I think one of the hardest parts of becoming a baal teshuvah is in finding a comfort zone. Being an Orthodox Jew is not a once-a-week thing, or even a once-a-day thing. It’s something that permeates and becomes your whole essence – your actions, your thoughts and yourself.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when facing so many changes. A simple thing to do in such a situation is to shut down your mind and blindly follow what others tell you to do. The problem in this is that, down the road, you often catch yourself in a place that isn’t really you.
Becoming religious is a long journey. Many people walk over mountains and through valleys on the way to finding the place that is right for them. I know I did.
It took me a long time to find my comfort zone. I tried out a lot of different models, but finally had to settle on my own concoction of halacha and individuality. A balance between keeping Hashem’s commandments without letting it engulf me completely, not sublimating myself in exchange for acceptance in a specific community. And this balance and concoction changes all the time. But what’s the most important is that I didn’t lose myself, my uniqueness, while at the same time I conformed to what the Torah requires of me as a Jew.
What’s so important on this journey is to find people who support you – wherever you stand religiously. People who care about you and want the best for you, even if that means you are not in the exact same place they are. Since I have managed to find wonderful people who know and love and support me for who I am inside, despite the fact that at times I make different religious decisions than they do, my religious identity and security has blossomed significantly.
Finding your niche within the Orthodox world takes effort, hard work and patience as you work it out. But the efforts are well worth the rewards.