The Pain of Growth

Growing pains.

That’s always what they were. As a kid, I’d come to complain to my mom about yet another aching part of my body, and the reason was always growing pains.
It gave the pain some purpose, a sense of pride. I was in the process of growing, becoming older, getting taller.
Eventually, we all stop growing physically, our measurements coming to a slow halt, leaving us at relatively the same size as our 16-17 year old selves.
The growing pains ebb away, and I imagine the reminder of them comes as our own children turn to us and ask us about their own pain.
Growing pains.
So easily explained, so easily understood, so excusable for the hurt we feel.
But as we reach milestones, turn corners, and fall over as we awkwardly grow into emotional adults, the growing pains are so much more unclear.
They feel more like failure.
As we grip our aching soul, the pain seems to have no purpose, for the growth is hard to see.
This week, it is my birthday. I say that not to get a slew of birthday gifts (although welcome,) I say it to clarify why growth is something I’m really focusing on this week.
For what is growth?
Do birthdays mark growth?
Do I look back at the past year, and measure myself? Using what as the yardstick? Amassed funds? Amassed friends? Sweet memories?
What proves that I have grown between last years cake and this years?
To me, it’s all about the growing pains.
Because I have had them.
And while I was aching, there were times I persevered, believing in the purpose of the pain. But there were times I surrendered to the pain, eyes shut, hands up, and let it overtake me.
This year I expanded horizons, worked harder, re-focused, trampled my comfort zone.
I have also cried in the shower, eaten too much sugar, given up, and allowed my self-made limits to box me in.
I’m tempted, on my birthday, to ask G-d to wipe the world clean of challenges, of obstacles, of struggles.
But I fear that I would be asking Him to remove the color, to silence the joy.
I prefer to ask him to allow us to see the purpose of the pain.
To allow us to look in the mirror and smile through the ache, because we know that through our pain, we are painting the world with vibrant colors.
Without struggle, without challenge, there is no depth of joy, there are no intricacies of beauty.
I ask Him to wipe the world clean of endless grief, of grief so deep that the beauty is too deeply hidden to be asked to reveal itself.
But I ask Him to continue to challenge us, challenge us with pushing past our limits. Challenge us with obstacles we can see over, obstacles we know we can overcome.
Allow the growing pains to have a purpose, allow the pain to be only a roadblock, not the end of the road.
Because without growth, we fail, and without growing pains, we don’t notice the growth.
May my growing pains paint the picture of my future, strengthening my foundation, allowing me to build up and up and up.
Even joyous occasions come with growing pains  – adjusting to married life, a new baby, a brand new home, a new career. But these are the growing pains we can handle, these are the growing pains that make us better. That give our world more color, make life richer, that give life more purpose.
And so as I welcome a new year of my life, I look back at my growth. And I mark my growth by the pain. Not by how many days I felt defeated, but by how many days I felt euphoric, having overcome the challenge that had held me back.
And I ask G-d that He give me more of that strength, more of the ability to jump the hurdles, to push through the pain for the most epic of results:
Glorious, colorful, invigorating, beautiful growth.

