Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Dear 15 year-old me- My post-reunion post

This is the third, and possibly last reunion post. First, I wasn't going, then, I changed my mind. Here is how it went.

I'm rarely at a loss for words, but I've been having a hard time writing about the reunion this Sunday. It's not that I didn't have a good time. I had a blast. It went way better than I could have imagined, even in my best case scenario. I'm just afraid of sounding trite, or even worse, giving a message that sounds like I'm telling all people who had a hard time in high school “It was all in your head”. I know way too many cases of people who were really hurt, both physically, and, in my estimation even worse, emotionally. What I am about to write is in no way meant to minimize the pain that you felt, and continue to feel. I am only sharing my personal experience and my understanding of it.

My other concern is that I sometimes get just a little melodramatic and act like I have figured out a way to create world peace, or, at least, to get Ashkenazim to be allowed to eat kitniyot on Pesach (the holiday, not myself, just in case that needs some clarity). In that spirit, I write the following:

Dear 15 year-old me,

I know you are feeling alone right now, even when surrounded by people. You think that nobody understands you, the “cool kids” are all jerks, and the guys on the basketball team will never go bald. While I'm sorry to inform you that your last thought is correct, the others are not.

Imagine if you were judged for the two most obnoxious things you ever said. Yes, I know. You can't even put them down on paper. That kid in your grade who you think is so mean, he's really not. Even now, I can't even think of three harsh things she said over four years. Get to know him now. Otherwise you are going to feel really stupid at your 25th reunion, when you finally have the courage to speak to him, only to discover she is not only nice, but also an amazing person with tremendous empathy. (I wish I could share details here, but it would make it clear who it is).

You think that you are the only one who feels left out and ignored by the popular kids. You are not. You'd be surprised to know which of your friends feel the same way. There are a whole bunch of them with whom you'd trade places in a second.

Embrace your inner-freak. The sooner you get comfortable with yourself, the sooner others will do the same.

Believe it or not, one day you are not only going to get over your stage fright, you are going to be willing to speak in front of hundreds of people. Why wait to work on it? Wouldn't it be fun to be in the play?

You are going to be a rabbi one day. No, really. You will teach with some of your former teachers. Your feelings about them will be shown to have been mistaken. Well, about most of them. Remember what you didn't like and try to never become that way. If you can't love your students, get another job.

Even the rich kids and the pretty girls will have challenges in life. It's easy to see them as two-dimensional, from the outside.

When you see Mrs. Kohl, don't forget to tell her how much you loved “Mishpacha” class. You may not be able to list the names of the masechtot you learned in high school, but you will quote her class several times a year in your classes.

I know you think you are proving something by refusing to be in any pictures at school. You'll be successful enough that there won't be one picture of you in the yearbook that isn't posed. At the reunion, you'll wish you had not been so successful.

You know that girl that you like that you think doesn't know you exist? She doesn't know you exist.

There are some really wonderful kids in your class and grade. They are funny, creative, compassionate and more. Don't let a few jerks convince you otherwise.

Before being so mad at the kids above you on the social chain, ask yourself how nice you are to the kids below you on that chain.

Judging by the number of people you'll be happy to see at the reunion, along with the number of people you'll wish were there, you have a lot more friends than you think.

In two years, you'll be ditching school to get your hair cut at Astor Place. PLEASE don't wait that long. Oh, and get normal glasses.

Stay in touch with people. Not just through Facebook (I'll explain it in my next letter). You can never have too many friends (real ones not the virtual kind) and your heart can hold a lot of love.

When you finally win a big stuffed animal for the first time, on senior trip, don't give it to your girlfriend. You are going to break up with her three weeks later.

You are going to teach a lot of Syrian kids, most of whom you'll love (the rest you'll have to try real hard). It's a wonderful community which gives a lot of tzedaka, and can teach your Jdubs a thing or two about Ahavat Chinam.

Although you can't jump and can only hit an outside shot if the nearest defender is 25 feet away, you're not completely unathletic. You'll be running the Boston Marathon one day.

Don't let that rabbi convince you that you belong in Neve Tzion. You might not be the most religious guy in the world, but you've got some potential.

Learn to dance. Not because you should be going to Sweet 16s, or because you'll ever use it again after high school (ok, after Israel). Because you dance like a dork.

With love, patience and a little exasperation,

The 42 year-old you

P.S. Even though you don't like Country Music, you'll like this


  1. Oh I love this! I was three years ahead of you at Flatbush and I feel like this is the male version of a letter that I would write to the 15 year old me.