Here’s To Life

As another school year ends, and another summer begins, I am once again taken aback at how quickly time seems to go.

As a kid, it would stretch on forever, endlessly, the wait to grow up was so long.
I remember hearing my parents talk about quick years and I couldn’t begin to understand them. A year was a lifetime.
While I’m certainly not as old as my parents are just yet, I’m starting to notice how quickly the years go by. As I count on my fingers how long it’s been since I graduated high school, or spent a summer in Atlanta, I realize that time is slipping through those fingers in a frightening way.
Taking advantage of time is so difficult, for it moves so quickly, and it’s so much easier to watch the sand fall in the time-glass and exclaim at how fast it’s going than it is to take life by the horns, ignore the time-glass and LIVE.
As my summer begins, and I am quite privileged to still have a summer, it’s easy to make all sorts of resolutions for the summer days. I’m going to eat clean, and go swimming every day, live each summer day from dawn until dusk, and soak in every ray of sun and every memory of laughter filled evenings around a fire.
But alas, I know that summer is not all that different from winter in the sense that it passes you by, and you find yourself at the end of it before you know it.
I have an exciting summer ahead, and I’m looking forward to it. Yet I am afraid of myself wasting it away, watching the clock, trying to slow it.
I often catch myself escalating my expectations for myself, lifting the bar much too high, setting myself up for failure. For while reaching for the stars is important, sometimes my capabilities don’t match my goals.
And then I find myself frustrated at my inability to keep on track.
If you’re a loyal reader, then you know that I struggle to live in the moment, and this is only a sub-plot of that story in my life. I want the very best for my future self, but my current self often struggles to keep up.
This summer, I’ll be traveling to Europe. Next year, I’ll be chasing some bigger dreams, the next chapter I’ve been waiting to start for a long time now. A chapter that will allow for bigger and better. That will allow me to start acting on all the things I talk about.
And that makes me excited – all of it. New goals, new adventures.
But for now, I want to work so hard on the day-by-day. To not think about when the summer ends, and when next year begins, and about endings and beginnings. I don’t want to day-dream about a time that is not in my present life, I don’t want to mope about things I don’t have yet.
I want to live.
Because time does go by in the blink of an eye, but it goes even quicker when you’ve got your eyes on the finish line.
I’ve recently begun meditation as a part of a course I was taking. It’s an experiment to see what happens to me when I take some time to just focus.
The first few times were tough. I was all over the place, my brain could not stop thinking about my to-do list, and what I was going to do as soon as I stood up.
But the next few times, I just focused on the breathing. Each time my mind wandered, I yanked it back. Not to think about anything – only to feel the breath go in, and out.
Because sometimes, life just requires presence. No planning, no thinking, no dreaming.
Just. Pure. Presence.
It’s what I struggle with most.
It’s what I want most from my summer.
So here goes tackling one major obstacle, and here’s to overcoming it. For I know that it will pay itself back in my life in a million ways, so no matter how hard, it’s certainly worth it.
So instead of worrying about how time flies, and how the summer will be gone before I know it, I will focus on today, and how I’m going to make it count.
Tomorrow, I will focus on tomorrow.
Blog Post: 39/52

Featured Photo by Srikanta H. U on Unsplash

What is Beauty to Me?

In a world of beauty,
and a world
of ugly,
what
is
beauty
to me?
oooo
A heart ripped open
beating
pulsing
a heart worn
on one’s sleeve:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A plate filled
with warm flavors,
warm laughter,
a moment
together:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A handwritten letter,
a smeared edge,
thought
put into
each word:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A small face streaked
with leftover
dinner
sticky hands
a bright smile:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
The sound of the sea,
the silence,
and roar,
the stars above:
that is beauty
to me.
oooo
A tear on a face,
a whisper
of love,
a look
that says everything:
that is beauty
to me.

Blog Post: 38/52.

Featured Photo by STIL on Unsplash

This Is A Blog Post

Six years ago, I left a city that had been home for two years.

