Bottom line? I'm struggling. Thankfully, not financially. Struggling with making a life for myself - I'm so used to being told what to do, how to do it and when, that I find myself at a loss.
I figured I would share part of my response with everyone:
I definitely know how rough that is, that kind of freefalling feeling when suddenly you have total freedom to do whatever you want to do, but don't even know where to start. I think it's important to remember that whenever you change your life in a major way, there will be an adjustment period that will be kind of rough, where you have to start figuring out new routines and new ways of doing things.
Even after I completely stopped being religious, I still held on to jewish community type things for years because I really didn't know what else to do- so when I moved to grad school, I started going to Friday night shabbas dinners for jewish young adults every week, just because I didn't really know how else to make friends or what else to do with myself and was in a brand new city where I didn't know anyone. I did that for a few years even. But I still hated being involved in all that stuff, and felt like a fraud all the time, since all the people there assumed I was religious and was really into judaism (like they were), but I knew I wasn't, but just kinda stuck to the jewish community cause that was all I knew how to do.
What I ended up doing was around 2006 I basically stopped going to jewish events entirely, and started a year-long "happiness project" where I just experimented with all sorts of things. I didn't date any guys that entire year, because I was trying to figure out whether I still cared if guys were jewish or not, and also because I wanted to focus on me instead of another guy/a relationship. I went to like 30 music concerts that year, a bunch of crazy hippie music festivals, I grew dreadlocks for a while and then dyed my hair blue, I pierced my eyebrow (later took it out, ha!), I took a bunch of short term classes at a local arts place- an outdoor watercolor painting class, a figure drawing class, a couple of yoga classes, a tai chi class, a cooking class- just trying a bunch of stuff out and seeing what I liked. I also went to tons of different restaurants and tried all sorts of foods I had never tried before, etc. I started going to the gym and swimming, and just going on long walks all the time to parks and other places. I also joined a book club and a 'dinner club' that went out to fancy restaurants once a month. I think most 'normal' people go through something similar to that when they are teenagers, but for people like us, we never had a chance to experiment with these sorts of things when we were teens- and it's never too late!
I think there are generally 2 problems that need to be addressed when leaving the jewish community. The first is kinda figuring out yourself, what you like to do vs. what you were always told you should do, your level of morality, what you feel comfortable with, etc. The second is the friends problem- when you are in the jewish community you have a built in community of friends, but when you leave you suddenly leave that whole community. I was fortunate in that I happened to find a kind of already established 'hippie community' of people who like the same music that I like, and who meet up regularly at shows and festivals.
So what I would recommend is to start looking around the internet for different groups in your area that are meeting up, or classes, or other types of organized activities and just show up at a meeting or sign up for a class or something. That'll help you start to make friends outside of the jewish community, and also help you start to figure out what it is YOU want to do, what makes you happy. If you have a dog, join a dog park! Like to read, join a book club! The trick to making friends is to go back to the same place over and over again, and clubs/other organizations are great for that. Plus you already have something built in to talk about that is bringing you together. If you haven't been to college, or even if you have, and if you have the time- you might also want to start thinking about taking some classes at your local college on topics that are really fascinating to you. If the internet is your thing, there are also lots of internet groups/message boards that are sort of like mini online communities, and I've met a lot of real life friends from that sort of thing.
If you live in the NYC area there is an excellent organization called footsteps- http://www.footstepsorg.org/ that is a sort of support group for people leaving orthodox judaism and who aren't sure what to do next (they can help with education and those sorts of things).
If anyone has any other advice for new OTDers, please post it in the comments!
Meanwhile I still have more to write about my mom and the wedding last week, but I'm still processing my feelings over it, so it might be a while. Plus my dissertation is due in 2.5 weeks...I should get back to that.