My childhood was awesome. When I think back, all I really cared about was playing. Being the middle of five children of course created an environment of constant action. But I loved it. I love all of my siblings and my family. I always have.
My family is Jewish, and at the time I was born, my parents were experiencing their height of spirituality and connection to the Jewish community. We were committed to the laws and the ways of our ancestors. My parents went far to obey tradition and that had it’s implications. I was well aware of the differences in my appearance from other children in public. After all, they were not wearing little caps on their head, nor did they have strings hanging down the bottom of their shirts. But that was ok. Their life was theirs and mine was mine.
Still, standing out has it’s effects. Eventually it would lead to a desire to ‘fit in,’ with general society and explore everything the ‘normal’ world had to offer. Not necessarily because I felt it was better, but more out of a curiosity to know what it was like. I wasn’t upset about my circumstances as a child, but I was curious to know what it might be like if things were more regular.
As the years went by as they seem to always do, my family moved in the direction toward becoming less and less religious. I think all of my siblings and I shared in this similar desire which drew us in the direction of secularism. Although there were many things about being religious that made us happy (many of which we were hardly conscious of. What comes to mind the most for me now is the experience of saying blessings throughout the day – it’s a practice which has value beyond my comprehension), at the time we also felt the weight of the many restrictions. Like any reasonable human, we yearned to not be bound but rather to be free. Little did we know that we were on a path of merely trading in one set of shackles for another.
Attendance at the ultra orthodox school transitioned into the larger conservative one when I was about ten. That eventually turned into the regular public high school at about fourteen. I was well on my way to discovering what ‘the other side’ was all about. What comes to mind the most now…is the emphasis on the social. When I was younger, I was enraptured with all of my friends. The community of personalities was more than enough to sustain interest and excitement. Friendships were what I cared about most. Schoolwork was just something I had to do (similar to the religion really). There was no choice in the matter, and that made it a tedious activity. Reflection and understanding of this truth has driven me.
The best way to describe my middle school experience is to say that it was special. Only those who were a part of it can know of what I speak. I will not go into much detail aside from saying that it taught me the lesson of power in unity. My classmates were united. Not since in my life, have I been a part of a group so tightly locked together in cohesion.
If I’m talking about my childhood, I must give a shout-out to sports because I have always loved to play them and they have always mattered to me. That is all.
High school was humbling. It was the big time. Lots of people, lots of diversity, lot of different worlds interacting. I found a few niches, and one was as a wrestler. It was the perfect sport for me at that time. It required great discipline, and it was grueling. I wasn’t the best wrestler, but I was good, and got that way pretty quickly. I was made captain as a sophomore and for some reason that still fills me with a sense of pride. To be respected by your peers, especially when they are older peers, is something.
My parents divorced towards the end of my junior year. Overall, I think I handled it pretty well. I never expected my life to be a fairy tale. I’ve always known challenge to be a part of the whole thing. However, a valuable lesson it did teach me was that adults can be as unknowing, and as emotionally undisciplined as anyone else. I saw this not just from my parents, but from plenty of adult figures in my life. The way the slightest obstacle threw many of them off their game when things went differently than they wanted – the way that teachers used power instead of logic, the way my coach blew his cool if we lost a match. Is this really what it’s like? I wondered. At what point does the maturation process come to a halt? I started to become worrisome about that.
College was a dream. A dream of freedom brought into actuality. Continued emphasis on the social, but everything was just so much fun. I took my classes more seriously, but not as much as one should who is choosing a career. The truth is, that college would have been a lot better if there wasn’t any grading at all. The institution should be classified more for what it actually is – a social camp for adults to get acclimated with their new found status.
I loved it though. It gave me everything I wanted. But the question always remained: what’s next…is there something to strive for beyond fun?
I’ve never been one to not seek progression. Something can be so good, but as soon as you try to hang on to it, it slips by. Therefore, we must keep moving. Although my experiences were extraordinary, they have never gotten to a point where I only want to repeat them. I’m not on a search to return to feelings, but to experience new ones. Better…always the path towards better.