Monday, May 26, 2014

Spirituality and the Job Search

I recently completed my Master’s degree and began looking for full-time work.

I knew it would be a difficult process- networking is not my forte and I have little prior work experience.

It would only seem natural that I would reach out to Hashem at a time like this. After all, material blessings are just as much in His control as spiritual ones. Although it may seem that my destiny lay in the whims of HR personnel, G-d’s will is the only true determinant of where I end up. 

But instead of pleading to G-d to redeem me from my “broke graduate student living off dwindling student loans” status, I buried my face in job applications told Him to leave me alone.

I began devoting my energies to overly-enthusiastic application essays at the expense of recognizing G-d’s role in all of this. I called everyone I knew who could potentially get me a job, but I never asked G-d to get me one. I quickly became a slave to nature, focused only on my efforts in the natural world rather than the reality that G-d will ultimately be the one to grant me what I need. 

In this world, you have to follow a specific process if you want to be able to live. Go to school, win over your professors, get good grades, fill out job applications, sound super competent and professional at job interviews. You have to abide by the rules to a certain extent to get what you need materially. But those rules contain no intrinsic power- they just happen to be the channels G-d has chosen for distribution of those brachos. If He wanted to bypass nature in order to sustain us, He totally could.

I just chose not to acknowledge this. I resisted praying to G-d, even though I knew that I should.

At the time, I didn’t know why. I chose not to take the time to think about the emotions underlying my avoidance. But at a certain point, the dissonance between what I knew I should be doing and how I was actually going about it became uncomfortable enough that I finally relented. I reluctantly invited G-d to have a heart-to-heart with me. 

Although my one-on-one’s with G-d usually start out rather cerebral, it didn’t take long for a stampede of uncomfortable feelings to invade the conversation. 

Everything was exposed. My fears, my anticipations, my absolute certainty that I would fail in the wake of a new experience. I meditated on my ambivalence toward change. I had always been successful in the past because I knew how to play the game. But the game of work- of the “real world”- is bound by different rules than those of academia.  What if I can’t learn the rules? Or what if those rules swallow me up entirely, and I cower into a decrepit pleaser of people and society with no moral backbone or spiritual consciousness? Or worse- what if I’m just not cut out for what I’ve always believed to be my calling?

It occurred to me that part of me didn’t want to get a job. And the part of me that did was paralyzed by fear of the unknown. So I had shuffled along all these roundabout paths, half-heartedly going through the motions of playing a “vessel” while circumventing the true source of my destiny. I was scared of Hashem’s brachos. And I knew if I prayed to Him, He’d probably give them to me. 

It was then that I realized: Maybe I believe in G-d more than I thought. Maybe I know deep down that all these rules are phony and G-d is the real deal. Maybe all of us possess a fundamental faith that is misconstrued as fear, a subconscious certainty in G-d’s intervention that clashes with the comfort of that which is familiar. 

Maybe I believe in G-d so much that I'm intimidated by the power of prayer. 

It's often speculated that Moshiach isn’t here yet because we don't want him enough. We’re too afraid to believe in him because we're unsettled by the prospect of the rules changing, even though it would bring fulfillment of the world’s ultimate mission. 

What we need to remember is that faith not only entails belief in our creator. It requires conviction that what He provides for us is wholly good, and that we will experience it as such. Releasing control is difficult- but we must believe we have the capacity to handle whatever He gives us. 

I haven’t found a job yet. But when I do, it won’t be because I talked to the right people or wrote a good essay. I’ll land wherever G-d wants me. 

Maybe I'll even get up the nerve to ask Him for one.

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