I packed up my memories, and waved goodbye to its shores, pretty sure I would never step foot again on its pavement.

Last week, in honor of a friends wedding, I came back.
The anticipation for the trip was mixed. I was excited to see friends, to dance with joy, and to see the old sights again. I was also terrified to meet the memories head-on, to remember the pain and be forced to readdress it.
I attended high school in the city for two years, and before I go further, I feel like I need to clarify that this is not a hate letter to the city, to the school, or to the people I knew. It is only a reflection of my feelings about a place in which I did not feel like I belonged, which is more of a reflection on me than anything else that was around me.
Last week, I walked through the streets I had known so well for two years, and I was both overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. I was almost overwhelmed with how underwhelmed I was.
The pieces of my history that once represented so much dread and saw so many tears meant nothing to me.
It was almost unfamiliar, in such a distant and strange way.
I could barely identify what was new and what had been there, everything seemed different. My friend, accompanying me, laughed as I kept asking what had changed, so sure that there had been monumental changes. “Nothing changed!” she kept repeating.
But it didn’t feel like it.
Everything had changed.
Time had created a comfortable distance, a warm comfort. I felt unreachable by the pain that seemed to encompass me back then.
It’s been six years.
The last six years of my life have been the most transformative and formative years of my life.
Six years ago, I switched schools. I was given the rare opportunity to start afresh. And amidst the bustling crowds and rushing subways of New York City, I began to find myself.
At 16 years old, I began to discover what really made me tick. What I wanted from life, how I was going to get there. I made some bad decisions and some good decisions, all par for the course. Most of all, I grew.
With each passing day, I became less and less like the girl in Chicago and more and more like myself. But rather than a restructuring, it felt more like a dusting off. A clearing up, so that I could see who I was more clearly.
It’s been a six-year process that will never really end, I’m quite aware of that. But six years in, and I am so grateful to feel secure in who I am, and to be happy with who that person is, and is still becoming.
As I walked those streets, I tried to find the 14-year-old me. I searched the streets, the steps outside my dorm, the grocery store. I tried to listen out for the memories I could bring so clearly to my mind. The more difficult memories…and the good ones. But while I could see it all in my mind, I couldn’t reconcile the fact that it had all taken place in that city that seemed so unfamiliar. I couldn’t find myself there.
And I began to realize that nothing had changed around me, the stores and buildings were all the same.
But I had changed.
I had changed so much, that the me that had spent the start of my high school in that city was so far from who I am today.
That girl felt so deeply misunderstood, so frustrated, so angry.
That was me.
But it isn’t me anymore.
A part of me wants to dispose of the entire experience. If I don’t feel connected any longer, why keep it around? Why not forget it ever happened to me?
But I know that is foolish thinking, even though it was a thought process I ran with for a while.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Another thing that happened over the last six years was the loss of two grandparents, moments in time that forever have changed me as well.
As one does when something like this nears, my thoughts have turned to my grandfather a lot in the recent weeks.
While memories are wonderful, and I am so lucky to have the ones I do, something about memories wasn’t resonating with me this time. It seemed pointless to focus on who he was, when I am no longer the person I was when I knew him.
I found myself focusing more on what he means to me today, in my daily life. How do I incorporate him into my mindset? Do I consistently strive to bring him happiness? Do I feel his presence, despite his absence? Even more so – would he be proud to know the me I am today? Have I become a better version of myself from when we last spoke?
And I realized something.
Because it all ties together.
My trip last week, the yartzeit (anniversary of death) tomorrow, and my never-ending spinning thoughts.
The memories and my past are incredibly important. For without them, I would have nothing to build upon, nothing to work with.
If I hadn’t been so lost back then, I wouldn’t have found all these treasures on my way back home.
If I hadn’t had experiences with my grandfather and created memories, I would have nothing to sift through today.
But, and this is a big deal for someone who usually says she doesn’t know how to live in the moment –

Today is what counts.

