Posts Tagged ‘reflections

Well, we’ve reached the dog days of summer, and with that comes memories of summers past. This is a different kind of summer, as I’m somewhere between college and the elusive “real world”. Still, as I try to become a “real person”, whatever that is, I have to give thanks to the life lessons that summer camp taught me.

Patience and resilience. I remember the whirlwind of the first few days there – learning all the names, finding my way around, figuring out who my friends were. Now, as someone who’s finished college, study-abroad, internships, and whatever comes next, I understand that past every overwhelming first day lies a great experience.

Empathy.  At different times, I have been the homesick bunk member, and the one who befriended that person.  These encounters that seemed so small at the time actually taught me that kindness and understanding are the root of every meaningful friendship.

The joy of writing. When most people had to be reminded to write letters every few days, I probably spent the most time on mine, carefully crafting them with so many details. That’s probably how I came to understand that writing is my greatest way of processing life.

Adventure, and the fact that separation from your parents is a normal, healthy, and NECESSARY stage of development. No one pushed me to go – I decided when I was ready, and went that summer. Now I better understand how temporarily leaving the nest helped me come home a more confident and empowered kid, ready for each new stage of life, and I hope it reaffirmed to my parents as well that they were raising a resilient human being with a thirst for adventure.

Spontaneity. Thank you, counselors, for the surprise pontoon rides and ice cream sundae-making parties, among many things, that showed us that the best adventures are often the unexpected ones.

Stepping outside your comfort zone. At camp, I was an awkward kid who chose the Drama elective just for the fun of it, and – surprise! – gained some confidence from making a fool of myself in public with silly stories and tongue-twisters like “Red leather, yellow leather.” I learned not to take life too seriously.

And then there were the camp songs and Jewish folk songs that will probably never leave me, and how much this has shaped my Judaism today is a topic for a whole other post.  But for now, this is what I carry with me. Thank you again, OSRUI.


So it’s been a week since graduation, and as the fresh excitement wears off, I’m starting to reflect on lessons these four years have taught me.  If you’re reading this, I want to share them with you.

First of all, try everything. A wise friend once pointed out how alike the words “university” and “universe” are – because college opens up a whole new universe of possibilities. I’m glad I found a home in the clubs that I thought I would.  (Thank you to Hillel at Brandeis, The Hoot, and STAND.) But I’m also forever grateful that I took the chance to sing a cappella, perform in 24 Hour Musical, and participate in all the quirky Brandeis traditions.  So do it all. The world is your oyster and campus is your home.

Accept that friendships might change as circumstances change. You may discover that some relationships, whether in high school or on your freshman floor, came from living in close proximity.

If you’re still in school, go to office hours, not only to get questions answered, but to get to know your professors as people.  Also, use all the campus resources, because they are here for YOU.  I’ll tell you this because there’s NO shame in it: I wish I’d found my Brandeis therapist even earlier.

It’s perfectly fine to drop a class if you need to. This happens much more often than you think.

Learn from someone who’s let too many deadlines slip by – DON’T PROCRASTINATE.  Do start your job/internship/scholarship/etc search early to stay ahead of all the due dates.

It’s okay to be an introvert in college. It’s okay to stay home when you need to recharge, or to take yourself out for solo adventures, something I absolutely recommend doing.  Realizing this was probably my biggest moment of self-discovery.

Platonic relationships are important – speaking as someone who has as many guy friends as girlfriends.

On that note, it’s great to have many types of friends. The ones who will tell you honestly how you look, and the ones who always know what to say to make you feel good. The kind ones, and the ones you can be snarky with.

There is a difference between having real feelings for someone, and enjoying the attention they give you. When you’re single and caught up in the moment, you might not see the difference.

Your parents were right about a lot of things, and you’ll start to discover that as “real world” experiences begin.

With that said, always listen to your intuition if you just know something’s not right.

Do venture outside your comfort zone, but don’t act like someone you are not. Anyone who doesn’t appreciate what makes you unique is not worth your time. I have to remind myself this through the highs and lows of job searching.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Don’t look at other people (especially on social media) and feel inadequate because that seem so much more secure and accomplished than you. We all have insecurities, deep down somewhere.

Most of all, be patient with yourself. Set goals and expectations, but don’t let them stress you out.  Expect that things may not happen on our time, but they happen when they are meant to. Sure, I thought a lot more of my life would be in order by now, but what good does it do to think that?  (This article sums up that feeling better than I ever could.)

You don’t have all the answers yet, and that is okay. I don’t even know all the things that I don’t know yet. But you will learn and grow a little more every day, and that’s how we will become the people we’re supposed to be.
To my classmates, congratulations again, and to the rest of you, keep enjoying college and life!

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Commencement day photo taken by my dad from up in the bleachers

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Tonight begins Sukkot, the Harvest Festival, and I’d like to say that seasonal festivals are wonderful because they celebrate the passage of time.  It’s always worth noting and celebrating the fact that we’ve made it through another year and made it back to where we started.  And we’re all different people in some way, so that bit of sameness and familiarity in life is refreshing.   

