I used to think I was an alien.

On the bottom of Mars there’s a small town called “Whapton.” Whapton is sparsely populated, and its residents have to live with a unique problem. See, gravity works differently on Mars; everything gets pulled down towards Earth—so if you’re at the bottom, you need to constantly hold on, or you’ll fall off the planet.

Usually Whaptonions stay inside innerground tunnels for safety reasons, but once in a while they need to leave the tunnels and use the overground monkey-bars (which, if you understand properly, are really underground) to travel from one tunnel to another.

One day, when I was a young Whaptonion, I attempted using the overground bars on the way to school. As I was swinging from one bar to the next, my schoolbag fell. Instinctively, I tried to catch my bag with my spare hand, and that is when I fell off the planet and landed on this place called Earth.

Okay, so there are some problems with the story, like how I ended up with a family on Earth, but to my fifteen-year-old mind, Whapton was the best possible explanation for all my problems.

Clearly, I didn’t belong on planet Earth. I was often quite clumsy, my things easily got messy, social interactions made me anxious, and keeping up with school work was too difficult for me. Somehow everyone else seemed to be managing just fine, while I was messing up at every turn. Coming from Whapton, this all made sense. My outfits weren’t as cute as the other kids, because on Whapton the fashion trends were more bland. I got that test question wrong, because on Whapton we think in more straightforward terms. I forgot all about my classmate’s Bat Mitzvah party, because on Whapton parties were never a thing.

Whapton held a special place in my heart, until the day I found out that Whapton was destroying me. Whapton was bad.

I was eighteen years old, loved flipping through psychology books, skipping school, and blaming Whapton for all my failures. One night I was sitting with my friends and singing chassidic tunes (of course I was a little off tune, because in Whapton music works a little differently), and we began to sing a beautiful tune called the Beinoni Niggun.

The Beinoni Niggun is a deep and powerful melody, representing the human struggle to do the right thing. My friends were singing beautifully, and I was trying really hard to get into it. The notes were rising as the tune pushed forward through strife, and repeated over as the stanza tried again to move ahead—and that’s when it hit me hard. I couldn’t relate. I had never struggled a day in my life. I had never failed—it was always the circumstances that failed me. I was perfect, every flaw had a completely sensible solution.

I wasn’t part of this soulful tune; I had surrendered even before the battle began.

For weeks I couldn’t get the Beinoni Niggun out of my head. It taunted me all day, and messed with my dreams at night. So I opened up a book with the same name. The Book of the Beinoni. Also known as the Tanya, the bible of Chassidut—a book I had spent hours studying in school, but never really paid attention to. Inside, I read about a seemingly hopeless and devastating human struggle.

The Tanya speaks of the struggle as something that never ends. Before we are born, we promise God that we’ll be righteous, and from there starts the battle that’s never won. Every difficulty overcome is replaced with a new one, every accomplishment meets its challenge, and nothing ever achieves perfection.

Along with our pre-birth promise to be righteous, we also promise never to believe that we have fulfilled it, and with that, God provides us the strength to pull through whatever comes our way. That is our entire purpose in this world. To battle. Every day. To never stop fighting to do the right thing, never stop working to improve ourselves, to relish every moment of effort in turning the world into a place of good.

If I wanted to join in the stunning tune of the Beinoni Niggun, I had to leave Whapton behind and face the truth.

I’m not an alien. I’m a plain old typical human being.

I have flaws. I have struggles. I have to-do lists full of things that I’m not good at.

And it’s beautiful.