In my twenties, I was one of an extended group of ex-Chasidic friends living in Los Angeles. Everyone had their own story, their own way of blending their Chasidic past with the drama of a twenty-something life in a sprawling metropolis, dealing w( ith jobs, partners, and weekend road trips.
One Friday night, after Shabbat dinner at a friend’s house, everyone else had gone, leaving just me and Mosh, a friend I often playfully sparred with over Jewish thought. We sat on the lamplit couch in the living room trading the successes of our previous lives. Turns out we had both been top students, both delighted and frustrated our teachers with mischievous questions. We had even both won the same national competition — me for the girls, him for the boys.
We were boasting that night, but I knew what we were trying to communicate to each other: that we had ended up on that couch in Los Angeles, far from the lives we were meant to live, not because we had been traumatized or miserable, but through a series of choices that were messy, often selfish, maybe brave, sometimes lucky.