I noticed weakness in others but I couldn't afford to think that there was a weak bone in me. I saw bachurim get sick and take off, not me, I had to keep on chugging forward. Sometimes, I envied them, they seemed to be more relaxed. They were good bachurim and I wondered how they justified taking a seder off because they weren't feeling well. To me, you had to be dead to not come to seder. Either way, I was excited, if they didn't come, I got a head and lord only knows how badly I wanted and needed to know that I was ahead. I sas bachurim leave early, before the zman was over to go back to America. I would never do that. I didn't realize that I was just too scared to think about what my family meant to me, my future and the logistics of the trip. I just stayed and kept on learning. I remember one Pesach, I decided to stay in Eretz Yisroel for Pesach. I was so lonely. I was so confused and broken. I had decided to do it because I had heard that, that is what serious bachurim do, but I didn't know how hard it would be to be away from my family for yom tov. It was lonely and quiet around the yeshiva. At the same time I had a good feeling that I was doing the right thing, these are the best years to keep on learning.
I'll never forget an experience that was quite jarring. In the midst of my commitment to not listen to the pain that was going on inside me, I had a burst of honesty that I never forgot. I was sitting in the back of the beis medrash one friday afternoon when it was practically empty. I had known this feeling before. I would get a particuar pleasure from learning in the beis medrash when it was practically empty because then I had that feeling that I was getting ahead of everyone else. At the same time there was this gnawing feeling that I was missing out on something central to life, spending time with people, comradary and companionship. The bachurim would go out on friday afternoon to play basket ball together. Boy did I wish that I could just go out there and play with them. It was so far from me. I was way beyond that. I had burried that possibility deep beneath my facod a long time ago. I knew I couldn't be that close to people. It was on one of these friday afternoons that I came across a Rashi. It seemed to bounce off the page and bite at my heart. It indicated that there is a certain amount of learning or accomplishment that a person can do and that a person should not delude themselves to believing that they could grab or hord more accomplishment than what is reasonably possible. It was then, that I had a shocking premonition. It said that although my life, presently was one devoted to learning and that I couldn't imagine any other life, I would someday need to stop learning because of all the extra learning that I was trying to hord for myself. This message was clear but of course I was too determined to head the warning. I knew what I needed and I knew what I could do. I needed respect, I was too afraid to look for it and ask for it but I hoped that if I learned enough, some day people would look at me and notice me. They would regret the many years that they disrespected me and I would finally get the peace, acceptance and security that I yearned for so badly.