I recently turned 22, which means that I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah ten years ago. How time flies! Although a Bat Mitzvah is a milestone for every girl, my Bat Mitzvah was a special milestone because it was when I decided to take on a fully observant Jewish lifestyle. The year I turned twelve was also the year I had the idea for YALDAH, which brought me to a very new (and busy) stage in my life.
I’ve read lots of letters people write to their teenage selves, and most of them say how short-sighted and self-critical they were. Maybe I’m not far enough removed yet, but I actually think my twelve-year-old self was doing pretty well. Here’s what I have to say to her:
Mazel Tov on your Bat Mitzvah!
Although you’re happy with having a small Bat Mitzvah celebration now, I want you to know that you won’t regret it in the future either. You’ll be happy that you had a meaningful event with your family and friends.
Keep on dreaming. Your dreams will bring you to amazing places and accomplishments. You know that you’re not too young to make a difference, and don’t let anyone tell you that you are. Don’t be afraid to dream big — that’s the only way to get big places.
It’s not admirable to be so busy you can’t sleep. You’ll go through a time in high school where you’ll be so busy you’ll often do all-nighters and sleep only a few hours a night. It really is important to learn how to say “no” to people. Eventually, you’ll learn to value going to bed early and having some free time to go to the park with your daughter.
You’re inspired and soaking up all the Jewish learning you can get your hands on. People tell you it’s just a phase, but you know that’s not true. You will keep this learning and meaning with you your whole life. Although sometimes you will be more inspired and sometimes less, you will always be striving to be grow in your Jewish observance. You will eventually become the person you’re hoping to be – don’t give up.
Even though you’re only twelve, you know who you want to be and what kind of life you want to have. Just keep moving forward!
Leah – age 22
P.S. Start backing up your computer NOW! It will save you a lot of frustration in the future!