Blog Post: 25/52

The Night Before

Talya tossed and turned, burying herself under the blankets, as if that could make her mind stop churning.
She heard her son whimper from his bed. She lifted him up and tried to calm him as her hands shook and her heart beat twice as fast.
How could she sleep tonight?
Tomorrow, her best friend since childhood would be sacrificing her life for the sake of the Jewish nation.
Talya had not eaten in 3 days, and she was physically weakened, but the mind games and constant thought had played more of a role in causing her diminished state.
She couldn’t fathom what Esther was feeling, thinking.
Was Esther sleeping tonight?
In that enormous palace, empty of joy, empty of soul, beautiful in all the wrong ways.
Esther’s home for so many years, yet Esther hasn’t been home in so many years.
The baby fell back asleep in Talya’s arms, and she moved to a pillow on the ground. She needed the comfort his small body gave to her.
Shushan was quiet in the dead of the night. Talya wondered how many eyes were still open, staring at the night sky.
It had been horribly long since Esther was taken. Eleven years since that painful day.
Talya had been away at her uncle’s house, assisting with his small children for a few months after his wife passed away, all the way in Persepolis. When she left, she hugged her best friend goodbye, naive, unknowing what the coming months would bring.
When she returned, her best friend had been kidnapped and preparations were underway to proclaim her as queen.
Talya cried for two weeks, unable to leave her bed, feeling a depth of guilt she could not even fathom. Then one day she was forced to go to the market, and as she did, the evil King Achashverosh was showing off his new wife on a escorted stroll through the Jewish area of Shushan. Talya locked eyes with Esther, and Esther’s eyes filled with tears.
Talya knew there could be immense danger for Esther if she dared to express displeasure about being the new Queen, so she made a fool out of herself by comically dropping the pears she held. Several people around her gave her angry looks, but when Talya met Esther’s eyes again, she saw a glint of amusement and the hint of a smile on her lips.
Nobody in the palace knew that Esther was Jewish, and therefore Talya could not soirée with Esther in her lavish new home. But they exchanged letters, sent through Mordechai and Hatach, and whenever Esther was let out of the palace for a brief showing, Talya focused all her love into the one glance they could afford.
She couldn’t imagine the depth of loneliness Esther felt in that huge palace, the lack of warmth, love and Torah that once surrounded her now gone, all taken in one fateful night.
Talya lay the baby gently on his bed and tip toed quietly out of the house, careful not to wake her husband and other sleeping children.
She looked up at the starry sky. It was a beautiful night, the kind of night Esther had loved as a kid.
As soon as the thought entered her mind, Talya forced it out.
“No, this will not be Esther’s last night alive.”
Talya felt the lump in her throat returning, the tears coming again.
Mordechai was so brave, so resilient in his faith. He had visited their home earlier that day, and he had not one doubt in his mind that a miracle would occur.
Talya wished for even an ounce of his strength. But it was so hard, oh so hard, to stop the bad thoughts from coming in.
“Don’t you see, Talya?” Mordechai had cried “this is why Esther has been living in that palace for eleven years. For this moment! Can you imagine that G-d would forsake us?”
Talya shook her head as she continued to pray, unable to do anything else but fast and pray, as they had done for the last three days.
The impending doom of the 13th of Adar was looming, less than a year away. They should been celebrating the Pesach Seder that night, but they were fasting.
Talya’s heart dipped in pain as she bit back the thought that perhaps this was their last chance to celebrate Passover at all.
The door across from Talya opened, startling her from her thoughts. She brushed her tears away as her neighbor stepped out of her house.
“Can’t sleep?” Avigail called softly.
Talya shook her head. Avigail crossed the path and embraced Talya. As soon as Avigail’s arms were around her, Talya’s tears came quickly. She could no longer hold them back.
The two women stood, in tears, their stomachs empty, but full of fear, their hearts trying so hard to believe.
But when life unfolds so slowly, when the future can only be known once it has passed, belief is the most difficult to find.
It had been eleven years since Esther had been taken from their small neighborhood, eleven years since she had been a part of their everyday life. She had laughed with them, inspired them and cooked with them.
For eleven years she had been unreachable, growing less familiar each day.
And tomorrow she would risk death in order to save them.
And nobody knew if the plan would work. It was a plan of desperation. A hope, a tiny fire kindled and strengthened by their leader Mordechai.
And on the night that families should be united around tables, singing songs, drinking wine and eating matzah together, celebrating freedom, some sat alone and some sat together, whispering words of prayer, asking their G-d to split the sea once more.

Blog Post: 24/52


Disclaimer: This story may not be historically, biblically, or anything correct. I used my creative license to give life and emotion to a story we read each year. If you’ve never heard the story, read it here: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/645995/jewish/The-Basic-Purim-Story.htm

 

What Do I Know?

There are things I know
and so much I don’t.
I don’t know
why people kill people
or if we should have guns
I don’t know
how humans survive
the human condition.
I don’t know
why illness is prevalent
why hate is so strong
why people suffer.

I do know
that I believe in a G-d.
that there is a higher power,
I have heard Him say yes,
and I have heard Him say no.

I know that I want my children to
grow up with that knowledge,
for it makes one humble.

I know that we are more
powerful
and more
powerless
than we believe.
I know that humans are only people.
There are humans that are more learned,
more skilled,
more educated.
None of them have more power.
None of them can prove
that my G-d does not exist.

