The Religious One
I have a friend who is a freelance graphic designer/multimedia guy/general webhead.
A few weeks ago he got a call from a woman who I used to work with about five years ago. She asked him to come in for a meeting about some webwork she needed done at her new company (he used to work with her as well, but long before I did.)
Although we did not work closely together, this woman and I did work for the same small company for over two years and saw each other nearly every day. We had many conversations over that time. She is Jewish like me (although not Orthodox) and we both have two daughters. She also knew a lot of people in my town, so we had plenty of things to talk about while we waited for the coffee to brew or the copier to free up.
I was pretty sure she would remember me so I asked my friend to send her my regards.
When my friend came back from his meeting he told me that after thinking about it for a minute or two (I have an unusual name) she remembered me. “Oh, the religious one!” was her reaction.
This comment bothered me as soon as I heard it. At first I wasn’t sure why but I spent some time thinking about it:
Maybe I’m tired of being “religious” first and everything else second. If she had remembered me as “the hardworking one” or “the brilliant one” I probably wouldn’t have minded it at all. I don’t mind being identified as Jewish, or religious, but in a work setting (where religion is fairly irrelevant) why would that be the one thing that stuck out in her mind after all this time?
I try hard to be a well rounded person, certainly religion plays a large role in my life but it’s not all I put out there as a person. I am both hardworking and smart, I know how to have fun, and I’m a pretty nice person overall- so be tossed into the “religious” box makes me feel like the rest of my interests and personality are hidden behind my religious observance. Of COURSE I know I’m reading too much into a tiny sound bite, but a few weeks have passed and it still bothers me whenever I think about it.
Is my religion the essence of who I am?
Is it wrong for me to not always want it to be?