I am grateful to G-d for all the experiences He gave me, even though I was incredibly angry with Him at the time.
Without my couple of years in that city, I would never have become the person I’ve been working towards becoming. It has given me so much, possibly even a career path. So yes, the city didn’t look familiar to me. I didn’t recognize the little details, the background noise to who I was back then. But that’s not really what matters anymore.
What matters is what I have done with those years, how I have developed them to be more than they were, to take the pain and turn it into something so much greater.
And while I will forever hold the sweet memories of my Zeidy close, they are also not the most important thing to our current relationship. More than the memories, it is crucial that I find ways to keep the connection alive, and because I am forever growing, that connection will forever be changing, and it is up to me to ensure that it never gets lost.
These things will always be a part of me. There is no way to consciously dispose of memories, and I no longer have any desire to. But I’m aware now that the past only has to work as a building block, as a foundation – and my job?
It’s to keep building up.

Blog Post: 37/52


Photo by Brittany Gaiser on Unsplash

This Is Not A Blog Post

I’m not ready to put up the blog post I’ve been working on in bits and pieces this week. It’s not a complete thought yet, because I’m still living the thought out.

But I can’t not post this week.
I’m too far in.
I could technically skip it. It’s been a really really busy week. I’m away from home at the moment, traveling, visiting a world that is both old and new to me at the same time.
But I can’t yet share about it because it’s still processing and whirling around in my brain. There’s too much, and it’s unfolding in pieces.
So perhaps next week, when I’m settled back in my routine, it will make more sense. For now, I’ll share this.
Is it a cop out? Who knows. Honestly – who knows.
But in some ways, I’m on vacation this week, and while I never can separate myself from words, I’m going to give my brain a few minutes this week. Just a few minutes to collect itself, to decipher all the emotions coming through it, to unpack and restructure everything I’ve seen and all the conversations I’ve had.
So excuse me while I duck out just for this week.
I’m still writing a blog post, it’s just a really lame one. And I do apologize for that. With this post goes a little bit of my blogging dignity. But as much as I usually force myself to write even when I can’t, I have to respect the process if I ever want my words to work in the future.
So.
Next week, I’ll be back to regular programming. When the dust settles. When my emotions find their places. When my brain can slow down enough for me to hear all the words it’s trying to say.
Blog post: 36/52