I don’t know
what tomorrow will bring
I do know
what yesterday gave
I don’t know
what I don’t know
and each day
I learn
That I know
Almost
Nothing
At
All.
Blog Post: 23/52

Featured Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

I Can’t Live In The Moment

Time has a way of swallowing things up. Making things almost obsolete, as if they never even happened. Sometimes, when I close my eyes, I can almost remember the smell of the room. Other times, it’s as if that entire experience happened to someone else entirely.

I lived in that room for one full school year. I can bring every part of it to mind. Most of all, the feeling I got when I walked into it. At the time, it was an endless nightmare of a daily routine, something I could not break free of.
Today, it is a memory, a piece of my history, a moment in time.
Practically obsolete. A moment that with all my strength, I can not bring back.
Life is made up of these moments, towering on top of each other, pushing us forward.
“Come help me!” my nephew pulled me over to his homework.
He had to trace the word CATS over and over and over on his paper to practice his handwriting, to make the letters a subconscious action, to get to the goal of efficient, legible writing.
“What do you need help with?” I asked.
“Can you just do some? I want to finish.”
He takes after me, always moving to the next stop, always keeping his eyes on the finish line.
Moments. They become obsolete as they pass us by, forever buried in a history we may not even remember.
Moments are long, endlessly long until they are gone. Sometimes you can feel it happening, you can practically see the hands on the clock turning, you can feel the minutes slipping away.
But sometimes, the more you stare at the clock, the slower it goes. You can feel time slowing down. Sometimes, in life’s toughest moments, it feels like this moment is here forever.
But moments don’t stay around, not the good ones, not the bad ones.
And in a weird twist, I mean that in a comforting way.
Living in the now has always been my struggle, for the future has not yet been ruined by reality.
And if we abandon our past, how can we make the future better?
Living in the now seems the most useless, there is always more to be done, fragments to glue back together, from our past, for our future.
This week I danced with my friend at her wedding, with a heart so full of joy for her, and I thought to myself “what a beautiful future she has ahead” and then I thought “no. Tonight, she is married, tonight she is joyful, it is not yet about the future. Let’s live in tonight.”
This week, I held my tiny brand new nephew, memorizing his every tiny feature, holding him close as if with force alone I could stop him from growing up in a blink of an eye. Before I know it, he will be holding my hand and saying my name, and these newborn moments with him will be difficult to even call to my mind.
I feel the minutes, days, moments slipping through my fingers. How does one live in the moment, and not feel like they are losing moments?
This week, 17 futures were destroyed in a moment, lives living for the future, lives ready for the future. Lives built on a past that now has an ending. Memories of moments are all their families have now, whispers and winks, moments they can not get back. Living in the future is sometimes a privilege.
I may live half of my life in the future, looking ahead to bigger and brighter, wanting more, working for more, praying for more, but I try to live in the moments that I can.
People say “live in the now!” but the truth is, we have no choice. We don’t know how to live in the past, nor can we live in the future. We can only live in what we have.
In the most joyful of moments, it is my responsibility to hold on to that joy, notice it, be grateful for it, revel in it.
In the most painful of moments, it is my privilege to know that this moment is almost a memory, that it will pass, that better moments will come.
And one day I will look back at my life today, remember my dreams and wishes, my deepest wants and desires, and the memory of it will fill me with the joy of having reached the place I dreamed of.
But just as I remember the dreams of my past, I will surely look forward with dreams of the future, because I’ll always be a girl with one eye backward, one eye forwards, and a heart trying to take hold of it all.

Blog Post: 22/52


Photo by Uroš Jovičić on Unsplash

Hardly Working

In my entire life, I have never prioritized school over family, or pretty much anything else in my life.

Is that bad?

It sounds bad.

It sounds bad to me because it sounds kind of irresponsible.

But that’s the way it always was.

I didn’t flunk my classes. I didn’t get all A’s either.

But it didn’t really matter.

If there was something happening in the family, or I just needed to be home, it was never a question if I could get out of school, that’s just what I did. I was never afraid to show my parents my report card because I knew they didn’t really care if it said A or B on it. They would raise their eyebrows if there was a C, but that’s only because they knew I was capable of more. That I was bordering on laziness.

This attitude towards school has carried me through to my adult work life. I tried once explaining to someone that I am not capable of becoming a workaholic, of putting work before life.

She stared at me, puzzled.

“Without work, what is life?”

I don’t care for jobs that stretch into the evening hours. I don’t care for jobs that only have me on the subway at 6:00, collapsing at the end of every day.

