A frum person yet again said something to me along the lines of "wow, you are truely off the derech."
Off the derech. Off the way. Lost my way? My mom sometimes says that I've "fallen off the deep end". Like I'm crazy. It reminds me of when alchoholics say they are "off the wagon" when they are no longer able to control their own drinking.
The term "off the derech" irks me. It implies that I would be on this path if I could, but somehow accidentally I just got lost. Maybe I was following this path, and tempation was biting at me from all sides...and i took a step off the path into the scary dark forest becuase I saw some curious temptation. Maybe it was rolling up my skirts so they were shorter than my knees, or holding hands with a boy. It was only a small step, and the path was right there, I couuld go back at any time.
Then once I was there I saw something else that tempted me a bit farther away from the path. Maybe I was out travelling and had a piece of non kosher pizza, cause really, who would know, and I was hungry, and there was nothing else to eat anyways. Suddenly, before I know it, I'm deep in the woods of mcdonalds breakfasts and treating saturday like any other day, and I don't even know when jewish holidays are. I'm lost in the woods, and I have no idea how I got there, or how to get back to that path again. My friends and family are back on the path, and they mourn for me becuase they think I will never get to the end of the path...that golden city that they think they are walking towards. I'll be lost in these crazy woods forever, and who knows what will happen to me.
Of course they're not entirely sure if the path they are on goes to the city. The guy in the front says it does, and if they follow this exact path they should get there. But no one has ever come back from the city, and no one even knows for sure if the city even exists. But they have faith that this path goes there, since their parents walked that path, and everyone they know is on that path. Surely it must be the only path, and surely it must go to that city. They couldn't be walking all this way on this hard and tretcherous path for nothing?
But that wasn't the way it happened. I didn't accidentally get lost. More like, I walked a few steps off that path because I no longer believed what the leader said- I didn't really believe the woods were that scary after all. I had been told of all these bears and tigers in the woods, but I had never seen any, and it occured to me one day that maybe they didn't even exist! I asked the leader about it, and he had nothing to say to me, and told me not to ask questions.
And one day I ventured into the woods on my own, and after a few steps suddenly I found myself out of the woods entirely. And there was this great new path that I started walking on. And from my new vantage point I could look back on the path I had come from, and I could finally see that the woods weren't dark and scary, there weren't bears or tigers..in fact the leaders were up ahead planting new trees around this path, just so they could scare people into staying on it! Even so, from my new vantage point, the woods were beautiful and full of wonderment.
And looking back, I suddenly realized the path I had come from just went in a huge circle! All my friends and family were suffering for nothing! And this new path I found was so amazing...it was a pleasure to walk on, it had amazing sights along the way, and amazing people to talk with. It had crossroads and side paths, and each was incredible and I could choose whichever one I wanted to go to, and see all these things I had never dreamed existed when I was on that old path. No leader in the front was teling me which path to take, it was up to me to pick my route through this huge maze of possible paths, and it was scary but it was also incredible, becuase I could pick exactly which sideroads I wanted to take, and no one could stop me from taking it. And no one knew where this path led either, but it probably had just as much a chance as going to that city as that other path. I wanted to call back to my friends and family to come join me on this new amazing path full of possibilities!
But they couldn't see it. All they could see were the trees between, and the danger that they thought lurked there.