Thursday, June 10, 2010

Meaning vs. Comfort

Last weekend, I went to evening Shabbat services with Mitch, an AAPD IT intern last summer who came back to work for the same federal agency this summer. Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the rabbi's commentary on the parsha of the week- Moshe & the 12 spies he sent to the land of Israel. The rabbi mentioned how the Israelites were living in comfort- temperature control, manna readily available & the like. However, this comfort did not lead them to engage in much meaning in their lives, which can be a much more difficult process. We think we can find a middle ground between the two- a comfortable meaning, or a meaningful comfort- but in reality, this is not the case. It is necessary to give up a large amount of comfort to engage in what is meaningful. If I want to get the most out of my summer, I'm going to have to push myself out of my comfort zone in many ways- such as socializing in a professional/networking environment. Hearing what the rabbi had to say renewed my commitment to gaining this new meaning but remembering I won't find it by trying to hold onto a significant amount of comfort.

He used the 12 individuals surveying the land of Israel seeing themselves as "spies", as "outsiders", as an example of the necessity of a paradigm shift. If we see ourselves as foreigners, as outsiders in a given environment, we will likely find what is necessary to adapt to this environment to be a burdensome "chore". Like several of the surveyors, we will view the challenges we face & then ask ourselves "why bother?". But if we see ourselves as insiders in the given environment, we will perhaps find some of these things as not so much a "chore" but a necessary component in order to grow into deeper meaning & understanding.

During my first week, there were certainly challenges I've faced- such as gracefulness in social situations within the office- & I certainly found myself erroneously asking "why bother?". Yet the rabbi's words reinvigorated me to see these personal challenges not only as necessary to help me grow personally & professionally after I graduate from Smith College but challenges I can fully own & take on successfully with a change in thinking. But first I need to stop thinking of myself as an "outsider" simply because I am a summer intern. While the label of "intern" can often be seen as a scarlet letter especially with the reputation of unprofessionalism commonly given to interns in the city, if I see myself as doing my part in allowing Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin's office to run smoothly, I will be able to face my challenges head-on.

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