WHEN THE ANGELS LOST

The mood was somber in heaven that day. The angels moved around, carrying out their tasks, but without their usual joy. As they each passed through the various passageways, they couldn’t help but longingly stare at the Torah, being prepared for it’s introduction to the humans on earth.
“I don’t know, I’m kind of excited about this.” one angel whispered to another, as they moved past G-d’s chambers.
“Excited? Why would you be excited? I can’t stop crying.” her friend whispered back.
“You think these humans are going to be able to do it? G-d will realize very quickly that they’re unworthy. Then He’ll just take the Torah back, and we’ll be the most valuable creations again!”
Suddenly thoughtful, the second angel began to smile again.
“That’s true! I never thought about that. I mean, look at how they’ve been acting since they left Egypt. They’re never happy, never satisfied, always crying and asking for more. There’s no way this will work.”
Both satisfied with this new knowledge, they got back to their jobs with renewed vigor.
The preparation was picking up speed in heaven, and the angels watched in awe as the tablets were being prepared for their big debut.
The tablets had been hidden all this time in G-ds innermost chambers, and the angels had never seen anything like them in heaven or on earth.
The time was finally so close. Ever since the Jewish nation had cried “Naaseh Vinishma, we will do and then we will hear,” two days ago, the feeling in heaven had been one of deep sadness. The Torah that they had the pleasure of studying for so long and never had to share was being taken from them. The arguments heard across heaven were long and loud, but G-d was insistent. This was the plan all along, He said, and it was time.
Now, it was finally the third day. The Jewish nation had been preparing themselves in mind, body, and soul.
But as the angels watched, the mistakes were already starting.
“Why are they sleeping?!” the head observation angel was furious. Every screen in the room was filled with images of sleeping humans, on the most exciting day of their lives.
“According to my data, they believed that when asleep, their souls would access a deeper level of spirituality than they could while awake.” one angel explained, looking up from his notes.
“Well, they thought wrong. I’m sure the plans are off. G-d is not going to give the most precious thing ever created to a sleeping nation.”
Heaven was abuzz with rumors and discussion. When would G-d announce that the Torah would not be given today?
But as their certainty grew, G-d entered.
“It’s time.” was all He said.
“But G-d, they slept!” cried one angel.
“Are they awake now?” G-d asked.
“Well, yes, but -” spluttered the angel.
“Well then, we will carry on with the plans.” G-d moved towards the Torah, standing in the middle of the room.
The angels couldn’t believe it.
As they watched disbelievingly, the show began.
G-d descended into the world, and began to speak.
The angels crammed together in the observation room, some covering their eyes, unable to watch the Torah being given to these worthless creations.
In an instant, the humans were crying out and begging for it to stop.
“See?!” clamor broke out amongst the angels. “They couldn’t even handle one moment of G-ds presence; they can’t even hear His voice without being completely destroyed!”
Some rushed back to greet G-d as He would surely return, unwilling to give the Torah.
But again, they were left dumbfounded. Rather than canceling the plans, G-d spoke only to Moses who relayed the message.
Finally, accepting the bitter truth to themselves, that G-d completely intended to truly give the Torah to the people, the angels tore themselves away. The relaying of the laws would take most of the day, and the angels already knew the laws. None could bear to watch the unworthy humans receive them.
The next day, the angels gathered around the tablets.
“I can’t believe they’ve been hidden for so long, and now they’re just going to be taken from us.”
“I know. This is crazy. Who has been there for G-d every single day since the beginning of time? Who has never made a mistake? Who has never denied G-ds existence? Us! Who could possibly be more worthy than we?” the angels were furious.
Suddenly, the doors to heaven swung open. They all turned to greet the newcomer. It was Moses.
“What are you doing here, Moses?” asked one particularly angry angel. “Came to rub it in our faces that you’ve taken everything we hold dear?”
“I’m sorry, angels,” Moses responded, looking uncomfortable. “I’ve come to collect the tablets and speak with G-d”
Several angels burst towards the tablets, unable to watch Moses take them.
A hush fell over the crowd as G-d entered.
“What is going on?” G-d asked, looking over every angel.
No angel could find the words to respond as they looked around in shame.
“Moses, welcome. You have much to learn, and we can not waste a moment.”
For the next 40 days, the angels attempted to make Moses as miserable as possible. They argued with him at every opportunity. They tested him, hoping to make him trip up on the most important aspects of the Torah.
As the end of the 40 days neared, a couple of angels came rushing out of the observation room, pulling in whichever angels they could find.
“You have to see this!”
The observation room filled up with angels, and cries of shock and anger came from all parts of the room.
“Is that what I think it is?”
The head angel nodded sadly. “A golden calf. They’re serving a G-d that does not exist.”
“They just received the Torah!”
“This is unbelievable!”
“I knew they were unworthy.”
“G-d will never let this slide.”
The voices built up and up and up, the clamor growing.
“Does Moses know?” one single voice was heard, causing a hush to fall over them.
Did Moses know? He was currently studying the deepest secrets with G-d, while his people down below were serving a different G-d altogether. Only 39 days after they heard the voice of G-d Himself.
How would he be able to bear the pain?
“At least he’ll hear it from G-d” sighed one angel, frightened at the inevitable upcoming scene.
Sure enough, the next day, as Moses was preparing to descend and return to his people, G-d informed him of their enormous mistake.
The angels inched closer, aching to eavesdrop on this conversation.
“Leave me alone!” roared G-d to Moses.
The angels shrank back.
“I will annihilate them all! They are not worthy. Forget them, I will create a new nation for you, Moses.”
They could hear G-d pacing, back and forth, in His anger.
“G-d! Please!” they heard Moses pleading “You took them from Egypt. Why allow the Egyptians to see you destroy them after so many miracles?”
G-ds pacing slowed.
His voice softer now, Moses continued “Don’t you remember your promise to Abraham? Isaac? Jacob? You told them that You’d build up their nation to be as many as the stars in the sky. You did it. You built them up. Don’t destroy them now.”
The angels moved away, heartbroken in all kinds of ways. They shouldn’t be listening.
After a little while, Moses came out, his eyes tear-filled, his face drawn. The angels avoided him, but couldn’t quite believe their eyes when he grasped the tablets in his hands and took them with him as he left.
G-d had given in, after all.
Almost as one, the angels rushed to the observation room to witness what would possibly happen next.
As Moses descended and returned to Mt. Sinai, they watched his expression fill with unquestionable anger as he caught sight of his nation, his people that he had just fought for, dancing around and serving the golden calf.
In one moment, before anyone could grasp what was happening, they watched Moses flung the tablets with all his might. They crashed into the side of the mountain, the tablets that had been waiting for centuries to be given on earth, shattered into millions of pieces.
All through the night, the angels cried in anguish. The Torah, the tablets, they had waited so long for the perfect moment, and this moment was so far from perfect it was laughable.
How had G-d intended this? How had He seen this nation to be fit to receive the most valuable of gifts?
A few very slow and utterly unbearable days later, Moses was back.
The angels couldn’t bear to look at his face, there was so much pain etched along his eyes.
He was ushered in to speak with G-d.
For the next 40 days, no angel heard from or saw G-d or Moses. They felt time, space, and everything hanging in the balance. Would the universe cease to be?  What would become of earth?  What would become of the Jewish nation?
Finally, Moses came out as well, with G-d by his side. Moses held something wrapped in his arms.
The angels gathered around, unable to hold their curiosity back.
Moses uncovered his parcel, and the angels could barely believe what they saw –
a brand new set of tablets, almost as beautiful and magical as the first.
G-d nodded to Moses, Moses nodded to the angels and left, as if he had never been there at all, taking the new set of tablets with him.
Heaven was silent. The angels stared at each other, unsure of where to start.
“You’ve forgiven them?” one angel spoke up, incredulous.
“No. They will be punished.” was all G-d saw fit to respond.
“So that’s it. You’re going to give the most precious thing you ever created to sinners.”
“I am. But you’re wrong, angel. The Torah is not the most precious thing I created. They are.

