I guess with Thanksgiving coming up I have been thinking a lot about traveling home; the ties and strains between me and my home, my community, my values. As a Jew I believe that I life in Diaspora, both at my home in Philadelphia and here. On a much smaller scale living away from my culture at home I believe that I live in somewhat of a cultural diaspora/disparity. My home is like the everyday, anti-climactic. Here in this environment (hampshire/academia) it is a narrative of destruction, of imminent danger. Just as Hampshire college radicalizes everything else, we radicalize the everyday, we create danger and urgency out of the experiences that we have experienced our entire lives and will continue to experience after we graduate. And this environment of the academic and excitement is fun, challenging, and easy to get caught up in, but it is not my home. It is not what I come from. I would try to make the case that institutions such as this are a vehicle for academic imperialism and yet I choose to come here. But then again, how much of a choice do I have?
In this society what value am I without a college degree? The only way that I can prove my validity as an intelligent person is by participating in this institution. I realize that which college I go to is (for the most part) my decision; however, I cannot get past the disparity in values and urgency between here and my home. I suppose what it comes down to is my struggle in my purpose for being here. There are many facets to this. For one, coming from my family the only question around college was which one I would attend, it was not so much an option as a requirement. However, I wonder, if I were not attending Hampshire if I would have made it this far. I am constantly frustrated living in this valley so far away from home because I feel like it is a disservice to my home, there is so much I could be doing, and want to be doing, and yet, here I am for another year and a half. And its lonely up here, without other people who come from where I come from. I don't see grad school in my future, or at least my near future, there is very little that the continuance in academia would qualify me to do. At the same time I am learning to embrace the opportunity that I have here, to soak it in for everything I can, because this is an experience I will never be able to replicate. The environment and energy is incredible and I am pushed past my limits on a regular basis.
So perhaps what I can take from this strange, possibly fabricated urgency, is the energy and knowledge. The endless realm of possibility and places where we can go. However, I also believe it is crucial for me to remember that I will leave from this place, and return to my home, to a place that doesn't see things the way that we have been transformed by this school to see things. A place outside the bubble.
My ultimate departure from here is what prompted my name change, I see my name as a way to identify and mark myself in the world away from Hampshire. A world in which I will likely always be perceived and gendered as female. And in many ways I am OK with that. I don't need the markers and the fight for my identity, I would rather speak with my actions and presence then fight for words with limited meaning in any other setting.
And so, in about 2 weeks I will leave for home, to see my family that doesn't always understand or respect my identity. And yet, I love them and love the part of me that exists with them, and will never exist here. Just as I take the best parts of every kind of Judaism I have learned and turn it into something that I support and embrace, I must take the best parts of what academia has taught me and combine those parts with all of the knowledge that I receive in the rest of my life and only when I can put all these parts together will I be able to move forward in my life and my thinking. And perhaps then I can begin to reconcile the disparity.