It’s been ten (and a half, to be precise) years since I’ve been twelve.
I’ve been thinking about 12-year-old me a lot recently. I’m not sure why, she just keeps coming into my mind. It’s interesting, being an “adult,” because that’s all I ever wanted back then, that age when everything would just make sense.
I have good news and bad news for 12-year-old me.
The good news is, honestly, a lot of the time, it does make sense. Things just work. I get to do what I want. I’ve come a long way since 12, had a few muddled years in between, but now…I’m good. I understand what makes me tick, what makes me angry, and (roughly) how to make myself happy. I guess what I’m trying to say is, I mostly make sense to me now. When I was twelve, it was mostly murky.
The bad news is, that not all that rarely, without fail, comes a time in which nothing makes sense.
There are moments in which I’m going along with my hum-drum life, surrounded by luxuries I barely notice (and probably complain about), with friends and family on speed dial, people I know who would drop anything to be there for me if I needed it. I even have the audacity to continuously ask G-d for more.
And suddenly I’m hit with the realization that I am privileged beyond belief.
And it hurts to breathe.
And I enter a battle inside my mind – is G-d good? G-d is good to me, yet so painfully unkind to an unfathomable number of people. I can’t even begin to wrap my mind around how insane the lives of people who SHARE THIS EARTH WITH ME are. Torture, heinous murder, desperate poverty, at the hands of dictators, genocides, starvation, addictive drugs, violence…it never ends.
There is an endless sea of hatred and pain, and bloody waters on this earth that I call beautiful because I’m able to look at just one tree.
But…the world…is good, right?
G-d…everything He does is for the good, right?
During these moments, I feel like I am twelve again. Confused, lost, heartbroken.
I want to just put a stick in the world’s gears, make it stop moving and moving and moving, and force it to look itself in the eye. I wish I could make a noise so loud that it will stop all of humanity in its tracks and force it to recalibrate, reconsider every action it has done until now.
I want to scream.
I don’t read the news because it hurts my soul, but who is that helping?
How can I ignore the pain?
Yet how can I listen, with hands tied?
I am so small.
This world and its millions of problems are so large.
And sometimes I feel like I’m just whispering into the void without even an echo.
I’ve seen how hard it is to effect change. What kind of back-breaking, mind-splitting labor it is. There are endless critics, people sitting, doing even less than you are, telling you how useless your activities are. Change, in its essence, is not inspiring. It is dirty and difficult, it is all-nighters and tears in your pillow, it is prayer and tiny, tiny steps.
And each of us, in our entire lives, can only barely paint one stroke in this enormous masterpiece.
But what a stroke that is.
Because there are people who go through their entire lives without ever picking up the paintbrush.
12-year-old-me…I am trying.
I am not rich. I don’t have any fancy titles. I had no fancy education.
But what I do have is a heart. The same heart that made 12-year-old, and 13-year-old, and 17-year old me cry into my pillow, and the same heart that caused all kinds of tantrums, the same heart that fiercely loves her family, loves life and loves growth.
I’m trying to be grateful. To truly notice how good I have it, how lucky I am, how full of gifts my life is.
I’m trying to notice. To notice the pain on others’ faces, to try to do something to help heal them. To reach out, to do kindnesses in the small creases of my every day, in the moments between moments.
I can’t wave a magic wand, I can’t put on a cape and save the day. This world has joy and miracles painted in with evil and hatred, and that’s the way it’s always been.
I want to tell 12-year-old me that it gets better, because it did, and it does, and it continues to. But the older I get, the more pain I come across.
I don’t know where my life is headed, I don’t know what ever comes next, what each new dawn brings, but I pray that I am gifted with the opportunities to shake some foundations and bring about the change I so desperately hope to see.
Perhaps it’s time I use my words for something more valuable.
I want to have a hand in the masterpiece.
So I’m picking up my paintbrush.
For twelve-year-old me.
And the twelve-year-old in me.