Blog Post: 35/52

Featured Photo via MyJewishLearning.com

To learn more about the holiday of Shavuot click here. 

We Can Change

When a human
with a beating heart
and a crying soul
is falling apart,
We need change.
When a human
with tired eyes
and scarred arms
wants to die,
We need change. 
When their tears are dry
and their heart is hard,
When they’ve locked doors
and pulled up their guard,
We need change.
When their bellies ache,
but the ache is deep,
When they scream for help
but the world still sleeps,
We need change.

When the world awakens
and listens close,
When our eyes pull open
and see the hearts that broke,
We can change.
When we stretch out arms,
and give our ear,
When we ask questions
without feeling fear,
We can change.
When all have beating hearts,
and all can be whole,
When all have rested eyes
and a hopeful soul,
We’ll have changed.
When gates are opened,
and locked doors have a key,
When cries are heard,
and forests catch the tree,
We’ll have changed.
When blind eyes are opened,
and arms are thrown open wide,
When judging is shameful,
and love doesn’t hide…
We’ll have changed.
But until then, my friend,
We’ve got work to do,
so nobody can say
“If I only knew.”

Blog Post: 34/52.


Featured Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Knowing The Plan

This week is my 33rd blog post. Tomorrow is also the 33rd day of the Omer (the count from Passover to Shavuot) which marks the holiday of Lag Baomer.

