Hi Everyone! Hope this is worth the wait.
With summer ticking away, back to school is something no one wants to think about. But I’ve put off this post for too long, so better now than never. (Bye, procrastination! See you next summer!)
When I was a little kid, my favorite thing about the new school year was always school supplies. No matter how bashed up, destroyed, doodled on, lost, or just run out last year’s pens, pencils, maths set (I probably lost my protractor every year until grade seven or eight!) ruler, etc. was, this year, I was starting out with new things, fresh from the box. Unlike my reputation, which came with me each year, here was something new and perfect.
Now that I’m older, have gotten more thrifty, and take better care of my stuff, (plus we’re not being asked for six packs of construction paper anymore,) that childish thrill is somewhat lost. But it’s still nice to start the year with writing the date on the clean white page of the new (or almost new) notebook, walk home in my new shoes, and most importantly, get a new start with the people around me.
Some of you are fortunate this year to be starting completely fresh in a new school. It’s intimidating, but also an incredible opportunity. Starting clean, where few people already know you. Even if a reputation precedes you, by making a positive first impression, you can change the way others feel about you. If you can change that, you’re well on your way to becoming a new person.
Even if you’re going back to the same old school, it may be two months or more since you’ve last seen some people. It’s also been two months since you were a student in class. So take the opportunity for a new beginning and use it well. Set up your locker, cubbie, or desk. Keep it simple and organised, even if it might not stay that way for long. Maybe try and eat a little healthier now before yontif sets in.
But most of all, put your best self forward. The impression you make often stays with you for a long time. So decide who you want to be, and start working towards that.
There’s another important point I want to address. It might not seem connected at first, but stick with me.
I was lying in my bed one night, thinking that if being nice to each other is all it takes to bring world peace, no wonder it’s harder than it sounds. It’s one thing to do it over the summer (especially if your social interactions, like mine, are very few, and you have Israel open on the news all the time). It’s another thing to do when you get back to school, with a new class, new classmates, new teachers; not everyone is as nice and friendly as you wish they were. Especially if you are in a school that promotes group work and getting along – and what school doesn’t?
It is hard. I can’t give you any easy answers. Even when you tell yourself all day that you’re going to be understanding, and give peace a shot, there will always be someone who pushes your buttons. To love and respect every Jew means to remember at all times that G-d wanted everyone to be and act exactly the way they are, and to accept that. Not easy at all.
But there are two ways that change ties into this.
One is to change your attitude.
This year is a new start. You have the ability to change a lot about yourself, before life settles back into routine. Here’s your chance to put in a bit more work before Rosh Hashana. When you work to change yourself, try to change the way you think about others. When you work on your self-respect, work also on your respect of others. Instead of slipping back into last year’s habits, make things fresh and new. Don’t do things the same way you did them last year just because. And don’t judge people the same way just because either.
The other is to watch people change.
You’re not the only person who has a new start this year. It always amazes me to look around at all the people I know, and realize how much- or how little- I actually know about them. Maybe I know someone has a scathing temper, or always loses her things, and then loses mine when I loan them to her.
But I don’t know if that person has noticed as well. Maybe she’s working on it. Maybe I shouldn’t judge, and look for good instead. Everyone is capable of change. Some people announce to the world that they’re going on diets, or working on speaking less lashon harah. Some people just do it. But you won’t notice if you don’t expect to see it in the first place.
Sorry for the choppiness of this post. It’s quite late where I am. Bli neder, next week we’ll focus more on how you can change the way you see the world, or maybe something else Elul related. Maybe I’ll make another mishmash post once I find a way they tie together. See you next week!