I guess I just wanted to update on the anxiety situation since I only seem to post when things are going horribly wrong, which may leave my readers with a somewhat pessimistic view of my life.
Well, the anxiety seemed to be 100% travel related, because now that I'm back home it's entirely gone. I wasn't killed by any whores at my hotel, I don't seem to have caught swine flu (although I don't know how long the incubation period is, so who knows), and I got home ok, although my flight home was delayed by 2 hours for no discernible reason. Also at the conference I ran into a former graduate of my program and had a long talk with her about postdoc opportunities, so I'm a little more reassured about my future employment prospects.
On the flight home the lady sitting behind me was complaining to her friend about being hungry, so I offered her a granola bar. It turned out that the lady was an off-duty flight attendant, so she thanked me by giving me a coupon for a free (alcoholic) drink! I don't really drink usually, but since it was free and I had just spent 4 hours in the airport I mightily enjoyed my free $7.50 can of beer- it was some kind of delicious German wheat bear that had the word "Kugel" in the title.
Anyways, I didn't give her the granola bar to get a free drink, I gave it to her because I like helping out strangers and I feel like doing so makes the world just a tiny bit better (especially when we're stranded together in some kind of delayed flight situation). Can I call this a win for humanism? I think so.
[Can I also call my dog a win for humanism? People's faces just light up when they see him because he's such a cutie. It's awesome to walk around with him and see people's faces go from kinda blank and distracted to lit up and smiling as he walks past them.]
Part of the reason I love the hippie community I spend much of my summer with (Festival season starts next weekend!!!) is this attitude: that if you see someone who needs help, you help them. I try to bring that attitude to my daily life, and it seems to serve me well.
When I started going to music festivals 5 years ago I had never been camping before, and didn't know what I was doing. I didn't have a car or any camping supplies either, which didn't help. But a friend of mine had a huge tent that I was able to share, someone gave me a ride there and another person we found at the festival who lived closer to me gave me a ride back home, the surrounding people at the fest had food and other supplies, and everyone shared and helped each other out.
Now that I'm a little older and more experienced, I'm the one who brings extra food to give to friendly passerbys and neighbors, who helps newcomers assemble their new tents and lends them a mallet for their tent poles, and who offers rides to people without cars. Not because I expect those people to give me something back (although people usually will offer something in return, because they're just nice that way), but because people like that were very important to me when I was joining this community, and I want to help other people who are like me 5 years ago. And I find actually that I feel a lot better about myself and am genuinely happy about it when I am the one giving things away rather than the one getting things that are given away.
Now I'm sure someone is going to come up with some clever comment about how it's my 'jewish soul' that is naturally more charitable or something. But honestly, I wasn't like that at ALL when I was more involved in the Jewish community. I was much more wrapped up in myself, I would be downright rude to people, and it kinda made me happy to see other people fail. I was kinda a bitch, in retrospect. Part of that was of course how utterly miserable I was during the 7 years between losing my faith in orthodox judaism and moving out of my parents house, when I had to hide what I was doing as if it were shameful (which to my parents and everyone I knew, it was).
This concept that giving is good (and makes you feel good) is something I learned from the hippies I'm friends with. And my joining the hippie community entirely coincided with me leaving the last vestiges of an Orthodox Jewish life- I went to my first jam-band show right after I ate non-kosher chicken for the first time, and my first music festival about 3 days after trying non-kosher beef for the first time (that was the big thing I held onto the longest- I stopped keeping shabbas at age 15, but I didn't eat any kind of non-kosher meat products until midway through my senior year of college, and didn't try things like bacon and shrimp (and crabs, and lobster, and lobster mashed potatoes, and coconut covered shrimp...mmmmmmm) until 2 or 3 years ago).
This also coincided with my ex-fiance breaking up with me (after a 4 year relationship that lasted through most of college) applying to graduate schools, graduating college, and moving away from my parents house- so at the point at which my entire life changed, in retrospect, my entire personality and philosophy about life changed as well. People who I'm friends with from my past (orthodox) life mentioned several times that after I moved away from my parents to go to grad school, I seemed much more happy, nicer, and much less cynical. In fact, even since moving here I've been moving more in that direction- I recently ran into someone at school I hadn't really talked to in about 3 years (when we worked on a major project together and got to know each other pretty well)- he said something very snarky and bitter, I made a comment about it, and he was like "wow, you really have changed a lot -you used to be one of the most cynical and bitter people I know, now you are almost downright normal." I don't know if that's a compliment or what, but I know that since I've last talked to this guy, I met B, and being with B has made me into a happier and calmer and less cynical person.
Back to the hippies- having this amazing community of people to enter gave me social support when I needed it the most (just as I was leaving the pre-established community of Orthodox Jews that I had relied on my whole life). More importantly, they showed me that people were wrong when they said that all 'goys' were miserable and shallow and obsessed with materialism and "gashmius" [the physical (rather than spiritual) world]. That my mother was wrong when she said that no one who wasn't jewish would ever truly be my friend, and that they were all secretly anti-semetic and waiting to stab me in the back. And that you don't need to follow a particular religion to be a good person- in fact, my hippie friends are the nicest and most generous people I have ever met and most are either atheists, agnostics, or some kind of non-mainstream pagan-ish religion.
When I teach my future children lessons in morality, it will be the hippie kind of morality, and not the kind of morality my parents claim is the only true way to live. The hippie kind of morality that says it's better to give than to receive, to leave only footprints behind, to live as simply as you can, and to make a positive contribution to the world. Are your actions making the world better for other people, even just one other person? Which has a bigger and more positive impact on the world; praying 3 times a day, not using electricity on Saturdays, and only eating certain kinds of food? Or just giving a hungry stranger a granola bar?
P.S. I'm getting married exactly 2 weeks from today!