See the thing is, as I write this, my heart is pounding. I can’t write these things. I can’t share these things. Because in essence, I feel like I am only justifying my laziness. My inability to work hard could not be yelling louder in this post.

And it makes me cringe.

I am privileged. I am so lucky. I am lucky to not have to work 12 hour work days to make ends meet. I am lucky that I am able to put almost all my earnings into savings. I am lucky that I can live this way, choosing my hours.

Because I don’t want to have to compromise. I don’t want to have to give up time spent with my nephew’s for keyboard tapping and a weary head.

I don’t want to have to say goodbye to dinners with my friends in exchange for dark hours spent in an office.

I work. Don’t worry. I spend my days at my computer, typing, typing, clicking. Some days I am so busy, I don’t have time to write a blog post (like this week. I almost didn’t make it.) Some days I lay down in my bed and I think to myself “There is not enough time in the day”

Except that there’s always enough time in the day.

Until I have children, and then there literally won’t be enough time in the day, there’s always enough time.

It’s only a matter of how I use it.

Right now, this minute, as I write this, I am choosing to write this during a time that if I was working, I’d be being paid. And checking things off on a very long to-do list.

But right now, I am doing something that I promised myself I’d do.

I promised myself I’d write a blog post every week. To show myself that I could work hard. Because as you can see, it’s a major insecurity for me. Because it seems like everyone knows how to work hard.

And sometimes, I look at myself in the mirror and I wonder. I wonder if I’ll ever learn how to work hard, really hard.

But then sometimes, I realize that I do work hard. I work hard at things I love. I work hard at the relationships in my life, to try to keep them alive and thriving.

I work hard to write a blog post every week, even though sometimes it hurts to share, sometimes it’s easier to write something I know won’t touch anyone, something that won’t rip open my vulnerabilities again and again.

I work hard on my connection to G-d, to my Judaism. I do.

I demand much of myself on a daily basis.

Would my friends describe me as hard-working?

Probably not. Honestly, I don’t know.

Would I describe myself as hard-working?

No.

But I would describe myself as passionate. I would describe myself as someone who cares so much, it genuinely hurts. To me, these are qualities I am grateful G-d has given me. I am so, so aware of the weaknesses He gave me, but I am eternally grateful that these are my strengths.

Because when push comes to shove, I know that when something I care about requires hard work, I am able to conquer it, I am able to work hard.

I hope to one day be able to work hard even when I don’t care. Even when something is not my passion, my top priority, or someone I love, I would like to be able to put by best self forward and give it my all.

I’m working on it. It’s a painful process, learning how to work hard. It is filled with self-beratement, guilt and being unsure of what working hard really is.

And most of all, I cannot, for a moment, stop thanking G-d for giving me a life in which I never had to learn how to work hard. I feel extremely privileged. And I know it’s coming, the days in which I will have to 100% put myself aside for something else. But I continue to pray to G-d that I will be given the privilege of being allowed to work as hard as I can on my marriage and work as hard as I can in raising my children.

Because as difficult and undesirable hard work is for me, I recognize that hard work is a privilege all of its own. It means you have something to work for.

And while I still don’t concern myself with the worry that I’ll become a workaholic, perhaps I’ll one day discover that work is not all bad. That hard work is often a reward all on its own.

 