I feel that especially at this time of year, in a literal sense with the start of a new school year, new classes, activities, and friendships, and in a spiritual/religious sense with the High Holidays and all the festivals that follow.   (Interesting how it’s a time to contemplate and a time to celebrate.  Maybe those acts are related?)  Fall is a very spiritual time for us all — it’s when we turn over a new leaf just in time for the leaves to start changing.  We let go of the old, and embrace the new.     
(Soon campus will look something like this.) 
Since we’re still in the New Year state of mind, I’ll leave you with this: my very first Rosh Hashanah mini-sermon, delivered this year.   
Good evening, BaRuCH.  
As you all know, Rosh Hashanah is that time of year when we self-examine and reflect on our lives.  What we’ve accomplished in the past year, and what we have yet to achieve. What motivates us, why we do what we do.  And most of all, what we stand for as human beings.  What gives our lives meaning.  
The Binding Of Isaac, one of the readings for Rosh Hashanah, is an interesting case study of how people make sacrifices for what they believe.  Abraham is summoned to sacrifice his own son Isaac at Mt. Moriah in order to prove his faith in G-d.  Abraham almost goes through with the sacrifice, until G-d tells him that he’s already passed the “test” of his faith.  And he’s rewarded for this. G-d blesses him with many descendants. 
The big idea here is that in order to live meaningful lives, we must dedicate ourselves to a cause – some higher purpose beyond ourselves.  Abraham proved his commitment to his faith in the most dramatic of ways.  But Abraham’s sacrifice was only one in human history.  50 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr and the heroes of the civil rights movement were courageous enough to speak out and fight against injustice during the March on Washington. They made enormous sacrifices in the name of their beliefs- the hope of a brighter future for so many.  
One of my all-time favorite quotes is, “Find something you would die for, and live for it.”  I hope that in the year ahead, we all find something meaningful that’s worth making sacrifices for. Maybe it’s our faith and spirituality, maybe a personal goal, maybe fighting injustices in society today and making the world a better place. Whatever it is, let it guide us towards becoming better people.  
L’Shanah Tovah. 
So that’s really my state of mind right now.  I don’t know what my purpose in life is, but I do know that a friend just said I’ve kept them going through rough times, and that is the greatest compliment there is.  Maybe doing “something meaningful” isn’t about saving the whole world.  Maybe it’s just about helping a few people in a big way. 
So stay tuned for more Divrei Torah, maybe poems, reflections, and random bursts of inspiration!  Writing is like a box of chocolates- you never know if you’re going to end up with something nutty or something good, but it’s made to be shared and enjoyed.  
Happy Sukkot and Chag Sameach! 
So this is a poem about a funny (and ironic) realization I had, about someone who’s become very important in my life.  Maybe you know who, but if you don’t, just ask me.  Anyway.  Here’s the poem.
I Don’t Remember

I don’t remember the day we met

I know I should, but it was just like any other day
That no one knew would be the first of so many between us
That first stitch in the tapestry
that would keep us warm through the coldest days
You said it once yourself,
That we only find that item we are looking for
after we’ve let our guard down and stopped looking
It will just turn up
And you are that item I never knew I never had
Until I found it
Or it found me
Maybe both
It all took me by surprise
And maybe that’s why I don’t remember
Even though I should
It’s all very confusing, you know
Memory is a cracked cup
It only holds onto half of what it should
Since then, I remember it all

Walking secure and warm under your umbrella

And passing through the places I know you’ll be

It’s the days we’ve weathered together

And the look on your face when you see me unexpectedly

The present is enough for me

So many times I can never forget
Except for, maybe, the day we met
But who needs a past when there’s a future

Shanah Tovah! I write this on Day 2 of Rosh Hashanah 2012, and Day 2 of the year 5773!  (Amazing that us Jews get to live in two very different calendar years, 2012 and 5773, without travelling in time.)  

Fall seems like the perfect time to start a new year, and I think it makes more sense than starting in the dead of winter.  It’s a new school year, with new friends, and maybe with proper reflection, a new self.  

I believe that writing during the High Holidays is as important as actually engaging in introspection.  This time of year is a spiritual journey, and writing is a spiritual act for me, which brings me back to a quote I saw in an essay once: 

“Our oldest metaphor says that life is a journey.  Memoir writing is travel writing, then.” 

(I may be forgetting part of that quote, ironically enough.)    

Anyway, I wanted to start with a few lists as I end last year and begin a new one.  Lists do seem quite apropos for this holiday.  Avinu Malkeinu, for example, is essentially a comprehensive list of our hopes, prayers, wishes, goals, and spiritual requests for the year ahead.  

So here are the top 10 things I am grateful for, in the last year and this holiday period, in no order: 

-Friendship.  This time last year, I did not know many people beyond my roommates and neighbors.  Now I have met and gotten to know people with whom I can feel equally at ease talking for hours or relaxing quietly, and for that I am grateful.  Last year I sought out friends myself; now a few people seek me out for advice, and I feel like an actual important member of society when I can help them a little. 

