Being a kid was a lot like being a slave. I had to go to school. I had to be home at a certain time. I had to eat the food my parents bought. I was on their schedule: I didn’t have a car, a place of my own, anything!
When I started college, I finally felt free. I was my own man, freed from the slavery of childhood. But there was a problem: I really had no sense of who I was. I was always changing my clothing style, my taste in music, the food I ate, the stuff I liked to do for fun. My identity was really fluid then, not because I was so open minded, but because I was in a crisis: true adulthood was creeping up on me, and I needed to figure out who I was and what I was going to do with my life.
In a way, I was wandering through my own desert, just like the Hebrews.
In this week’s Torah portion, G-d tells the freed Hebrew slaves to count themselves, and instructs them to take on certain roles. The Gershonites were in charge of the tent and the covering of the Tabernacle. The Kohathites delt with the ark, table, lampstand and some other things inside it, etc. etc. etc. In this way, G-d is telling them who they are, and what their life is about.
If you’re having trouble figuring out who you are, and what your life is about, then try the Bamidbar Technique For Solving An Identity Crisis:
- Count your people. See who it is that you want to be around, day and night, 24/7. Literally count the number of people. Is your “tribe” small or large? Are you OK with that?
- See how these people live. Maybe it’s the free spiritedness of the Crunchies or the booze-and-shmooze life of the Young Executives that turns you on. Either way, you are going to be in this group and you better see if it’s something you want.
- Camp with your people. Get involved with the people that you want to be around. Whether it’s interning at a company that you think you like, or visiting a college that sounds cool, or volunteering for a non-profit that attracts the people you like, getting involved will surround you with the kinds of people you want to emulate.
- Take on the role. Once you know what you like, and who you want to be, then do it! There’s nothing stopping you.
- Remember that you are what you are. A lot of people want to be everything. You can’t be. It’s impossible. You might have to sacrifice certain things, like a type of job, a certain place you want to live, certain educational opportunities, etc. But if you love what you are doing, and who you are with, you are willing to give up anything.