Something happened. Something so startling, so awkward, and so unexpected, that I still, 218 hours later (roughly), am musing nonstop about its meaning, sporadic breathing and heart palpitations galore.

Backing up. I am currently, to my surprise and to the surprise of everyone else I know, a full-blown yeshiva student. Let me paint you a picture of my daily routine.

Lipstick marks are supposed to be the way you can tell which cup is yours, and which cup is Bubbie’s7:00 am, I wake up, throw some egg whites onto the plug-in hotplate, and burn my throat with every hurried bite as I hope to make it on time to my first class at 7:45 am. Class is until 4:00 pm, with a short break for a lunch consisting of something dairy on top of something carby with a side of something with sliced beef tomatoes. 4:00 to 6:30 pm is homework/errand time. Dinner is some kind of indistinguishable meat with something carby and more sliced beef tomatoes. More class until 10 pm. If we get out on time. And somewhere after that, after homework, calling home, putting the laundry in the dryer a third time, and hoping to become immune to other people's noise, is sleep.

Don't misunderstand me; being in yeshiva is nothing short of amazing, and to say that I absolutely thrive on my studies here would be a gross understatement, but the predictability of it all can become tiring. At any given hour on any given day, what I am doing at any specific time is exactly the same as it was the day before and as it will be on the day after.

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was offered an opportunity to jazz up my 7:30 one evening. I was invited to an engagement party for the daughter of the friend of my friend's father. Don't worry. I'll give you a moment to process that.

In pre-yeshiva life, you couldn't have bribed me with all the jewelry or all the expensive French bleu cheese in the world to get me to go a party for someone I didn't know. But such is no longer the case for a yeshiva girl like me. Opportunities to vary the agenda are coveted and highly rare. And yes. I jumped at the chance to go celebrate with this stranger.

I put on nice clothes, did my makeup, carefully arranged my grandmother's pearls around my neck, and felt like a real person for the first time in a long time. And for as much as I'd thought I hated small talk, I actually enjoyed schmoozing and making connections. I savored gourmet hors d'oeuvres, miniature delicate desserts, and other things that were not served with a side of sliced beef tomatoes.

I was sitting contently at one of the many elegantly laid tables when I glanced to see if my tea needed a refill. That's when I saw it. It was staring me right in the face, flagrant and unapologetic. It was dark. It was red. And worst of all, it was mine.

There, on my pristine white mug, was an undeniable lipstick mark. Each colored, jagged line was so perfectly printed, it could have been hand-drawn. I'm sorry, but lipstick marks are supposed to be the way you can tell which cup is yours, and which cup is Bubbie's. How did a little girl like me ever manage to get old enough to leave a mark like that? Is it actually possible that I've turned into…a woman?

I couldn't move. It didn't seem right that something like this could happen so suddenly. No one hesitates to notify you when your books are overdue or when it's time to get your teeth checked; how could this have been left off the list? Had I missed the signs?

When I was a kid, I figured that I'd know I was grown up when I could make my own bed time, when I could simply choose not to buy green beans instead of having to surreptitiously wrap them in a napkin and shove them down my pocket at the table while figuring out how to sneak them into the toilet without getting caught.

Being a woman meant making my own choices. Well, here I am, making them. I attended the university of my choice. I studied the field of my choice. I eat the food of my choice in the apartment of my choice off of the dishes of my choice (paid for out of the wallet of my choice with the credit card of my choice). And yet, choices galore, as I sat staring at the red print before me, I still didn't feel like a woman yet.

How can I possibly feel fulfilled if I don’t have what I want?I suppose this is due to the fact that, as I've grown up, my definition of what it means to be a woman has changed without my knowledge. Now, when I think of what it takes to be a woman, I imagine the women I look up to. The women who work at a rewarding job during the day and then come home to their (adorable, preferably) children with enough time to play with them and cook a delicious meal that's ready just before Dad gets home with his customary, but always genuine, hug and smile for the whole family.

