Was speaking with my wife the other day and she said to me "I don't think I want to be a Lubavitcher anymore." My mouth dropped open and I was stunned. I found myself wondering if she was planning on joining me as my Skeptitcher Rebbitzen. I couldn't believe that this would happen so soon after my own shift in Yiddishkeit.
It turns out when I asked about what she meant that she just wants to be a Chabadnik, instead of a Lubavitcher. The difference being that in a Lubavitch community, where practically everyone is Lubavitch, there is very little individuality and divergence from the accepted communal norm. Lubavitchers go to shuls that are, for all intensive purposes, strictly Lubavitch and there is little to no diversity whatsoever. No diversity of thought or basic Yiddishkeit upbringing. All everyone can learn about is the Rebbes. All everyone talks about is Chabad Chassidus. All anyone can act like is according to the strict standards of Chabad-Lubavitch and any divergence really would be ostracized in one way or another. It is more of a communal setting where everyone must do their part and play their role.
A Chabadnik on the other hand is associated with, more or less, Chabad Houses. Places that seem to us to be very diverse. People come from all walks of life, have all sorts of different points of view and dress in all sorts of ways. They come and go all the time, always with fresh faces. Hardly anyone expects you to act a certain way and controversial questions, although hardly answered to ones liking, are not shunned or discouraged (they aren't really encouraged either for that matter.) Also it feels like you are at a home rather than a community. With a family rather than just a group of people. Its more haimish, welcoming, accepting and diverse. All things I loved about Chabad in the first place.
So naturally I agreed with her and we said that as soon as it is reasonable we would move to a smaller community with a Chabad House and just hang out there instead. I never really wanted to live in a big frum community anyways. The smaller ones are always more fun and welcoming. And the best thing about them is that they are so much less suffocating than big frum communities. I really enjoyed Orthodox life in those smaller communities, I could really see myself as enjoying Orthoprax life in a location like that as well, but we shall see.