(Sorry I’ve been a little absent on the blogosphere lately. I had planned to post this several days ago, but schoolwork caught up with me and so it had to wait. But here it is!)
This past Thursday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, and now the ten days between then and the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, are days of reflection. Usually, we think about all of the experiences and actions that we do not want to bring with us into the new year, but to be honest, I think that it’s important to remember the good things too. This past year has been a really good one for me, and I’ve learned a lot. I’d like to be thinking about those, too, as I continue reflecting on my actions and interactions over the course of the year.
So here are my top five things I have learned.
- Being new isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity.
I was new at my school last year, for the first time in twelve years. Everyone else had been there for a very long time and they already knew each other. I spent a long time freaking out and not knowing what on earth I was doing, but I was also extremely lucky. I have some very close friends and I know that I have been exposed to experiences that have made me better as a person. Also, I was “new” at BIMA this summer (I mean, technically almost everyone was “new”), and some of my friends from there are, without a doubt, friends for life. I have learned that I do not need the same surroundings to be the same person, and there are really amazing people and opportunities pretty much everywhere if I only look.
- It’s okay to let some parts of life go.
I spent four years of my life as a competitive policy debater. Then, at the end of freshman year, I realized that I had been going through the motions for a long time, and the activity really didn’t make me happy anymore. Leaving debate was a very tough decision, one that I struggled with for a long time, especially since it meant leaving behind a very close-knit community. But I have so much more time and so much less stress now that I consider it completely worth it (see my post on that here).
- It’s also fine to let them come back.
I tried to quit springboard diving last year. I was a burnout, and I was okay with that. I’d dealt with a lot of injuries and I had lost sight of what I love about the sport. But now, I am a certified summer coach and I’ve spent a lot of time practicing. I’ll be competing for my school this winter. I was so ready to let it go forever, but somehow the things that really matter find their way back. I guess this was one of them.
- I have also learned that it’s okay to let some people go, too.
As a part of switching schools, my friend group from my old school was scattered. Most of us are still quite close, and we hang out fairly often. But some just disappeared. We don’t interact. We don’t hang out. If we run into each other it is almost always accidental. I have tried to stay in touch with some of these people, but I think that communication and friendship is a two-way effort. If they drift closer again, I will be ecstatic, and welcome them back with open arms. But if they don’t… well, “if you love someone, set them free.” For all I know, those people have done amazing things and simply don’t have time to hang out with anyone. If they ever want or need my help or friendship in the future, I’m there. If not, I don’t need to be.
- It’s okay to occasionally screw up.
I hate messing up. I really, really hate it. I probably have a minor form of atychiphobia (the fear of failure) in this regard. And last year was probably the largest concentration of forgotten assignments, wrong answers, and lack of time that I have ever had to deal with. There were a lot of sleepless nights, or times when I stayed up until two in the morning because I was trying to finish an assignment. There were also many times when I worked continuously from six forty-five in the morning until ten thirty at night and still didn’t finish everything (thank you, debate).
Yes, I probably did a lot of that to myself. I overschedule myself, and I really don’t like dropping activities. I enjoy a high-pressure environment, and I tend to create one for myself.
But that doesn’t mean I need to panic over one missed assignment.
This world is huge, and it is not the end of everything. It began so many lifetimes ago that we cannot even count, we can only estimate, and even then we are not sure. There is a whole science dedicated to values that are unquantifiable. There is a galaxy out there and we cannot even see all of it, and a universe beyond that which we have not even explored.
And yet, the sun still rises each morning, as a result of the earth spinning so fast we cannot feel it.
In ten years, that one bad quiz grade isn’t going to matter so much.
That’s not to say that grades don’t matter—they do, a lot—but my point is that it is not the end of the world if I screw up one time. And the panic is probably counterproductive, and it’s definitely not worth it.
I knew all of these in theory prior to this year, but I don’t know how much I believed any of it. Now, I know all of them, as absolute facts. And I don’t ever to forget that. So as I toss bread that represents my sins into a moving body of water (it will probably be eaten by ducks. I don’t know how much the old rabbis really planned for that), and reflect on every single one, I will also try to keep these in mind.