The coincidence did not escape me.
I’m a connections kind of person. A deeper meaning kind of gal.
I grew up with the concept of Hashgacha Pratis (literally translated to divine providence,) which means that nothing is coincidental or accidental, everything happens for a reason. Every moment, every leaf, and every wrong turn has its purpose and place in the grand scheme of things.
That concept has always given me so much comfort, and more than that, it gives life an air of optimism and mystery.
Life is full of mystery. Honestly, every moment is a mystery, we never know what the next moment will bring.
I like to be in control. I avoid depending on people as much as possible, I like to get things done on my own, I like being the master of my own destiny.
So you can see how allowing G-d to be in control can be a little difficult for me.
Remembering that ultimately, I have no control over what happens in my life is something I constantly struggle with.
But at the same time, I have this deep, deep understanding that G-d really is always in control.
Hence, the connections.
When the subway takes too long at a stop, or I randomly choose a different route to walk, or something happens which forces me to do something I wasn’t planning on doing – that’s when I know G-d is in control.
I know that there is a reason my life is taking this path. It is not random or accidental.
But a moment later…when the reason behind what happened is not revealed to me, my spirits begin to plummet.
See, I’m happy for G-d to move around the pieces in a way that I don’t understand. But when even afterward I still don’t get to see the full picture, I feel a little cheated. When I think the signs that I am seeing are so clear, but then everything they were pointing to falls apart, and I realize how little I know, and how little what I think actually matters to the plan.
See, when I realized that it was the 33rd day of the omer when I would be writing my 33rd blog post, my brain went scrambling for reasons, connections.
I came up with a few.
The 49 days of the omer are meant to be a time of working on oneself, going through the various good attributes we have, and sharpening them.
For 33 weeks, I have been working hard at writing blog posts, each week focusing on something else in my life and my personality. It has forced me to look at myself honestly, and open up.
On the 33rd day of the omer, we have been looking at our attributes for 33 days already. We have been refining ourselves, trying harder, taking notice of what can be done better.
There was no specific reason I chose to begin writing weekly blog posts 33 weeks ago, I had no idea that it would line up this way. Which means – there’s got to be a connection, right?
It’s a little bit far-fetched, I know.
Pretty much everyone I know would chalk this up to a very random coincidence because honestly, it doesn’t really matter.
But it gives me joy to connect the dots. To see the reasoning behind things. To feel like I am part of a plan, to perhaps see the faint outlines of G-ds pen.
Maybe I’m too uptight. Maybe I need to let go a little bit, to learn how to depend on others, and most of all, to learn how to depend on G-d. Maybe to survive through life, one just has to be laid back, and not try so hard to understand everything that happens around us.
But that doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t seem like the way I want to live. I’d rather continue to thank G-d when the little things go right, and notice Him in every part of my day, than to loosen up and forget that He’s there.
It’s a difficult balance to find. Like with everything in life, there are pros and cons to every path we take.
There is one thing I know for sure – everything happens for a reason. Everything is connected, and everything has a purpose. The dots are there. But for whatever reason, G-d has chosen to not show me which dots connect to which. He has chosen to not reveal the why’s behind each choice He makes, which has made for some very anger filled prayers on my part.
It’s nice when we get it, but it’s not important for us to get it. The important part for me is to realize that there is a reason – and that’s all.
I will never stop hoping that G-d reveals His plan a little more, that He’ll let me peek, that one day soon He’ll let me understand why I take those wrong turns.
But until then, I will do my very best to unclench my fists a little bit, to trust that He can handle it, that He has heard my prayers and that despite the fact that things seem very scattered at the moment, He has a way of changing things in a moment.

I will continue to pray that my prayers be answered, and I look forward to knowing that they already have been.

I’ll just be over here taking deep breaths and eating chocolate.

 

Blog Post: 33/52


Featured Photo by Austin Chan on Unsplash

Finding the Flavor

It heals me.

