The month of June is a busy time for the Staum family, as we prepare to migrate to Camp Dora Golding in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, for the summer.
This year, the day before our family was going to head up to camp, I was driving to a wedding on Route 287 (incidentally, the same highway I was to drive on the next day to head to camp). At one point, as I began driving uphill, I suddenly realized that my car wasn’t accelerating. Although I was pressing down on the pedal, the speedometer was slowly shifting left as I lost speed. It was quite obvious that there was something seriously wrong with the car. Every time there was an upward incline, I had to shift into the right lane where I received dirty looks from fellow drivers who weren’t happy that they had to go around the slowpoke on the highway. Thankfully, despite some frazzled nerves, I was able to make it to the wedding and back home.
It definitely didn’t make things easier that in between packing and loading up, I had to drop off the car at the dealer and pick up a loaner car. It also didn’t help that a week later, when Chani drove the loaner car back from camp to the dealer near Monsey, and picked up my car, it didn’t take long before she realized the car wasn’t properly fixed. The car still didn’t accelerate properly. She quickly turned around and brought the car back. But in the interim, someone else had taken the loaner car, and they had no other loaner cars available. Moving our twins’ car seats from the loaner to my car and then back into another loaner (which thankfully then became available) in over 90-degree heat only made it more difficult.
Eventually my car was indeed fixed, and we came in a second time to return the loaner and retrieve my car.
I told my students on the first day of school this year that my car experience was a great symbolism of an important truism in life. The roads of life are circuitous and constantly shifting. In order to constantly grow and became greater people, we must be ready to invest added energy to traverse the steep inclines of life. If we don’t have that extra push, not only will we not be able to make it up the hill, but we will lose momentum and start shifting backwards.
Every year is a new opportunity for growth, but growth is only borne from struggle and perseverance.
Aside from the need to be able to ascend, there is an additional challenge we encounter along the road of growth.
Almost every night, my phone tells me how long it will take me to get home from wherever I am. I get a kick out of the fact that for weeks after camp, my phone is still telling me how to get back to camp, which it still thinks is home (and they call it a “smart” phone). So if I’m around the corner from my house, my phone will tell me it’ll take an hour and 40 minutes to get home to East Stroudsburg, PA.
On some level, that is the challenge of t’shuvah. We get very comfortable with our daily routines and don’t like altering them. Our society pays homage to convenience and comfort. It is the god we all worship; no one likes to feel discomfort. So making changes, even positive changes that will ultimately make us feel more fulfilled and elevated, are very hard for us. Even on occasions when we may have “moved” spiritually, our lethargic selves still naturally slink back to our old routine spiritual addresses.
The wise person realizes that eventually the changes he effects in his life will become his new reality, and he will adjust to his new and improved way of life.
In a sense, the camp season only came to an end this week, because only now has my phone finally come to the realization that home is 3 Landau Lane in Spring Valley, New York.
During this season when we try to effect lasting change, we need to remember that the uncomfortable unfamiliarity will pass.
In a sense, it’s like buying new shoes. It may be exciting to wear them, but it’s often also uncomfortable, because they aren’t yet properly adapted to your foot. But that all changes within a few days.
Hopefully we will all have the necessary energy and vitality to climb the beautiful, scenic, and elevating spiritual mountains that we are set to encounter during the coming weeks. Then, when we ascend, we should be able to comfortably adapt to our new reality –
a new self that is stronger and better than ever before.
A beautiful, healthy, and sweet new year to all.