One of the biggest challenges that I have had throughout my life is fitting in. Back in my public elementary school days, I had a lot of trouble fitting in with my fellow classmates because I couldn't understand the subtle social rules that they seemed to follow and I wasn't interested in the things that interested them. I was the nerdy kid who read the encyclopedia for fun and I liked discussing deep topics with my one close childhood friend.
During my later middle school years I became somewhat more socially aware and made a few more friends, although I still had difficulty relating to their interests and found the topics of conversation to be quite boring, to say the least. While I finally was able to fit in, I still really felt out of place.
As I became frum, however, things changed drastically. At NCSY, then later at school, I found teenage girls who I could become friends with who were interested in topics that were deeper than the latest Backstreet Boys song. While I did not become close friends with the "popular girls" at my Jewish school either, I found a group of friends that not only didn't look down on me for my intellectual interests, they respected me. People were inspired by my dedication to learning and the few people who knew my background, which I tried hard to keep secret in order to fit in, were amazed at how quickly I caught up to grade level in limudei kodesh.
This was particulalrly true when I came to my Chabad seminary. One thing that I do have to give Chabad credit for is that they are very into girls learning. During my seminary year I was constantly learning a variety of things, from mefarshim on Chumash to Yiddish Sichos. Halacha was my favorite topic. I was fascinated by the logic behind the halachic process and its implementation in the modern world. The other girls looked up to me as a sincere, dedicated frum girl and I would routinely council young baalos teshuva to try to help them succeed in the frum system.
Being the good frum girl that I was, I wanted to get married as soon as possible in order to have as many children as possible. I only wanted to marry someone in klei kodesh who was as interested in learning as I was. I figured that everyone managed somehow and that we would find a way to manage financially as well. I mangaged to find my husband, who fits that description perfectly, and a minimum-wage job for myself to complement his kollel stipend. We then got married and I started trying to excel at the next stage of my frum life just as I had at the first.
Then reality came.
(To be continued...)