Blog Post: 21/52


Featured Photo by Joshua Davis on Unsplash

Seeking Silence in the Concrete Jungle

I had some time off this week, and I’m traveling next week, so I decided to make the most out of this week without leaving New York.
I spent most of my week itching for isolation. A spot I could call my own, not surrounded by chatter or other people and what they bring with them.
A spot I could pull out my book or stare off into space without feeling like was taking up room or not noticing something I should.
I started my search with the library. I figured, in middle of the day, how busy could the library be?
It was packed.
There were so many people, it was hard enough to find a seat, let alone find a private spot to curl up.
I chose a seat, as away as possible, with my randomly chosen book.
The book was about Nigeria, a young man who had grown up there, left and returned. It was a look into a life I have never given any thought. Into a culture I have never been face to face with.
I finished the entire thing in one sitting.
I hadn’t looked up or spoke to any of my table mates, but as I left I felt a kinship with the people I just had spent a couple of hours near.
The next day, I headed out again, on my own.
This time to an area I knew would be wildly populated. But I needed to go shopping, so I spent my day in a mall. Alone, but again surrounded by so many. So many that I exchanged a smile or two with, but nothing more.
I wandered around the city afterward and ended up at the 9/11 memorial. I read the names of hundreds in my head, imagining the family behind the name, the real-life human who had been cut out of their story.
Today, I got on the subway with no destination. I took out my book as I got on, and only got off when my book no longer kept me enthralled.
As I stepped onto the street, I found myself slightly disappointed. I have never gotten off at this stop, but I’d barely know it. It looked the same as every block in Manhattan. Starbucks on one corner, CVS on another, skyscrapers towering, and crowds of annoyed people. I set off down one block, searching for anything that caught my interest. Eventually, I ended up at Barnes and Noble’s, slightly defeated. My day of exploration could not have been less adventurous.
I chose a book, sat myself down and got to work – once again, trying to be alone in a room full of people. Without even noticing, I began to eavesdrop on the phone conversation behind me – a tutor was discussing math problems with his student. They began talking about college, and as the tutor would pose a question and then fall silent, I imagined the little person inside the phone, maybe sitting on their bed, maybe at their kitchen table, filled with dreams of their future. A human that I could not see nor hear, yet was now a part of my life in this tiny tiny way.
As I turned back to my book, I heard three little girls begin to sing a song together. Their moms, suddenly distracted from their coffee and conversation, startled by their daughter’s loud reminder that they were still there, quickly tried to shush them. The girls laughed and sang louder, running around the quiet readers. I smiled at their enthusiasm, I smiled at the mother’s desperate attempt to get them to stop singing their sweet song.
The tutor left, the girls left, and pretty soon I was bored of reading a book I had no intention of buying, so I headed out.
I figured before I called it a day, I should just walk a few more blocks.
And there it was.
I finally chanced upon a place that was empty.

A New York City location empty of any tourist, residents, anyone.
There was only one other human, far enough away to not count.
I sat down, blissful.
I was finally alone.

The spot I had found was filled with all kinds of weird sculptures and things that I analyzed as I sat there, in the sweet silence.

I suddenly found myself wondering about the person who had designed these, created these and placed them. Did he wonder why his little park was empty? Was he thrilled that this was a place someone could find isolation in the busiest city, or did he envision children running around, families spread out?
After a good half hour, I finally stood up, ready to not be alone anymore.
Humans. They are the most complex creatures of the universe. The little girls in Barnes and Nobles. The Nigerians in my book. That one other guy in the park. The tutor, and the person he was tutoring. All the people on the subway rides I ignored. The artist.
In all my attempts to run away from people, I kept running into them.
I spoke to so few people during my field trips, yet I had learned so much about them.
I’ll never stop being fascinated by people, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop writing about them.
It was a good week. I learned about myself, I learned about NYC, I learned that there are very few places in New York that you can be all alone.
But I also learned that if you live in NYC, it’s best that you learn how to be alone while surrounded by people, and that sometimes, that’s the best kind of alone you can be.

Blog Post 20/52 (20! that feels like a milestone!)

Featured Photo by Christopher Burns via Unsplash.

Where Blog Posts Go to Die

People often tell me I’m good at being vulnerable, but the truth is, I’m okay with anything I put out there.
To me, being vulnerable is opening up to what is truly fragile.
But perhaps that is just stupidity, and knowing what you should share and what you shouldn’t share is just maturity.
I’ve been struggling with this idea this week.
I wrote 4 blog posts this week.
Not one of them are fit to be shared, either because they’re too boring, too personal, or too controversial to unleash on my Facebook page.
Do you know how frustrating it is to write 4 blog posts and not want to share any of them?
I’ve always been a sharer – I’ve never been one to avoid sharing my feelings, not as a child, not as an adult. I’ve never been afraid of putting myself out there with my emotions. Trust me, I’ve put myself in some very vulnerable, embarrassing situations because I don’t believe in letting things stop you when you have something to say.
But these blog posts are not meant for the world, maybe just for now, or maybe for forever.
I tried a lot of things to produce a blog post this week.
I tried writing at different times of day, in different locations, all different forms of writing.
I sat in a coffee shop, with a coffee I didn’t even want to see if I could reproduce that famous coffee shop inspiration.
It’s time I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not a coffee shop writer. It just doesn’t work for me.
But the point is, I’ve been working hard this week.
And it’s felt fruitless.
As I finished each blog post, I knew immediately it was not the post I was looking for.
And then, while I was walking back from the coffee shop, this line popped into my head.
“Where blog posts go to die.”
And I clung to that line, not knowing where it would go, not knowing if it meant anything.
And I got home, and I started writing.
And I decided- I’m going to honor each of this weeks failed blog posts by giving you one tiny excerpt from each:

