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The sting of, "Well, what are you DOING now?"

"Well what are you doing NOW?"

Last week I shared publicly for the first time that I'm not in rabbinical school anymore. I actually left two years ago, and I'm very much done with it and have moved on to bigger and better things, including writing new books, building my own business, and coaching/teaching other women writers and helping them get published. (And last week I started a brand new newsletter on Substack called The Roar, which you should sign up for if you haven't already....)

Still, on one thread, a very lovely and nice-meaning woman wrote to me, "What are you doing NOW?" As if to say, if I quit something that is bad for me, I better have something better to replace it with, and FAST.

I would just like to say, though, that the question, "What are you doing NOW?" can be a very triggering question for women who are, say, struggling with unemployment or recently left something important -- a marriage, a community, a program, or a job. A friend of mine who went through three jobs in five years said she stopped going to shul b/c she hated being asked, "So what are you doing now?" She was feeling shame of her struggles with steady work, and didn't like to be reminded of it.

Also, I would add that this is a very male-cultured, job-centric kind of question, based on the idea that if you're not "doing" something or "involved" in something or have a great job, then your life has lesser value. YOU have lesser value. I remember a guy we knew who wanted to move to Israel but said he would never make Aliyah until he had a job lined up b/c he said he couldn't walk into a shul without having a job..... It's that powerful.

So, you know, I'm fine, thank god everything is okay. I left rabbinical school already two years ago and have not looked back. I only shared this story last week because reading the HUC report reminded me of things and suddenly I found myself framing certain experiences in the larger context of patriarchal abuse in ways that I had not fully thought about that way. But the response to that sharing, the "Well, what are you doing NOW?" as if to say that if I leave something that is bad for me then i must be lost until i find something to replace it, that kind of question was kind of jarring. I felt the sting that my friend had described to me, of feeling like, "Well, if you leave a place or lose a place, you better have a good answer of what you replaced it with otherwise you may be shamed. You may not be really worthy."

I just wanted to point that out. In case you want to consider your own reactions to people's sharing of a vulnerable moment. Dr. Elana Sztokman is an award-winning Jewish feminist author, anthropologist, writing coach, and indie publisher. Follow her on Substack with her newsletter, The Roar

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