Big Choices: 12 Years Later

I was going deep into my old files on my computer. I found an essay I wrote my senior year of high school. I didn’t write a college essay. I didn’t apply to any schools that required one. People have accused me of doing this out of laziness, or being an underachiever, I think this essay sheds an light on something that took me a decade to rediscover.

I wrote this for my senior English class. It was the third “senior essay” I wrote. My teacher kept handing the previous essays back to me, telling me, “you wrote this because I told you to, not because you had something to say. Try again. Try something else.” It was a frustrating back and forth. I remember handing him this version and telling him, “I don’t care if you don’t like this one. This is it. I am not writing something else.”

I remember that incredibly frustrating experience so vividly. I remembered nothing about the essay itself. As I read the essay for the first time since I handed it in, I found myself sitting up straight, holding my breath, energized and paralyzed all at the same time.

I wanted to hug teenage me and I found myself shaking my head at adult me. How did I know this about myself at 17, and then forget it all, only to have to relearn it at 27 (and continue to relearn it as I approach 30)?!

Yeah, I eventually did move away from family. I miss the exact things I worried I would miss. Choices are still a major theme in my life. I “failed”. More than once. I fell flat on my face. I royally screwed up my plans. Yeah, I still make plans and lists.

I want to sit down and have a coffee with you and explain why this essay, this stupid teenagery essay, the essay I begrudgingly wrote, the essay I promptly forgot about, blew my adult mind. I suppose, if you know the dark and twisty and beautiful parts of my soul, if you know the story of my less than ideal choices (really just the one), my bumpy road to rediscovering myself, then maybe you know and we don’t need to have a coffee.

You see, I didn’t realize I had lost myself. Really. Until I started to find myself again, I didn’t realize I was wandering. But the thing is, I knew myself and I knew my biggest fears when I was just some “angsty naive teenager.” Somehow I lost sight of that. Reading this essay felt a lot like ripping all the bandages off a healing wound. Exposed. Vulnerable. Scary. But then you look at it. And you realize it healed.

So I am ripping off the bandages. Exposing myself. Admitting my fear. Showing you a decade-plus old school assignment that I didn’t want to complete and I didn’t bother to remember.

For what seems like all of my life, choices have been a major theme. My bat mitzvah speech was on choices; my final papers for my freshman and sophomore English classes as well as my junior history class were about choices. I would expect that someone as “well versed” in choices as myself would feel comfortable making them. But even as the Rabbi gave his sermon on Rosh Hashanah this year I found myself cringing merely at the word itself.

I am scared of making the “wrong” choice. I never have been good at making decisions. It’s not so much that I am indecisive, I just avoid big decisions. There is something in the finality of big decisions that seems to be more responsibility than I wish to take on. So making a choice when it comes to college is terrifying me. The idea that I will go through my next four years of school with one plan, and that it may in fact turn out to be different than where I want my life to go once I reach that point, is a scary thought. A situation such as that would leave me facing more choices, and as I previously stated, decisions are something I would rather avoid.

There are multiple factors that I would consider as constituting the “wrong” choice. I want to be a teacher, but I really like physiology. My mom is a teacher, I teach ballet to five-year-olds, I tutor second graders, and I help teach Sunday school. I am confidant in the fact that I would make a good teacher and that I would love doing it.  Nevertheless, I also am completely fascinated with the human body. It is one of the most amazing creations on this earth. I enjoy fixing injuries and absorbing all the information I can about the way that the body works.  But say I major in education and I wish I had gone the other route, or vice versa. Sure, I can change majors, go back to school, do whatever it takes, but I view that as a failure. I believe in making a decision and sticking with it.

Another factor would be the school itself. What if I hate the campus? The people? The distance, or lack of, from home? So I come home, go to PCC or Mt. Sac, and transfer to a school that is better suited for me. I would love so much the opportunity to get away from home, especially out of state, across the country even. Yet I am not applying to a single out of state school.  I am a family gal. The thought that I would not be able to attend High Holy Day services at my shul, or help the Sunday school students decorate the sukkah on Sukkot makes me homesick. My little cousin just started high school, and who knows what milestones in his life I would miss being away at school. My brother and dad’s birthdays, Thanksgiving with the entire family, and the countless “just because” dinners with the cousins, and New Years parties that wake the neighbors. I would not be me if it were not for occasions such as those. Yet still I am yearning to spread my wings. All these thoughts, contradictions, and dilemmas have played over and over in my head since about spring of junior year. I feel like I am on a seesaw, and depending which way it is tilted on November 30th will be what decides my future.

In the past when I have had to make choices such as which high school to attend, to quit drums or not, etc, I have always relied on lists that I have made. In eighth grade I made a list. I mapped out all four years of high school. This list included what classes I was going to take and what extra-curricular activities I was going to participate in as well as the grade I was going to get in each class. It also had listed which year I was going to accomplish what, such as: in my junior year I was going to receive my Gold Award, or by my senior year I would be playing in the pep-band. I even had a subsection of the list that included what colleges I was going to apply to. Needless to say, the path I chose for myself as a thirteen-year-old is far different than the choices I have made as a seventeen-year-old.