1. And as I finish writing this, I know that I’m not going to share this because it is empty of thought and meaning. It is simply a rambling, and the level of ego I need to imagine that people should be reading my ramblings is not a level of ego I want to admit I have.

2. This attitude towards school has carried me through to my adult work life. I tried once explaining to someone that I am not capable of becoming a workaholic, of putting work before life.
She stared at me, puzzled.
“Without work, what is life?”

3. Each night, as I fall asleep, I remember all the mistakes I made, all the bad choices. I resolve to do better tomorrow – no, not better, to do it perfectly tomorrow.
I’ll wake up early, do a quick workout, eat a healthy breakfast, have an incredibly productive day, still have time to hang out with people I love, and most importantly, go to sleep earlier.

4. It is not something that is in my control.
I’ve berated myself, I’ve tried to remind myself time and time again that a watched pot never boils. But alas, I can not stop myself from thinking these thoughts.
Every wrong turn, every delayed train – heck, every train ride I’ve ever taken.

Perhaps one day these posts will be revitalized, fine-tuned and shared. Or maybe they won’t. Maybe they don’t need to. Maybe there are things I can tuck inside my notebook, keep inside my heart, and not share with the world.
Maybe these blog posts have lived and died, enough for me to open up my heart, let the words out, and close up the story.
I’m a writer. I love sharing.
But maybe not everything is meant to be shared.

Blog post: 19/52


Featured Photo by Jose Fontano via Unsplash.

Behind the Prayer

This poem is a journey through Shmoneh Esrei, the Amidah, in my daily morning prayer. It’s about connection, it’s about distraction, it’s about trying. Open up your siddur – follow along.

Three steps backward,
Three steps forward.
the same G-d that Avraham spoke to,
Yitzchak, Yaakov:
He’s listening to me.

Bend, bow, straighten,
May the winds blow
and the rains fall,
and the crops grow.
 __
May the ones we’ve loved,
yet unwillingly lost,
be returned.
 __
Can G-d really return them?
Will he?
There is an itch on my ankle.
 
You are holy,
Your name is holy,
Bless me with an ounce
of the wisdom You hold.
 —
Closed fist,
repentance
I am sorry for not being
the person I could be.
 
Heal us,
Heal me,
Heal the parts
that we don’t know

need healing.

I say these words every morning
Is He listening this time?
Can He hear me?
Did I say this paragraph yet?
Did I skip a page?
My lips know the words
better than my mind does.
 
Hear me G-d,
listen to my prayer
Thank you, G-d, for every gift,
every blessing,
every right side up.
Allow me to strip myself of limits
Let me smile more
Let my dreams come true
May I find the man
Whom I will walk this lifetime with,
May we recognize each other.
Please, G-d, listen closer.
Let this life be one of happiness.
 
Bow, straighten.
Thank you for waking us up today,
For the miracles,
the big ones,
the small ones,

The ones we don’t see.

Please, G-d, let there be peace.
Please, G-d, let there be peace.
How many times can I say it,
How many times does it take,

for it to get to His throne?
 —

Three steps backward,
Bow to the left,
to the right,

forward.

 —

Blog Post: 18/52


Making the Connection

One of my go-to phrases in life is:
“Ugh, I hate people.”

