Something was definitely changing but I knew that I couldn't pay it much attention. I knew that I was a servant of hashem and as long as I continued my devotion, all would be ok. Of course, I understood that being a servant of hashem could be hard andc that pain was an understandable experience, but I knew I would make it. The frustration was catching up with me. I saw myself doing things that cought my attention, at least for a moment. My chavrusa caused me much suffering. he always wanted to go slower and enjoy the gemara. i wanted to move along. For me, it was about learning as much gemara as I could. I wanted, needed to be the one who everyone knew as a buki in shas. I needed that respect so badly. I knew that if I didn't get it, my life wasn't worth living. that was my sole motivation to learn, and here this chavrusa was trying to slow me down. One day, in the middle of the beis medrash, I started punching my fist against a sharp metal part of my shtender until blood started pouring out of my knuckle. I had always felt myself to be a calm, eidele bachur, always with a smile, the kind who would turn the other cheek,rather than hurt a fly. I had just gotten a glimpse of a very different kind of person. there was a very angry sad person, in there, of course, i wouldn't admit that for a very long time.
On Friday afternoons when even the "good" bachurim went out to play basket ball, I stayed, in the almost empty beis medrash and learned. I was better. I knew that the trophe went to the one who learned the most. If I was here and they were not, that means I was getting ahead. Since I knew I learned, absorbed information slower than others, I had this idea, that perhaps, if I learned when they were not, that was the way to get ahead. There was a temporary high from the idea that i was getting ahead, but the pain of disconnect that I felt with myself and others was not worth that superficial high. My mind just couldn't focus. I remember thinking,"what's the use of sitting here, trying to learn and get ahead, if I can't even get my mind to focus and absorb any information". I hated my mind already, and these moments just increased my hatred. I could hear myself thinking " You stupid fuck, I am taking this extra time, to learn just so that we can get ahead. Why can't you do that for me? I am wasting my day!!!"
I also wondered what was wrong with this picture. My friends who had gone out to play basketball were also good bachurim, so why wasn't I out with them? I had this idea that if I went out, hashem wouldn't like it. I had a whole bunch of unnatural, and unhealthy attitudes in me, that stopped me from participating. Looking back I was just one pile of fear that couldn't think slowly enough to be here and now and enjoy life, like a normal person, so for the time being I sat in a puddle of pain, and fear, hoping that my extreme methods of compensation, would somehow, someday brinfg me the pleasure that I sought so much. Perhaps someday, somehow, people would be my friend. I didn't really know what that felt like, or what it would feel like, but I figure, hoped, prayed that somewhere down this road, things would get better and I'd find a friend. I had to get rid of the pain in me, and I figured that if I got a friend, perhaps the pain would be a little less.
One Friday afternoon, I had a scary premontion. One that to this day, has me believe that our mind knows very well, on some deep level what we need and what is good, and what has us aligned with our deepest truth and purpose. I was learning a gemara in sanhedrin which had alluded to this point, and had me think this thought. "Someday, all of these strivings that you have made, to get ahead, and to know more than others will all be undone, they will amount to nothing". I had this notion, that somehow, it will all be undone, that it is impossible for one to beat their natural destiny. One can strengthen an arm, but you can't chop it off. I tried to kill this voice. "How could you tell me what will be?" I thought. "shut up, I am in charge here!! I will learn as much as I want to learn and I will get all the respect that comes to those who know shas, and know which gemara is where". I hated that voice so much. It sounded so true. It was as if there was nothing I could do but continue learning my way to my doom. I had no choice. I had no other option. I had heard of no other way. I had no way out of my pain and lonliness. I had only one way, so back into the gemara I went, to find a way to avoid facing the monster, the terror that lie waiting in my psyche since before I could remember.