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My Sense of Spirituality

I remember being 9 years old and having my very first existential crisis. I had just watched some corny YouTube video about space and how small the Earth is in relation to everything else. My childhood friend and I were lying on the living room floor, squirming around on the rug, letting out occasional screams about how tiny and pointless we were in the overwhelmingly large universe. I felt weird. I was a little bit scared, sort of confused, and felt pretty lonely. I just didn’t know how to comprehend the vastness of the universe.

I sat with this overwhelming feeling for a bit until eventually the size of the universe started to feel almost comforting. I remember there being a shift in my head. I went from being extremely nihilistic and thinking my existence was insignificant, to thinking about how confusing yet meaningful it is that I happen to be a part of something so uniquely huge. My awareness of this vastness made me feel engulfed by something bigger than me. Something so big I could not understand or picture what it was, but I felt it there.

Throughout my life, I started to notice that there were many more concepts that were extraordinarily vast and unknown that made me feel confused. I went through a phase where I was hyper fixated on what the meaning of “forever” was and how time managed to never stop. I then moved on to feeling freaked out by death and what happens after we all die. While these expansive thoughts brought lots of uncertainty and discomfort, they also brought me relief and a feeling of connectedness. It started becoming clear to me that this feeling of vastness or overwhelming unknowns, made me feel more in touch with that “thing” that was bigger than me.

Over time I have realized that this “thing” that is bigger than me is actually my sense of spirituality, or connectedness, or being close to some sort of Divine. This feeling of something bigger than me or this sense of spirituality bubbles up everytime I allow myself to be immersed in something vast. Whether I am thinking about the size of the universe or experiencing grief or pondering the fragility of life.

One area of my life that consistently makes me feel connected to this vastness is my queer identity. When I was first coming to terms with my queerness, it felt pretty similar to 9-year-old Maddie having an existential crisis after watching some silly YouTube video. Although I wasn’t literally squirming around on the floor and screaming this time, I was definitely still uncomfortable, confused, and growing aware of something that felt so unknown and sort of scary. At age 19, I was having another existential crisis—but this time about my identity. Figuring out my identity felt big and confusing in the same ways that death or the meaning of “forever” did. I was questioning pieces of myself in ways that I used to only question confusing things about the world.

As I have grown more confident in my queer identity, I would not describe it as uncomfortable or scary. However, it is definitely still confusing, and many parts of it remain unknown or ever-changing. But I absolutely adore that about queerness. Similarly to the vastness of the universe, my queer identity feels so expansive, so unexplainable, and so all-encompassing. The grandness of my identity feels so sacred and so spiritual.

Pride Month is such a special time because I get to focus on the part of myself that makes me feel most grounded, connected, and spiritual. I get to celebrate being a part of the queer community where what brings us together is our vastness, our fluidity, and the fact that we are different.

On this Shabbat, I hope that you are able to feel engulfed by something that feels bigger than you. Whether that’s asking yourself existential questions, going to shul, marching in the Pride Parade, or watching the YouTube video about space that 24-year-old Maddie still thinks about 15 years later.