-That I am surrounded by so many different kinds of people — the sweetly innocent, the refreshingly dry-witted and cynical, the happy-go-lucky, the quirky, the quiet ones who have so much more depth under the surface, and more.   

-That my roommate is a lovely human being. 

-That I come from a background where it is acceptable, and ultimately encouraged, to ask questions about my faith and come to my own conclusions about Judaism, and that I have found a group of peers who are exploring the same way.  Thank you BaRuCH, you all inspire me simply by articulating the thoughts I’ve always had.  

-That I can be proud to practice Judaism in my way, but at the same time, I can learn about other branches and customs by watching them and observing their practices and attitudes.  (More on that later.)

-That my family and I are all healthy, knock on wood.  And also that I am fully mobile again, as if nothing happened, after I fractured my ankle and ended up on crutches last Rosh Hashanah.  (Crappy way to start a new year, but at least I knew 5772 could only get better from there.)  

-That there is new life in my family.  Ellie Violet, my cousin Sara’s baby girl, is now one month old and even though I haven’t gotten to see her in person since her birth (sad), it is amazing looking at photos and seeing her grow already, and watching my Grandpa find wonder and awe in being a great-grandfather!  I love babies, and really, who doesn’t?

-That my knowledge of politics grew tremendously this summer, when Ben and I both interned at the Schneider campaign.  I still miss the political jokes we shared, the videos we made, and great feeling of community that came with knowing that everyone in the room cared deeply about the same cause.  And, I hope our common goal is realized in the new year.  

-That Chabad exists.  I might be biased since I just wrote an article on them, but who wouldn’t be grateful for a place where there is free home-cooked food and adorable children in the busy college environment?  

-And, last but not least, of course, that I have, and always will have the love of my family, whether over Skype or in person. 

And a few hopes to begin this year: 

-I hope that I will be wise enough to notice all of the opportunities that come my way when I am not seeking them, be it academic, extracurricular, or love and friendship found in unexpected places — and make the most of it all.

-I hope I will be able to look back on this coming year on Rosh Hashanah 2013, when I read the letter that I wrote to my future self, and feel that I have changed for the better.  

There is more writing to come, in these crisp fall days of introspection.  For now, I feel rested and ready for whatever is next!  

I am searching for a home.  My true home.

 No, I’m not searching in the literal sense.  I know I am lucky to have a happy, stable home where I can return to my childhood bedroom and feel safe and loved.  But I don’t know where I truly belong right now.

I read the blog of a friend who’s beginning college now, and that helped me understand what I’ve been feeling since this time last year: I don’t know where my true home is.  When I meet new people at Brandeis or elsewhere, I tell them I’m from Chicago, which is true.  I grew up there, I know Deerfield like the back of my hand, and I enjoy and appreciate the best of Chicago.  But I don’t plan to move back to Deerfield after my college years, unlike many people in my class.  Deerfield was a fine place to grow up, but I don’t see my future in the Midwest.  I see a life beyond coming back to the town where I was raised.  I’m probably more of a coastal person, because they say innovation happens on the coasts.    

There’s always California, my first home (and lifelong second home, with all my relatives there).  This time last year, we went back to my birthplace of San Francisco while I was preparing to leave for college, and I was overcome with emotion.  I cried because CA was my first home, and every time I came back, it felt like we’d never left, because of all our relatives and our history there, but the life I knew was back in IL, and back then I was ready to leave but still sad to leave my familiar high school friends. 

And now I’ve begun a new life in a new place – Boston.  Okay, this new life centers around Brandeis rather than Boston proper, but I now have more friends from the East Coast than ever before.  I spend my days there for 8-9 months of the year now, and have reasons to come back to Boston and reasons to miss it when I inevitably have to leave – that counts as a home of sorts, right?  Until the semester or year inevitably ends, and it’s time to pack up and leave again.

The amazing thing is that there will always be either poetry or song lyrics that perfectly describe your mental/emotional/spiritual state.  Now it’s this lyric: “If I stay in one place, I lose my mind, I’m a pretty impossible lady to be with.” (Kimya Dawson, “Tire Swing”).  I am torn between two desires.  I am still a young and restless soul, who wants to run from the monotony of one place and explore and experience the wonders of this vast world while I’m still young.  But at a certain point, I get tired of all the metaphorical running, starting temporary relationships, and waiting to be reunited with all my friends in faraway cities.  I wish I could live in one place, somewhere secluded and beautiful, yet full of life, untouched by time and life’s changes, and keep everyone I love there with me, an arm’s length away. 

Home is where the heart is.  I’ve heard those words my whole life, from my parents, from stories, and maybe it’s true, but it makes me a bit sadder now.  Home is not simply a place, it’s a transient state.  Life itself is a transient state – here one moment, gone the next, and then it begins again – and people are always changing, always in motion.  I see home as any place where you feel a meaningful attachment, to someone, something, anything.  So by that logic, the entire world is my home.  I carry something with me from everywhere I’ve been.  And right now, that is the way it should be.