Passover is my favorite Jewish Holiday. It’s about freedom.
I’m an Aquarian. A free spirit. A woman who spent her life playing in the boys’ clubs: sports, drums, Corporate America. Whenever someone would tell me they didn’t think I could do something? Well, that was the sole motivation to ensure that I could, would and did.
I rarely accepted the standards and norms of what women are supposed to be and instead just did whatever I wanted to do. I am nobody’s slave.
The thing about Passover, the real thing about it, is that we’re each grappling with our own Free Will. And learning what that freedom means. Year by year, decade by decade, those of us who live in countries where we are free, we learn that the real slavery comes from within.
Sometimes we’re disillusioned into thinking that lack of commitment – whether to another person or to a job or to a group of people – signifies freedom. Really, commitment, genuine commitment, is the best indicator of a free soul.
I pay my own rent, work for myself and am currently single. On any given day, with very minor exception, I do whatever I want.
It’s an interesting place to be. At various points in my life, I’ve been accountable to banks that owned my roof, to companies who entrusted me with millions of dollars of products and even to the men whom I have dated. The swing between all that accountability to where I am today wasn’t sudden. Rather, it was a gradual process, a paring down of what or whom no longer mattered. Instead, to focus on what was most true.
Several times in my life, I’ve had to cross the Red Sea. And pray and hope for survival. Life tests us. When we live long enough, it will test us often.
Last year, I spent my Passover in Austin, Texas, a city that tested everything I thought I knew about myself. Prior to the move, I’d done two years of research and was convinced that of all the cities in America, Austin, with its warm weather, no taxes and exploding creative scene, would be my next home. After just two short days there, my instinct knew it was all wrong. After two weeks, and right during Passover, which I deliberately spent alone, eating store bought Manischewitz soup and gefilte fish and matzo, I knew that home was back in Cleveland.
Sure, the winter this year was really long and really cold. And, no, I’m not a fan of the massive city and state taxes we pay to live here. Yet, all the while, the creativity, the commerce and the Cavs have repositioned Cleveland into a star.
In 2007 I wrote a song called “Cleveland Rising.” In 2008 hosted a photo exhibit of the same name. Now #clevelandrising is a branded hashtag signaling the re-emergence of this city. The city where I found my voice. The city where I became an entrepreneur. The city where two colleges hired me to teach the next generation.
Besides Dublin, Ireland, there isn’t another city on the planet where my spirit feels as free as it does here in Cleveland.
With that freedom, of course, comes great responsibility. That is the ultimate irony of this word. And this holiday. When there’s nothing or no one to be responsible for? That is the ultimate emotional slavery. Because without it, without the connection towards others, the work to make the world a better place, the creative expression that risks judgment and ridicule, without any of these things, we are simply puppets on someone else’s string.
Tonight, for Passover, I am in Cleveland. Back home, where I belong. And I’ll be celebrating this Seder with a beautiful family that, just over a year ago, took me in as their own. They even call me Cousin. And at the table will be two amazing people, who just came up from Chicago and whom I have known my entire American life. Joining all these incredible smiles will, no doubt, kick off a Passover like no other.
I’m grateful for Austin. It made me realize that my true self feels most free when it’s nurtured. And that’s not in the desert. It’s right here, in the Midwest, with the Great Lakes on each corner. Where there is water, there is life.