Long before the first taste touches my lips, cooking gives me life.
One of my favorite things to do when I cook is to study the available ingredients and construct a new flavor, a new dish, something a little bit familiar and a little bit surprising.
As the pots boil and the pans sizzle, I feel my muscles relax, the tension release.
Cooking takes me away from my stresses in a similar way that music does. It encompasses me.
Cooking and I have had a tumultuous relationship. While I’ve always been very interested in it, I haven’t always been so good at it. Always chasing flavor, I tend to oversalt, which is a practice I’ve mostly stopped, but occasionally it’ll come back to haunt me.
But that’s my life in general. Always chasing flavor – which occasionally comes back to bite me. Always wanting more out of life, always wanting brighter colors, experiences that are meaningful and full of depth. Sometimes, wanting so much from life makes parts of life harder.
Cooking is one of my favorite things, but cooking for others takes it to a whole new level. Watching people I love enjoy the food, watching their energy levels climb back up is the ultimate reward. Not everyone loves cooking, but I know very few people who don’t love eating, and being able to be part of bringing them that simple happiness is a treasure I hold dear.
I’m no chef. I don’t know much about exotic dishes, my ingredients tend to be simple and cheap.
But my goal with every dish, whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner is that the flavor is rich. A simple scrambled egg, while comforting to many, is disappointing to me. When a dish, no matter what I try, comes out tasting a little empty, I feel like I didn’t do it justice.
Because every day is an opportunity for things to be better than they were yesterday. Settling for decent, settling for good when you could have incredible or delicious is not in my capabilities.
And I know that this part of me affects others. It makes me a little bit more stressed perhaps. Often, I’m told by others that perhaps I’m shooting a little too high.
But this is me. This is who I am, and I’m obviously not just talking about in the kitchen.
My love for cooking and for flavor-rich foods blends into every area of my life. I love potential. I love finding potential in things and doing my best to bring it to its fruition. Life, people, food, everything can be so complex, so detailed.
There are times in life that I need to just chill out, times I like taking a step back, breathing, not trying so hard.
But no matter what, I go to sleep happiest on the days I don’t need to compromise on the flavor.
Blog Post: 32/52

Featured Photo by Helena Yankovska on Unsplash

When Life Happens

I have never written a blog post on the verge of the week ending like this. I’ve gotten close, but never this close.

But no worries – I’m a commitment freak, and I won’t let this go by, because then I’d probably have to start from Week 1 again, and none of us want that.
I’ve almost completed my first year of teaching creative writing. That’s really crazy to me, because it was about this time last year that I got the crazy idea in the first place. And now I have a group of students who I have gotten to know, students I look forward to seeing and reading their writing. Because all of them are tremendously talented writers and thinkers and it was a pleasure and honor to be able to be a part of their year.
I know the year is not yet over, we still have a few weeks to wind down. But I’m in an introspective, reflective mood, and I’m just so proud to be here.
Doing things that scare me are not my thing. I don’t like roller coasters, horror movies or skydiving. I don’t enjoy the thrill of the fear that so many people seem to be obsessed with. Existential questions are scary enough.
So doing something that scared me on so many levels was a big deal.
My life this school year has seen change. It’s seen growth. It’s seen me with shorter hair and a stronger heart conquering more challenges. Experiencing new things. Facing myself in ways I never really wanted to have to.
Life is ever evolving, which is something pretty terrifying for someone like me, someone who likes to be in control and to be sure of what comes next.
Life throws things at you that you could never have planned for. But these are the things that really test you, the things that make you pull out all of yourself, to figure it out, to face it. To understand who you are, what your limitations are, and where life goes from here, now taking the fork in the road into account.
As summer nears, and the promise of warm sun and healthy days approach, I find myself wondering what is around the corner. What is next for me? What happens when I allow life to happen, rather than overplanning each moment?
It’s scary. To me, this is the scariest thing I’ve ever done. To admit that I don’t know what comes next, to know that life takes time to unfold, and to have patience. To have the patience to see what G-d has in store.
And perhaps I’ll discover that my mind has been limited all this time, and what G-d has planned is even greater than what my small mind can conjure.
Blog Post: 31/52.