I know, I’m a lot of fun to hang out with.
Recently, my friend called me out on it.
She told me it was just a blatant lie on my part, honestly.
I protested, defending my everlasting dislike of the human species.
She didn’t buy it.
Which is a good thing, because it got me thinking.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, or I guess even about 15 minutes, you know I’m an introvert by nature. Occasionally someone will find me sitting in my room, light off, listening to music or watching something. They always assume the light off was an act of laziness on my part, and flick it on, and always, always, it feels like an invasion of my privacy. The darkness allows me to be truly alone. No distractions. No one else but my own mind.
But then, on the flip side, there is not much I enjoy more than walking the busy streets of New York City. Quite literally the most opposite experience. I get a thrill from the people, from writing their stories in my head, from the crowds.
Sometimes I’ll hang out with friends, or go to a social gathering, and I’ll come home on a high. And then the next morning, someone could ask me if I want to go somewhere…and my first thought will be “ugh, I hate people.”
This is the thing:
I absolutely hate small talk.
No matter what, you will never find me comfortably chatting about the little things.
I hate talking about the little things.
Like the weather. Or what we do. Or where we’re from.
I’ve heard continuously from people “without small talk, how does one make new friends?”
Trust me, I’d rather make a new friend by talking about my deepest secrets from when I was eight than to chat with them about what I do today.
Oh, by the way, one of the worst versions of small talk is when someone tries to start a conversation with you that can’t possibly happen right then, like in the moments between a speaker finishes and begins their sentence, or as you’re about to cross the street, or when there are people around that can’t be a part of the conversation.
Most social settings are filled with moments like these.
Hence, my dislike for people.
I hate people.
I love people.
Recently, I had to get into the front seat of a Lyft. Naturally, being me, I prefer to sit in the back, look out the window, and listen to the music.
This time, I was with friends and they had taken the back. When they came to pick me up, my only option was the front seat.
I got in, I turned to catch up with my friends, and at one point the driver joined our conversation.
We did no introductions, I did not ask him how many years he has been a Lyft driver for, I did not have to tell him who I was, where I lived.
But I learned a lot from that conversation.
As my friends in the back began to discuss something between themselves, I began a conversation with the driver.
He told me about his country, the differences between America and his homeland. He told me about the time he accidentally killed a deer, and the police allowed him to take it home. He skinned, cleaned and cooked it, to my disbelief. I looked at him.
A man who has lived a life so extraordinarily different than my own.
A stranger, who I now shared this conversation with.
A man whose native tongue was not English, who had almost none of the same experiences as I did, yet we shared a conversation. A human connection.
That is what I love about humans.
We can communicate and see into each other’s lives. We can empathize, we can feel, we can listen. We don’t have to share anything, but a language, and sometimes not even that – to link into the human chain, to widen the horizon of understanding.
We are wondrous creatures.
When I talk to people that know me very well, and I talk about how uncomfortable I am in most social settings, they laugh. They say “oh please, you’re fine talking.”
And it’s true – when I’m comfortable, I have plenty to say. I’m not shy – I’m happy to share, argue, discuss. About almost anything. Ask my family.
But those people know me.
So I don’t know what it is really.
Is it a matter of vulnerability?
Does vulnerability not just mean being able to bare your soul, but to allow people to accept you – without you baring your soul?
Oftentimes, when I meet someone I don’t know very well that will tell me they read my blog, or that they liked something particular that I wrote, I feel the growing expectation to be meaningful and inspiring in my conversations with them. Which definitely does not bode well for small talk.
I don’t hate people. Most certainly not. I find the human species fascinating, incredible, infuriating and beautiful.
At times, my connection with my fellow humans is easy. Comfortable. Sometimes it’s like trying to get water from a rock. Painful.
I don’t hate people.
I hate the process of getting to know people.
I hate how slow you have to go. How little is socially acceptable to reveal about yourself. How difficult it is to get a good conversation going sometimes.
So, strike up a conversation. I know there’s a whole lot of people out there that I would benefit from knowing.
What is the human connection?
Talking to the uber driver. Having a conversation with someone on the subway. 2am texting conversations with people you know really well. The incredibly sweet messages I get from people who read this blog that are always unexpected and always push me to continue writing. A shared love for the same song. Nighttime trips to the beach, to the mall, to anywhere, really. Road trips – again, to anywhere. All the times that you get to bypass the small stuff, and get to the good parts.
Maybe I’ll never enjoy small talk. But maybe one day I’ll accept it as a means to an end, an obstacle that just needs to be crossed to reach the person behind it.
My friend turned to me as we discussed me not hating people and said: “sorry, you’re not special.”
She’s right.
I’m not special.
I’m human.
And that is what I love most.

(by the way, if the photo that goes with this post does not give you warm fuzzy feelings and the reminder of a sweet memory, you need to try living the way I do sometime. Benches in the city should always remind you of some of the best conversations. No pressure.)
Blog Post: 17/52

Featured Photo:  DIMITRIS GEREBAKANIS on Unsplash

Can I Become The Enemy?

