Hotel Transylvania, or: A Come to Moses Moment

It’s a dark, rainy night here in West Central Illinois. We just got done watching Hotel Transylvania 2, and my kids have crawled into bed. I’m hoping the little wolf pups stay in there. It has been a hard day’s night.

I have had multiple “come to Moses moments” over the last 24 hours or so, beginning with my first viewing of this movie yesterday at my eldest daughter’s behest, and the second late in the day today. The first one was nice and gave me the warm fuzzies. The second one felt more like a kick in the teeth, and I was forced to reckon with certain inconvenient truths, as well as make a true decision about the path forward.

I don’t watch a lot of TV or movies, and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy Hotel Transylvania 2. In the first place, Adam Sandler voices Count Dracula. As far as I’m concerned, Happy Gilmore was the last good movie that man made, and his comedy has just never done it for me. I do like Andy Samberg okay, but he’s far from one of my favorite comedians. Basically, I was prepared to be disappointed.

 When I watched, I found that I was pleasantly surprised, and I laughed much harder than the kids did. I realized about 15 minutes into the movie that there was a lot of Jewish humor woven in – unsurprising, given the lead – and I realized shortly thereafter that it was effectively a commentary on the trials and tribulations of intermarriage, an evergreen subject among American Jewry if ever there was one.

 As I laughed about the “monster ball soup” and Drac’s overbearing grandparenting and perennial insistence that his grandson be a vampire and not a human, I suddenly realized that I’m in on the joke, if not totally then at least a little. The thought popped into my head as Dracula dragged his grandson to his old summer camp – Jewish summer camp, c’mon! – that I understood this on a level that a lot of people probably would not. Oh sure, I’m sure any New Yorker would get it and probably a lot of people that grew up on the coasts, but I grew up in the cornfields, and nobody here would get it but Jewish people.

 As the camp director pointed out Dennis’s lack of fangs, I was also confronted with an uncomfortable truth about my own status. Even with conversion, if my girls go to Jewish summer camp – they’re going to my non-Jewish summer camp Alma mater first! – it’s possible that they’ll have to deal with crap about the fact that their mom was a convert and not a born Jew. Is that nice? No, but it’s reality. I don’t think it’s the norm to go around telling people that to their faces, but it happens. No community, country, religion, etc., has a monopoly on assholes and idiots. They’re universal.

 The movie dealt with it realistically, albeit in a fantastical, magical vampire sort of way, and I walked away from the movie feeling pretty good, honestly. Being in on the joke and understanding the context gave me this strange sense of belonging, something I really and truly haven’t experienced for a very, very long time. I’ve gotten used to being an outsider in nearly all aspects of my life. I’m a political oddity, I’m a religious oddity, and I live in a town where I am frankly a general oddity. Most of the time, it feels like it is of little consequence to me, but as I sat there, grinning at the happy ending with old great-grandpa Vlad (voiced by Mel Brooks, love) accepting the human side of his family, I realized that the biggest part of the happiness I was experiencing was the feeling of belonging. For once, I was in on it.

 As always, I would like to make the full disclaimer that I am not a convert. I remain a Noahide because, frankly, it’s tough to do out here in the sticks when you’re a single parent with three kids, and the nearest temple is 45 minutes away. The temple I really want to go, the one that has more children’s programs and is more family-friendly, is 90 minutes away. Not exactly practical, in terms of joining a community. As much as I want to go ahead with it and feel like I am more than ready, in terms of knowing what is involved and what more I will have to go through, it just doesn’t seem practical. As much as I want it, there are other things in my life right now that need to take precedence.

 It would be a lie to tell you that this doesn’t make me sad, but it’s a case of doing what needs to be done. So I will be starting my annual, pre-Passover spring cleaning this weekend. I am putting together a kid-friendly Haggadah that we will use this year, and I’m getting everything else ready for Seder, as well. The girls will get new dresses, and I’ll bust out a nice outfit and my jewelry. We’ll continue just as though we were, even though we are not. And that will have to be okay for now.

In spite of this, I went to work today feeling upbeat about the world. I had never really, in my heart, felt a true sense of belonging before. I had always felt like an imposter before, a Shlomo. I’m sure I’ll still get that feeling, but last night and this morning at least, I did not have it at all. I felt like all was right with my world.

 Late in the work day, I received some news that… It was good news, but it doesn’t really pertain to me. It was on behalf of someone I like quite well. I told them I was happy for them and all of that, and I meant it. I genuinely am happy for this person.

 But I left work a few minutes early – I had time banked up for the end of the week – and I got in my car, and within four blocks of my office, I had tears running down my face, and I realized, for the first time in a long, long time, how deeply, utterly unhappy I am with several major parts of my life.

 I am completely, 100% dissatisfied with my job. It has been made quite plain to me that there will be no forward movement for me within in the company, not because I’m unintelligent or incapable, but because they know that I’m far too independent, and I am a wild card. They know that I don’t want to stay in this town forever. That fact, coupled with my general inability to travel because of my single parent status and lack of grandparents to take the kids during those times, has essentially sealed my fate. They know it. I know it. I bucked against it for a long time, but at long last, as drove home to sort myself out before picking up the girls, I realized that it was time to stop fighting. It is time to let go.

 At the beginning of the year, I felt very strongly, in a visceral, coming-from-the-gut way, that this would be a great year for me, career-wise, but I had an equally strong feeling that it would not come from my current job. In fact, my feeling all along is that it would come from me. I am working on getting a side business going, and that is a LOT of work and takes a lot of time. I don’t write very much these days because frankly, I don’t have time. I spend more time working on the business in the evenings than I do just about anything else. The price of freedom, alas, is more than $1.05, as Team America: World Police would have us believe.

 Foolishly, I allowed the opinion of another to temporarily divert me back towards the company, and I wish I had followed my gut. Everything in me kicked against it, but I listened to my head instead of my gut, and my head was dead fucking wrong. I knew it, it gave me untold amounts of stress, and in the end, it went exactly like I had originally expected. I left the ordeal feeling extremely dejected and jaded about a lot of things. I also left feeling more certain than ever that, first of all, when your gut is screaming at you, you damn well better listen to it, and secondly that I am the person who will set me free.

I love Shane Dawson. I suspect he’s more popular with the tween set, but I like the series he did with makeup artist/creator Jeffree Star, and I got on a kick of watching him while I made dinner there for a while. He did a video with Kathy Griffin, whom I also enjoy quite a bit despite thinking that she is insane on politics – see, Kathy, I can enjoy your comedy even though we are diametrically opposed to one another politically – and she said something during the interview with Shane that resonated with me in a big way.

 “My story – and I suspect yours is – when the man says, ‘No,’ you go, ‘Okay, I’ll do it myself. I’ll do it myself. I’ll figure it out. It won’t be perfect. I wish I had some big company or studio or network to come in and save the day, but that’s just not my story.’”

That’s not my story, either. More than ever, I realize that. My story doesn’t include somebody swooping in to save me at the eleventh hour. My story includes me swooping in to save me at the eleventh hour. It was never going to be some average, boring, hum-drum tale of just getting through and by. It was never just going to be taking what someone else tells me I ought to be satisfied with. Like most people, I love a good, heroic tale, and heroic tales don’t include settling for the first offer.

 So no, I’m not great in corporate America. I have no doubt that my ex-husband will read this – because either he or someone else in his family reads this blog, on occasion – and laugh. He’ll think, “Great, she didn’t get some swanky promotion. The bitch got her comeuppance.”

 Sometimes I think that may be. The thought went through my head today and being stuck in this stupid, shitty, awful small town that I fought tooth and nail to leave as a kid is my punishment for not trying hard enough in my prior incarnations. In fact, I’m sure of it. It’s not the punishment of Providence, although I suppose you could call it that. No, it’s punishment for my own unwillingness to be better, to chase my dreams, and to take big risks. It is because of my willingness to settle for what I was handed that I am here. It was my greatest lesson, and it would be seriously stupid not to carry forward what I learned. I can’t keep making the same mistakes. It’s time to grow up.

 Do I need to leave the hometown? Indisputably. I am a city person. I always have been, and I always will be. I hate winter, and seasonal depression hits me hard most years. There is no sense in staying somewhere that is disagreeable to me. I should go somewhere bigger with better weather.

 Am I going to have to earn this transfer? Indisputably.

 Sometimes you just have to have a “come to Moses moment,” a moment where you sit down and cry really hard and realize that your life is indeed your fault, and that if you don’t do something to fix the shit now, nothing is going to change.

 I have an Ayn Rand quote up on my bulletin board at work right now, and I think I’m going to leave it for a while because it was, as it turned out, appropriate to the week before I knew it to be so.

 “Do not let your fire go out. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in the lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. […] The world you desired can be won. It exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.”