Featured Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Am I Tiny?

I was going to write about another topic.

I had an idea as I fell asleep. But when I woke up, I discovered that today is Yom HaShoah, a day on which many focus their minds and hearts on the tragedy of the holocaust. I realized that my idea did not seem right today. It would feel like yelling loudly in a quiet theatre. Rude, unwelcome and disrespectful. So that idea will remain tucked away for another week.
This week, I’ll write about what the holocaust means to me, as a 21 year old, living in America.
I was first introduced to the holocaust by way of my grandmother’s history. As a tiny child, she escaped in the night with her young parents and baby sister. After a terror-filled journey that had seen many miracles, the small family made it to safety. My great-grandmother was the only survivor from her own, yet rather than wallowing in well-deserved grief, she and my great-grandfather built up a family, resulting in my life – one of hundreds of great-grandchildren.
As a Jewish child, in Jewish schools, I learned about the holocaust in various ways throughout my years. I heard stories, I saw clips and interviews with holocaust survivors. It was certainly a real thing in my life, but it wasn’t until I was nearly 18, that I truly confronted it.
On a trip to Israel, I visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum in Jerusalem. As we walked through the quiet halls, looking at what was left of millions of innocent lives, my heart shattered. The reality of it was so raw and horrible, items of clothing and personal belongings telling their silent story. I looked into the eyes of the victims in the images on the walls, and apologized for not having tried to see earlier. For trying to avoid holocaust films and books. For not being more destroyed by what they had been through.
I always use words, yet there are not enough words in the English dictionary to describe what happened in the holocaust, the wiping out of generations. Cruelty and horror are even too kind. It was more than that. It was worse than that.
I have been knocked down by far, far (far, far, far!) less.
Yet holocaust survivors have built their lives back up, put the puzzle together despite the missing pieces, painted their world with vivid color again. Despite every reason not to.
The other day, I overheard my five-year-old nephew having an existential crisis. He was trying to explain to his three-year-old brother how insignificant we are. “We are really just tiny!”
“Nu uh. We are not tiny” said his brother. “Etti’s not tiny”
“She is tiny. We all are tiny. The whole world is tiny!”
I smiled at the depth of wisdom he held. Perhaps he does not quite understand it all just yet, but he was taking his first steps into the endless wonder of who we are, how we got here, and what we are supposed to do now that we are here.
We are tiny. I am tiny. I am one solitary figure in a world with billions of people.
Often, my small daily decisions and choices seem to impact only me. But I know that despite my “tiny-ness,” I have the ability to affect so many. Holocaust survivors knew that – and they knew it was up to them to re-build a nation so thoroughly destroyed. Like my great-grandparents, so many of them went on to have large families, despite the unimaginable fear and anger they must have felt.
Today is a day that we remember the past – but tomorrow, we focus on the future. I often feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things, yet I have been raised to know that my actions count. That I am here for a reason, and that reason is not to serve myself, but to be there for others, to wake up each morning and figure out how I can do better.
My nephew’s words reminded me that yes, we are tiny. And that is something to remember- something to remain humble about. In the expanse of the universe, I am but a speck, if that at all.
But, it is crucial to still stand with confidence, to know that despite how tiny I am, my life has meaning – and I can and do impact all of those around me.
The holocaust had millions of victims. Millions. It is impossible for any one person to recite all their names, or to truly give remembrance to each one.
Yet every single one of them was a person, a human being, with dreams and hopes. They were never just a name, they were someone that was loved and worried about.
They were in no way just a speck.
I will never, in any lifetime, be able to grasp the magnitude of the holocaust and the idea that so so so many were ripped away from their lives.
But I will try to live fully because they were not allowed to. I will try to remember what they have taught me. I may be a tiny speck, but I am a speck that can change the world.
Blog Post: 30/52

Featured Photo by Mika R on Unsplash