simply want to be responsible, do my job well, work on projects that interest me, and spend time with smart friends. I don't want to date for the sake of dating, I don't want to go to parties where I "might meet someone". I just want to be me. You see, at the age of thirty, i know who I am, i know what I like. I am comfortable in my own skin. I am responsible and a grown up, and just tired of pretending that I'm not because I don't quite fit my preconceived notion of "growing up".

Accepting that, two days into thirty i am feeling calmer. This is my life and I have grown into it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Freedom. Religion.

11:30 a few nights ago, I was lost on my bicycle coming home from my friend Victoria's birthday party. I found myself riding down Bedford Ave, where the bike path had been scrubbed clean by the Hassidic jews in the neighborhood. As it was Rosh Hashona, there were families with fathers in big fur hats and mothers in wigs and stockings, leading their tired little children home by the hand. The missing bike path had bee a source of contention between the very observant orthodox Jews and Brooklyn hipsters, resulting in an alternative path, where girls in skimpy summer dresses wouldn't be riding past on the Sabbath. Since I was lost, I had time to dwell on this particular conflict- on the one hand, the religious community that has lived in the neighborhood for a long time and requests respect for their standards; on the other, streets that are part of the community and should be accessible to all. (I won't get into the bike versus car culture argument here, though it also played a role). Who is right? The bike path was wiped out, but I still rode down the street (albeit not in very skimpy attire).

and of course, my mind turned to another religious conflict currently brewing.

As you may have heard (unless you've been hiding under a rock), there has been some election year controversy surrounding what has been called the "Ground Zero Mosque", which is more accurately called Park51, located two blocks from Ground Zero. For those of you who aren't familiar with new york, a few blocks is a short distance, yes, but can be a totally different neighborhood. I'm just sayin', if you are looking for sacred ground to remember 9/11 (which should be remembered), there are strip clubs that are probably closer and I'm sure some of the mourning families would find those offensive. So that's the location issue. It's not on ground zero, folks.

We live in a country that professes religious tolerance and liberty as one of the founding principles. But, as anyone who has taken a history class knows, religious freedom only applies for those in power. I could recount to you the history of the Mormons, who were driven from New York to Ohio to Illinois to Missouri, and out of the country for their religion, who were persecuted for their practices (especially polygamy) and to this day faces issues with communities protesting the building of sacred buildings. I well remember the conflict over the building of the Boston temple a few years ago, and the emotional angst it caused me-- that there were people who didn't understand and didn't want a Mormon building, which was meant for sacred, peaceful purposes, in their neighborhood. It felt so unfair, so hateful and intolerant. It was eventually built, thanks to politicians who stood up for private property rights, zoning laws, and religious freedom.

A few parallels if I may: mistrust of the unknown, suspicion of wanting to cause harm, generalizing an extreme minority to the majority-- mormons hate it when people think we mainstreamers are somehow affiliated with the FLDS polygamous groups in Texas, who seem so crazy and dangerous even. Most Muslims feel the same way when they see Americans and Europeans generalizing them all as terrorist sympathizers. Just because there are a few crazies, doesn't mean that everyone is. We can't go around punishing people because of the actions of a few or stereotypes. Yes, we have every right to protect ourselves from terrorist organizations. But what is the point if we take away the freedoms we are supposedly fighting to protect?

There are people who will put God above nation, and will live according to what they believe is the will of God. Thus, in a country with ever-increasing humanist tendencies, this is threatening, because what God requires (for example, obedience to strict health codes, such as not drinking alcohol) contradicts with societal norms (legal alcohol consumption at age 21 and social lubricant). For the most part, these two opposing viewpoints coexist in a "let's just ignore the ones who chose to live their lives another way" sort of manner, but sometimes that tension snaps, for instance over the same-sex marriage issue. Religious right? or human rights? and they can't always coexist. The state pushes on way, and the church pushes back, and usually, one gives in.

When it comes to different religions, this tension is stronger in some, weaker in others. Unitarian Universalists are constantly changing with societal values, accepting all as they come. Islam pushes back in some countries to the point where religious law becomes the law of the land. Can we allow that potential element? The Fox news pundits say no, we can't risk allowing Islam to influence the nature of this country and thus we must rid ourselves of them entirely. But I argue that we can't afford not to, if we believe we are protecting rights that belong to all people. I bel;eive that our freedom here and our commitment to human rights is strong enough that it won't get pushed over by extremist elements in Islam, but would rather push back (in a non-violent, educational way) to the extent that our"American" values of freedom and liberty and respect would make their way into the lives of American Muslims (which it already has) and then into other countries as well. It happened with Mormons and polygamy. It's happening slowly to eradicate child abuse and domestic violence in communities in southern utah that continue to be polygamists.

I know this is a long rambling post. Today, being the primary election day in new york, and just a few days after the 9th anniversary of 9/11, i feel strongly about this issue, and more than ever wish for us to ignore the fear and hate mongers among our politicians and pundits. They are playing the American people for fools with their own agendas. I don't pretend to know that their agendas are, but I do know that love conquers fear. I know too many good muslims living here to wish them to feel unwelcome. I know too many people of all faiths who are practicing their right to worship how, where and what they may, and people who are choosing not to worship anything because that is their right as well. If we refuse one group because there might be terrorists lurking in their midst possibly, we might as well just ban all religion right now, and all other organizations, because how can we know who we can trust?


I wanted to do something to prove that my body wasn't going to give out on me just because I am turning old. So, i ran a half marathon on labor day. My goal was to finish, and my second goal was to make it in about 2 hours. 1:53:51-- means I am a rock star, at least that's how I felt with my first runner's high as I sprinted the last 3 km to the finish line.