From the Front Ro: From black-and-white to bleeding blue-and-white

I was born into a world of black and white. The people I saw, the books I read and the rules I followed- everything was monotone, simple, one note.
I grew up in the ultra-orthodox city of Monsey, NY. Rules were my life. My structured routine was all I ever knew and all I was ever expected to know. I was taught not to question the Torah and the word of the rabbis and never- for fear of divine retribution- look beyond the four walls that surrounded me.
At a young age I became a rule breaker. I questioned everything and everyone. Why couldn't I be friends with the nice Asian girl who lived down the street? What was so bad about wearing that pretty red dress? Why is it that I cannot go where I want, speak to whomever I want and befriend different people?
I learned quickly to stifle my questions. I was punished in school for my radical trains of thought. The simple question of "why?" was enough to have me expelled from the classroom to consider how much I had angered God. I lived in fear that at any moment I would cross the line and be struck by lightning for my crimes.
At age 18, my mother finally accepted the truth; I would never be a cookie cutter ultra-Orthodox girl who would get married and support her husband through kollel while producing an endless line of children. She knew that without a little direction I would be lost in a sea of doubt and wonder, forever questioning who it was I could really be and why I couldn't experience the different colors the world had to offer.
So she sent me to Israel. She sent me blindly into a new world hoping that I would find my footing, and more importantly, find my place within the nation of Israel.
The State of Israel was never a subject for discussion- we knew only of Eretz Yisrael- the land of our forefathers. Zionism was a dirty word never to be spoken. My mother made a radical move by sending me to Israel- putting herself in harm's way for my benefit- and to her I owe everything.
It was during my two year tenure in midrasha that I began to read. I read every book I could get my hands on. I broke out of my black and white books and experienced the greens and yellows of Rav Soleveitchick and Rav Kook. I struggled through the reds and blues of Marx and Locke. I saw the oranges and purples of Socrates and Plato, absorbing the materials like a sponge put to water, desperately seeking answers to my endless list of questions.
I discovered what it meant to have an opinion that mattered. I began to reflect on the life I had left behind me and the sort of life I wished to lead. I discovered a whole new world of possibility- and most importantly I learned that the philosophy I was falling in love with did not necessarily contradict the Torah and the values I was raised on.
I decided that my true home was in Israel, a multi-cultural, multi-faceted country where expressing your opinion about everything and anything- whether it is your business or not - is a part of the culture. I chose Israel as my home because I found the part of me that was missing within its borders. I truly returned to my homeland as a free Jew.
Truth be told I am grateful for my upbringing. I learned lessons about family, about community, and about true and absolute commitment that are now deeply ingrained in who I am as a person. I learned what it means to dedicate your life completely and entirely to a cause you believe in. For me however, it was simply not the right cause.
I have begun forging a new path in life. I carry my past with me as a constant reminder of what drives me forward. I carry my past with me to remind me both for the good and the bad of where I come from and where I want to go.
I carry with me an understanding of diverse cultures and a slightly different perspective on every opportunity presented to me. I see colors brightly and clearly and I am eager to learn what each one has to teach me.
My journey has taught me that every person has something new to offer. This has taught me to stop and listen to people- to absorb their experiences and try to begin to understand their perspective. This has brought me an endless stream of entertaining and illuminating experiences I never would have had before.
I may come from a world of black and white but now I have the honor of living in a world of vivid Technicolor.