| The Struggle Is the Goal |

The Struggle Is the Goal: My Inner Cynic

We each have our own private quests, those goals we tried — or keep trying — to achieve. As we struggle and strive, the process becomes its own destination

Project Coordinator: Rachel Bachrach | Digital Artwork: Meital Ashkenazi

I was young when I realized that I realized many things. Like way more than most people realized. I realized hunches and smiles and ways that people talked and ways that people didn’t talk.

And the shoes they wore, and how they wore them, and when they wore them.

I’d go to the shoe store with some friends and match up each shoe to someone we knew. You know the SAS toggle shoes? Those were my favorite. I would position my feet a bit inward and point to those shoes. It was fun, and most of the time I didn’t even realize what I was doing until it was done.

People like cynics, until they don’t. Teachers, for example. I knew exactly how to pick up on the flaws of every teacher, principal, administrator, and mechaneches. I wasn’t fooled by “fantastic” teachers. I could see their weaknesses as easily as I saw their sheitels, stiff with hairspray, and I could mimic them so well, the entire class was in stitches. I always behaved. I just knew how to get them squirming up there, and they usually didn’t even know why.

I was actually puzzled by the comments on my report cards. It usually included words “hachna’ah” (they wanted more) and “leitzanus” (they wanted less), but I honestly didn’t realize that it was my fault. It was my default setting. The teachers couldn’t explain it to me either. “Just a feeling,” they would say.

And truthfully, while I’m cynical, I’m not judgmental. I believe in tolerance and love all mankind, but I just notice. And from noticing to commenting is a very short ride that crosses the line from muttar — though not so nice — to assur.


It was an issue in school, but eventually I graduated. It was an issue when I starting working because the boss was a weakling, but then she left. Then I became a writer, and it worked to my advantage. It helped me paint my characters with enough quirks and flaws to make them come alive. (I’m using a penname, duh.)

Now it’s an issue because I want to change. It’s uncomfortable being this jaded person and constantly being called for shidduch information because they heard I’m “great at giving laser-targeted information.” They tell me it’s a mitzvah.

It doesn’t make me feel that amazing.

From my entire family, I’m always the one chosen to check out prospective kallahs. They rely on me to differentiate between real class and AliExpress class. I can discern the difference between eidel and nebby, and I’m usually right. Not an accomplishment I’m proud of.

I hate going to the kimperturin heim after I give birth. I hate being the unofficial entertainer, so I make sure to arrive to meals late. So what if I can act the role of anti-vaxxer, pro-vaxxer, antiestablishment, pro-establishment, chassidish, litvish, and yeshivish, down to the facial expressions and hand motions? I hate watching people scan the room, find my table, and head in my direction. I’m not a comedian! That’s scheduled for Monday evening.

But change isn’t easy. Because being the cynic that I am, I know exactly how “changed” people behave. You know those that go from one support group to another and talk about the way they are changed forever?

Real change is hard. I realize that my core won’t change, but my actions can be different. I made it my business to work on respecting my boss and my children’s teachers and trying to find at least five things to respect in a person before acknowledging their first weakness.

I work hard for each victory. And get really down after each failure. But I get up again.

Recently, I was on a kallah-scouting mission for a friend. After I met the girl, I told my friend, “If you can get this girl, grab her.” She wasn’t classy and she wasn’t shrewd, but there was purity in her eyes and real happiness in her smile. She wasn’t a cynic, and she probably wouldn’t even get a cynical joke. And that’s what I liked about her.

Goldy Schwartz has been a teacher and writer for close to two decades. She lives in Lakewood, New Jersey.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 839)

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