I’m twelve years old.
I start a list.
Whenever an adult wrongs me in any way, I write it down.
That way, when I begin the terrifying transformation from child to adult, I will never wrong children in the same way.
I keep that list updated through the years.
As a kid, my enemy is adults. As much as I want to be one, I’m sure that they are all screwed up.

.

I’m fourteen years old.
I’m a full-blown teenager.

I cry – so much. I spend my nights in my high school dorm scribbling in my diary, poetry, anger filled paragraphs. The lack of space is stifling me.
I’m so lonely, searching for someone who has a mind that is like mine.
The adults in my life that should be my role models are telling me I’m not trying hard enough.
“The only thing I want in life is to be 18,” I write, tears hitting my pillow one late night.
Because adults are not told that they don’t know what’s right, adults aren’t told that they are not good enough.
.

I’m fifteen years old.
I don’t want to be an adult.

Ever.
Adults are broken, hurt, distrustful. Adults think they’re better, smarter, more clever. They’re just overgrown teenagers with more power.
My grandmother is sick, and everything is scary. None of the adults are telling me what is going on.
“Screw everyone,” I write.

.


I’m sixteen years old.
I’m a counselor in a day camp. Two little girls that are my campers are fighting angrily about something. Something so deeply stupid, I can’t even stand it.
I separate them.
They cry.
I look at them with disbelief. “Kids are so ridiculous,” I think to myself as I turn away from them.
I don’t know where my diary is.

.


I’m eighteen years old. 
I still want to be older. Eighteen is not old enough. There are still so many people who don’t believe in me. Who don’t believe in the youth.
I write on my brand new blog: “Why do I have to spend my life waiting for someone to take me seriously?”
.


Today.
I no longer count the days until adulthood, because I am starting to realize that nobody is an adult. But as I walk into my classroom, as I walk through a park, as I babysit my nephews, I realize I am the adult in each of these situations.

As I cuddle with my nephew to tell him a story, he shows sensitivity and wisdom far beyond his years.
As I listen to my students speak, see their hurt and feel their frustration, I am reminded of the days that I sat at their desks. The anger I felt at those who felt like they had any sort of authority over me.
Real anger. Justified anger.
As I sit at a teachers meeting, I look around in disbelief, the feeling of having snuck into somewhere I don’t belong is overpowering.
I am a child. These are adults. These are the enemies I spent my life fighting against.
How did I become one of them?
As I enforce rules I know are important, my heart breaks, knowing that I am the adult. I am the adult that does not need to explain her actions, who should be spoken to respectfully, who can not cry and show her own weaknesses lest it lead to that respect fading away.
I am torn.
I still feel like the child I was, yet time and experience is forcing me into a role I never thought I’d take on.
Adulthood.
I begin to recognize where children err. I understand that teenagers often make bad choices.
Yet.
I can’t commit, I can’t cross that bridge. I read the list that I began writing when I was twelve years old, and I am reminded. I am reminded that the pain and anger of a child are no less important or real than that of an adult.
I am reminded of the time I told someone that I was having a bad day
when I was a teenager.
The response I received was “How can you be having a bad day when you don’t have to pay taxes, worry about finances, or go to work?”
I am growing older.
I’m never going to be an adult.
My heart carries the child I once was, the teenager I just was, the person I am becoming  – and I’ll never let all these parts go.
I will keep looking at my diary, remembering those nights, that pain – I don’t want to be the adult who makes others feel that way.
Sometimes, it won’t be my choice.
Sometimes, you’ll have to follow someone else’s rules. You’ll have to take extreme measures to educate.
But I won’t be the enemy.
In High School I wrote a letter to the future me.
I wrote
“You might think you’re high and mighty, Future Me, just because you
are older.  But your past is important, almost as important as your future.”
As each day passes, I age just a little bit.
I hope I gain wisdom, experience, and responsibility each and every day.
But even more deeply than that, I hope that I never let the child in me down.
Because every voice is important. Every tear-soaked night is okay.
Every soul deserves to know how valuable it is.
Every heart deserves to know that it doesn’t have to wait.
There is no better time to be who you need to be.
Adulthood will come. But when it does, it won’t change anything.
The power is in the youth.
Don’t waste today.
Blog Post: 16/52
Featured Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash