For as long as I can remember, I have self-identified as an Ambitious Career Woman (capitalization and all!). Set goal. Enact plan. Achieve goal. Repeat. As a woman in corporate America, my identity was connected to how fast I could move up that ladder. I also believed that my extrinsic success was important for feminism: more promotions for the sisterhood! I was a Corporate Boss, loud and proud.
Then Covid hit. Like many, I was invited to (forced to?) connect with myself in a deeper, more meaningful way, as external distractions were suddenly diminished. I realized that this Corporate Boss persona did not encapsulate my whole self, and my soul desired to explore and connect with Jewish spirituality.
When I was introduced to At The Well, the monthly practice of Rosh Chodesh ignited something within me that had been lying dormant my entire life. I witnessed how my body, mind, and spirit deeply resonated with the messages and monthly wellness practices aligned with the Jewish calendar — whether it was the fiery heat of Tammuz or the deep dreaminess of Kislev. I started transforming as I welcomed and befriended this new part of my identity, my inner Hebrew Priestess.
Suddenly, my Corporate Boss became burned out, and I had to turn to my Hebrew Priestess for guidance. It was Rosh Hashanah 5782, and I could not properly observe the Days of Awe because of my Corporate Boss workload. However, I did learn that 5782 was Shmita, a year of rest, a sabbatical year that only happens every seven years in the Jewish calendar. My inner Hebrew Priestess leaped at this information, and I knew it was my time to observe Shmita. The universe responded as she often does, and I found myself without a job a few months later due to unforeseeable events.
Instead of panicking or hustling to land the next job, I allowed the Jewish calendar to guide me and committed that I would not work again until 5783, eight months later! (I acknowledge this was a privileged position that is inaccessible to many.)
I initially thought I would feel bored or anxious during my sabbatical without the structure of a job, or that part of me would feel unfulfilled as my Corporate Boss was pushed aside. To my surprise, I found the opposite was true. I loved my eight-month sabbatical and spent my time engaging in activities that filled my cup and brought me joy: traveling, connecting with self and others, contributing to community organizations, and deepening my Jewish practice. Most importantly, I learned that I could experience a meaningful life without my Corporate Boss job. Ultimately, I had the opportunity to reconsider my identity and my relationship with ambition.
Today, I still identify as an Ambitious Woman. However, that ambition is not solely focused on my career; it is a holistic ambition about all parts of my life. I am ambitious about the quality of my connections with others. I am ambitious about my health. I am ambitious about serving as a community builder and leader. I am ambitious about exploring Jewish spirituality. This identity shift has brought me great clarity, and I'm living a much richer and more joy-filled life.
I share this story because I know many other women are reexamining their relationship with ambition or other identities that may no longer serve them. Facing this reality can be scary because it is a major life change. Others may project judgment and disappointment, and you may even experience some grief during the process.
After undergoing this experience for myself, I’m here to tell other women that taking the space and time to look inward is always worth it in the end — and there may be new, more aligned identities just waiting to be explored. And if you're ready to explore and don't know where to begin, may I recommend At The Well's monthly Rosh Chodesh gatherings?
At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.
What Is Shmita, the Sabbatical Year?, My Jewish Learning
A Year to Restore - Shmita 5782, OneTable
Brooklyn, the Most Jewish Spot on Earth, Hadassah Magazine