Similarly, the path I choose now will likely be different from the choices I make in my future. This does not make the decision any less daunting, but it does however, relieve some of the pressure that was building up as a result of it.  I have come to the realization that I have to take opportunities as they unfold.  If I had not done this in highschool, I would have never become a member of the Orchesis Dance Company. It was never a part of my plan to at any point quit band, or become more involved in dance in anyway. However, one night on a whim I went to the tryout meeting and began the process. The day the list went up and I saw my name on it, my first reactions was “okay, so I guess I am in Orchesis now, this is different.” Becoming part of the company drastically changed the course of high school for me. It changed my friends, my extra curricular activities, and my self image. All for the better. Planning my life in advance is ludicrous. Things change and people grow, and I have to make decisions one at a time, as they present themselves. Not try to figure it all out in one day, one essay, or one application.

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Good Idea Girl: Apron

I am kind of a hot mess most of the time, but I am also super organized most of the time. Total cognitive dissonance, I know, I live it. That being said, I have all sorts of little ideas for organization and tidiness. I am known by some (read: my family) as “The Good Idea Girl” and as I’ve mentioned before, I have plenty of organizational (and life) opinions. I plan to start sharing them with y’all from time to time (or on the regular if I can live in the organized part of my life for long enough). Here is the first idea:

 

Keep an apron in your car.

I do this. Specifically, in the door pocket thing on the driver’s side. You see, the hot mess side of my life often doesn’t make it out the door in the morning having finished breakfast (which is often coffee, but sometimes legit food). Many mornings I am drinking coffee and eating breakfast on my drive. Sometimes I am just really hungry and I am snacking on my drive to wherever. I cannot tell you how many times I have spilled on myself and been uber frustrated that I will then have to spend the day with schmotz on my clothes.

 

This is where the apron comes in handy. I wear it while I am driving and eating. If I spill, no biggie, I take the apron in and wash it that evening. Usually though, I never spill when wearing the apron. Isn’t that someone’s law of something?


Now, you have to know that even though I have super cute and sassy aprons, driving while wearing an apron might be almost as uncool as driving with your curlers in your hair (which in case you didn’t know, is very uncool).  I only abide by this practice when I care about my outfit making it through the day looking like to organized and with it version of myself showed up that morning. Men: get a manly apron, or rock a sassy one, whatever you are into, but this whole apron to protect your nice tie and dress shirt, it is a pretty good idea. I encourage everyone to try it.

When Sprinklers Make Me Rage

I stay calm when it is important. I am a good person to have around in a an emergency. But I loose my cool, I get irrationally upset, over things that don’t actually matter.

 

I don’t think of myself as a particularly eco-conscious person. I mean if it is convenient sure. I know better than to chuck my batteries in the trash, but I am not going to let it mellow…that leaves toilet bowl stains, weird smells, and it just isn’t my thing. I also like to take really long, scalding hot showers.

 

And yet despite my egregious abuse of water resources, I am thrown into an absurd rage, we are taking hitting my steering wheel, yelling at no one, kind of rage when I see sprinklers running in the afternoon on my way home from work.

 

These are the things I yell at the person who clearly cannot hear me:

Why are your sprinklers going in the heat of the day?!

What an inefficient use of water?! Don’t you know that you need to water before dawn or after dusk for maximum water retention?!

Hello! It is summertime! It is hot as balls out! The water probably isn’t even hitting the ground it is evaporating so quickly! This is really just an invitation for me to come run in the sprinklers!!

Dammit it’s just annoying!

 

Please stop watering the field in the heat of the day. I just can’t handle it anymore.

You’re Going to Miss Me When I Move to China

One summer, a sweet little camper found his way into my heart. He was one of the littlest campers. He didn’t talk much. He did like to flex his muscles (literally) quite regularly and smile that awkward 4 year old smile. Truthfully, if it weren’t for what he said to me on his second to last day at camp, I don’t know that I would remember him so well.

 

It went something like this:

Me: Good morning!

Camper: You’re going to miss me when I move to China.

Me: (confused pause)… yeah, bud, I guess I will…

Camper: Yup! (runs off to play)

 

On his last day of camp I mentioned the conversation to his dad. His dad replied, “Oh yeah, we are moving this weekend.”

 

That was the last I saw of the little camper, and you know what? He was right. I miss him.

 

This summer, a preschooler was here for the summer. Guess where he went back to? China, you guessed? Close, Singapore. But still, this little student made me think of my little camper.

 

Some of my camp friends and I will tell each other, “You’re going to miss me when I move to China.” It is a silly way of telling each other that we miss the other person.

 

I may even be guilty of having said it once or twice to non-camp people when really what I should have said was, “I am going to miss you when you leave.” I then find myself having to explain my absurd declaration.

 

I don’t generally rock at expressing my emotions, especially those vulnerable and tender ones, like goodbyes, because sometimes goodbyes are difficult. Usually goodbyes are difficult. I think they are especially challenging when they are the kind of goodbyes we say at the end of summer camp, or really any short lived but deeply loved relationship. It is hard to say, “this was brief, but you ended up meaning so much to me, we might never see each other again, we might even forget about each other, but right now, in this moment, I don’t have to words to tell you how important you are, and I wish I could pause time for just a little bit, I am not sure I am ready to say good-bye.”

 

So instead I might say, “You’re going to miss me when I move to China.”

 

No words for that good bye, just a long hug at the end of summer
No words for this good-bye, just a long hug at the end of summer