Now, let's turn that into a checklist and see what I've accomplished. Rewarding job? No. House? No. Wonderful husband? Adorable kids? Kitchen adequate to feed nonexistent husband and kids? No. No. No. Aha, so this was why I didn't feel like a woman yet.

The question is, should a woman be satisfied when she doesn't feel she's living up to the definition of what a woman is? When Lipstick-On-Mug Day arrives and all the other woman around you seem to be light-years ahead of you, how do you stay motivated?

I decided to call in the special forces on this question. By special forces, I mean very special: my rabbi and rebbetzin. Tending to be more open (and impatient) than is sometimes prudent, I decided to throw caution to the wind and open up this question to them and the other guests at their Shabbat table. I asked, how can I possibly feel fulfilled if I don't have what I want? Shaking his head, my rabbi inserted a very pregnant pause into the conversation as I waited anxiously to hear what he had to say. After much thought, he finally answered, "I hate to tell you this, but I'm afraid you've missed the point." Great. Another problem to add to the list.

He continued, "Right now, you say that if you can just get a good job, then you'll be happy. Then what happens? When you get the job, then that's not good enough anymore, so you'll decide that as soon as you get married, you can be happy. After you're married, you can only be happy once you've got children. Once you have kids, you can finally achieve happiness once they get into prestigious colleges. And this cycle will just keep going and going." Well…duh, I thought. That's exactly my point! How can you be happy without those things? He continued, "Of course you need goals, but you can't wait for those things to happen in order to be happy. The fact that you exist is reason enough."

I waited for him to continue, to say something that would bring it all together, but that was it. Surprise surprise, I was not anywhere near satisfied with that. Existing is enough in itself? So, no matter if I'm dirt poor, if I stay single for the rest of my life, if I gain so much weight that a crane has to lift me out of my house to get to the grocery store, G‑d forbid, I should just say, "Hey, I exist, and that means everything's fantastic!" I don't think so.

I gave up for the duration of that meal. I was too annoyed and too exhausted. We moved onto other topics, but my mind didn't budge. My whole life, I'd been told by my teachers, the movies, the economy, and pretty much every situation I'd ever encountered, that a woman's value is based on her achievements. I'd been told endless cautionary tales of girls who'd never turned into women, who everyone smiled at when she walked by and whispered about when she left, "When is she going to get a life? Is she ever going to grow up? Her parents must be so embarrassed."

The message becomes very clear that if you don’t make something of yourself now, you might as well have never been bornWe live in a society where babies who haven't even learned how to talk yet are hooked up to machines to see what career will be the best fit for them, where if you don't start saving your birthday money once you turn five, you'll never be able to buy a house, where if you don't have a boyfriend by the time you're thirteen, you might as well buy a bunch of cats and an ugly housecoat because nobody will ever want to marry you. The message becomes very clear at an early age that if you don't make something of yourself now, you might as well have never been born.

The more I thought about this, the more distraught I became. What ever happened to enjoying the moment? Of course it's good to have aspirations, but if a woman spends her entire life looking at what she doesn't have and what she hasn't done, how can she possibly be happy? There will always be something new to achieve, but happiness comes from appreciating what you already have now, not from mourning your deficiencies. For my birthday, my friend gave me a card that said, "Today is the day that G‑d decided the world couldn't go on without you." If that holds true for a birthday, why not for every other day? If I'm here on this earth, I must be fulfilling some purpose, even if I don't know what it is.

I thought back to what my rabbi said, that existing in itself is not just a reason, but the reason, to be happy. Finally, it started to make more sense. I might not always have the things I want. I might not always achieve my goals. But I exist, which means I have value right now. I'm not in G‑d's head, and I don't see His master plan, but at least I can hold onto the trust that if G‑d deems me worthy of being on this earth, who am I to disagree? He will put me where I need to be, and He will give me what I need. And if what I need right now is lots and lots of sliced beef tomatoes instead of my own kitchen, so be it.

"Make known to me the path of life, that I may be satiated with the joy of Your presence, with the bliss of Your right hand forever."Psalms 16:11