Monday, July 7, 2014

Shades of Gray

Many years ago, I worked as the arts and crafts specialist at the family camp I'd attended with my own family for many years. Just on the cusp of my twenties, I was young and silly and thought I knew everything. My own work with teens over the last decade has taught me these things don't change.

The first summer I worked there was incredible. I loved and was loved by staff, campers and families, and it was a fantastic, positive summer of work and growth. The second summer, however, things were not as great. My new supervisor and I weren't as good a fit, my responsibilities were different, and I found that the culture of this camp had shifted in a way where I didn't feel quite as comfortable. Some of it was hard to articulate; these changes existed in feelings, not fact.

A situation arose in which I was accused of things that, from my perspective, I simply had not done. Unfortunately, my supervisor handled things poorly, I was dealt with way too harshly, and when push came to shove my parents and I concluded I could no longer finish out the summer in my position. The air was too thick with animosity, I felt emotionally unsafe in my work environment, and no one saw an opportunity to start fresh.

I was devastated. I was quitting a job for the first time and felt like a failure. I was certain that this would stay with me for life; that it would haunt me forever. (And it has - just not in the way I'd anticipated)

However, I also felt completely let down by a group of people who had held some significant presence in my life since childhood. I did not understand how they could treat me so poorly, or back me into a corner where I felt my only option was to quit.

And so, my prevailing feeling became one of anger and defiance. When I quit, I quit in a maelstrom of strong-woman fiery passion, where I made sure my point of view was heard loud and clear.. I had done nothing wrong, they were the villains, and I was leaving with my head held high.

Looking back, I'm pretty impressed that nineteen-year-old me was such a rabbi-in-training; that I had the guts to stand up to the big boss and say, this is not okay, and I am leaving because this situation has become untenable. So, bravo to that.


As I reflect on this moment in my life - to date the only job I have ever quit - I realize just how brash and arrogant I was.

The reality was this: I was a young, immature kid who probably did something stupid and my immediate supervisor didn't like me very much and so she exaggerated the story and I got a bigger slap on the wrist than I should have.

I would love to believe that I was somehow superior; that I was in the right, that there was black and white and I was good and they were bad. But that's [likely] not entirely correct.

Sometimes we hold ourselves to a higher standard because we are taught and conditioned to believe we are better than the circumstances we find ourselves in. Sometimes we are arrogant, complacent, or just have a bad attitude. Sometimes we have to reel ourselves in, take stock, and hit refresh.

I share all this as a long introduction to an article in the Times of Israel that has circulated on Facebook and Twitter today, shared below. I share all this as a way of reminding those who read this blog that I am human, and we all are human, and being human is sometimes really, really hard. I share all this because I truly believe that these words are powerful, that they cut to the heart, and that we as individuals and as a community must always remember just how many shades of gray exist in our lives and in our work.

The article is below, and I look forward to reading your comments.


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