I was at the Shabbos table and I mentioned that when I was in eighth grade I was in yeshiva from 9 in the morning until 9 at night, learning first seder, second seder and night seder. The immediate reaction I got was “that’s terrible!” and “it’s not possible for someone to function properly in such a situation!”
I said that I agreed, but only because this is the society we live in. Since a kid looks around and sees everyone else having it easy, he will develop whatever psychological issues victims of undue pressure develop. But I said that in principle I don’t think there is any indication that there is something unhealthy about a 12-13 year old kid learning all day. I added support to my argument by saying that back in the old country the kids all used to go to work at 11 years old (and we aren’t talking 9-5) and they managed just fine.
They said that there’s no way those kids were happy. And they said there’s no way I can even believe what I’m saying and I must just be playing devil’s advocate. It’s absolutely impossible for someone to have such a “pressured” life and truly be happy.
I thought that was stupidity.
They started telling me about this person who has money issues and can’t make his tuition payments although the school is prepared to take his kid out of school, and another who needs to moonlight as a janitor in order to make ends meet.
I listened and then said, “ok… so what’s your point?”
“You really think they are happy? You’re crazy!”
“I’m not saying I know they’re happy, I’m just saying it isn’t inconceivable and certainly not impossible. Why does difficult have to mean unhappy?”
The response I got was a wave of the hand and a few not very well concealed looks of irritation. They seemed angry at me. Why? Why is it that some discussions make people angry when you don’t agree with them? Is it a lack of self esteem or something? Do they think that you are somehow incriminating them with your opinion? Is it a lack of confidence in their own opinion? I really hate when this happens because it’s like a wall goes up. There was a certain trust I had that we can talk openly about things and now it’s broken. Just stupid. Well, it’s their loss :-)