To My Jewish Day School Education

To My Jewish Day School Education

Thank you for giving me bagels every Friday, a lack of school in the months of September and October, and an appreciation for my religion, culture, and life.
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For 18 years, from the earliest days of “mommy & me” all the way up until high school graduation, I attended a small, Jewish day school in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD. Contained within a seemingly un-poppable bubble, I spent long days, specifically from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., learning about Jewish holidays, hearing stories from the Bible, and studying the many laws that constitute Jewish life. All of this, on top of taking math, english, social studies, and science classes.

At times I longed to switch to a regular school, one where I could be dismissed from school at 2:30. Every. Single. Day. And one where I wouldn’t have to endure these classes that seemed so trivial at the time. But my parents would not even dream of letting me weasel my way out of what they believed to be an important experience. So I continued my Jewish day school education, and looking back on it, I realize just how right they were.

Sitting in my dorm room, 1,123 miles away from home, in a new school and a new city, I just want to say to my Jewish Day School:

Thank you for showing me what it means to be a community.

During times of happiness, from special Jewish holidays to winning the annual basketball tournament and everything in between, we always united to celebrate as a school. On the opposite end, in times of sorrow, whether it be the death of a family member or that of a soldier in Israel, we always joined together to pray for comfort, peace, and health in the world. Looking back, I appreciate these moments for what they were, and know that I will always be a part of a special community.

Thank you for fostering my love of Judaism and Israel.

Throughout my years, you taught me some essential components of what it means to be a Jew: that I should care for others, strive to be the best version of myself, and live each day with meaning and purpose. You also gave me Israel, a beautiful country filled with incredible people, a rich history and culture, and an everlasting spirit. These ideas are now ingrained into my being; without them, I would not be who I am today.

Thank you for teaching me that winning isn't everything.

The sports at my school could be classified as anything but serious. In the entire span of my athletic career, I witnessed only two occasions where players were cut. 99.9% of the time, everyone made the team, and everyone was given an equal chance to learn, grow, and succeed. Although this system stands in stark contrast to how typical athletic organizations function, for my school, it worked. We learned to value hard work, camaraderie, and having fun. Winning was rare, but this taught us to appreciate even the smallest of victories.

Lastly, thank you for preparing me for college.

You might be thinking, how could I have been prepared for college by living in a bubble for my entire life? Yes, it is true that my life predominantly existed in this Jewish bubble, and that my friend group consisted mainly of people just like me. But my Jewish Day School education equipped me with the necessary tools to succeed not only in college, but in life. Tools that I don’t think I would have received anywhere else. From it, I’ve learned to treat people the way that you want to be treated. I’ve learned to believe that everything happens for a reason, and to trust that things will be okay in the end. And lastly, I’ve learned that each day we have on this earth is a gift, and that we should not merely sit back and appreciate it, but take advantage of each moment to ultimately live a meaningful life.

So thanks again, for the bagels, for the 8 hour school days, and for the lessons.


Cover Image Credit: Beth Tfiloh School

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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A Letter To Me, The Girl Who Overthinks Everything

It's a weakness and a strength.

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Dear Me,

In the past few years of your life, you have hated yourself for your overthinking. I want to take the time to tell you right now that your overthinking is not always a weakness, but it's a sign of your strength. And you need to see that.

I know it's a dreadful feeling. A chill runs down your back. Your mind starts racing. You need to keep moving or your mind will start screaming. You think you'll go deaf from your own thoughts. There's no moment of peace. You think you're going insane.

You analyze the texts. You think back to the conversations. Why didn't she look me in the eye? Why didn't they smile? Should I have said that? Why did I say that? You analyze every little detail to see what it means to you. You relive every mistake over in your mind until you make it right. It never ends and you hate it. But did you ever ask yourself why your brain works this way?

In the first 18 years of your life, you've been through and have done a lot. Probably more than you would like to admit. As a daughter of immigrant parents, you grew up finding your way, often on your own in the world. You needed to figure out life while teaching your parents about it at the same time. While most kids wanted to fit in, you needed to make sure you kept your Vietnamese culture. You've converted religions. You've been betrayed by good friends. You've been fat-shamed...and more. There were times where life felt like it was punching you in the gut, a million times over and you didn't know how to take it. So now, you overthink it.

Why? Well, do you realize how hard you've worked to get to where you are? You're getting awards, scholarships, and you're going to a fantastic college this fall. That's not because you sat back to let things be handed to you on a silver platter all your life. Don't get me wrong. You've been given SO MANY good things in your life, but there was also a lot of bad. Life swung at you when you least expected it. But you're here, aren't you? You overthink because you know what it is like to be fooled, and you want to know that you'll never be caught off guard again. So when life comes to get you, you're making sure you're ready to kick right back.

Another thing... Many people say you overthink because you care what other people think of you. But that's not it. It's actually quite the opposite. You overthink because you over love. All you want is to make the people in your life happy because that's what makes you happy. Life put you in their life for a reason. So, you're giving them all you have. Every little action is a chance for you to do that.

You want to do it all in your life. You overthink everything because if you do something, you're gonna do it right. Your mind needs to keep working. That's what it does even when its not supposed to.

You're strong. But you weren't always this way. Your overthinking is simply a side effect from being caught in the storm for so long. You're in a great place and you're on the way to do great things. No one can stop you now. But you still overthink it so it stays that way. This is how your brain works. It's a part of you and shows how far you've come. You're perfectly okay.

With love,

You, The Overthinker

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