The Torah is re-rolled and this Shabbat we again read from the beginning. The Book of Genesis and the Torah portion Beresheet…my favorites.
I love the imagery of an unformed world full of darkness, chaos, and danger. I love the idea that a supernatural force, call it God, navigated through the muck and organized it into something beautiful, good, and constructive. And I especially love the fallibility of humankind, born with flaws and faults, yet also the ability to strive to do better and overcome.
This week, a business colleague posted a piece on LinkedIn about a non-profit that inspires young girls to dream big and position themselves for success in life. To achieve this goal, the organization reaches out and encourages women to share their own stories. My colleague posted about her own journey, along with a picture of herself as a young girl.
I myself was inspired by this endeavor. It made me want to join and volunteer to help. It also made me seek out an old picture of myself, from when I was about eight years old. I looked at my clueless, carefree face and immediately wished I could go back in time. I would love to talk to and be friends with that little girl.
With hindsight so clear in my rear view mirror, there is much advice and counsel I could share with my younger self. If I were to return to the beginning of my journey, here’s what I would say to that little girl:
- Don’t be in such rush to grow up and leave home. Your time will come soon enough and you’ll have decades of opportunities to say and do whatever you want. Remember, you are not responsible for paying the household bills when you’re a kid!
- Talk to your parents and other adults. Learn adults’ stories and compartmentalize them. You don’t have to be them or even emulate them, but embrace the takeaways that most resonate with you. File them away for the future to inform how you do or do not want to live.
- Find and make an adult “friend.” It’s good to have someone you trust and can turn to if you need help getting out of a jam. It could be a parent, a cousin, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or even a family friend or teacher. You never know where or how you may get into trouble, so make sure you have someone to whom you always can reach out and who has your best interests at heart.
- Learn to say “I’m sorry” and mean it. Kids make mistakes and it’s okay for them to be wrong. Don’t be defensive! Saying “I’m sorry” and trying to do better is what life is all about.
- Embrace change. Routines are great for everyday basics. Familiarity breeds comfort and a sense of security. But the world changes quickly and you must be ready to adapt. Make new friends. Try new things. Visit different places. Push your limits. The older you get, the more difficult it is to change. So, be open and nimble while you’re young and flexibility will become second-nature.
- Learn a foreign language (or two or more!). Speaking a foreign language opens you up to meeting and learning from different people and cultures. This will make you more aware of the worlds outside of your own. It also makes you more approachable.
- Travel. Right up there with number six, traveling outside of your hometown, city, state, and country broadens your attitudes, perspectives, and connections. There are many different places and ways to live. Explore and learn.
- Be passionate about something. Comb the world to discover what makes you tick. What kind of person do you want to be? What country do you want to live in? What kind of people do you want to hang out with? What do you love doing? If you live your life with passion, the odds of living a great life are higher than if you simply go the motions of “working to the pay the bills.”
- Don’t dwell in the past. Lamenting what you did or didn’t do when you were younger is a waste of time. You cannot change the past. Moreover, the past is supposed to inform the future. Learn from it, deal with it, and make the future better.
- Believe in and love yourself. At the end of the day, everyone is worried about living their own best life. While you may have family, friends, and colleagues who encourage and believe in you, only you know what’s truly best for you. You have to walk in your shoes, not someone else’s, with confidence, integrity, and faith in yourself.
I don’t know if at eight…or even at twenty…I would’ve listened or understood the above, but I do now. Maybe I’ll be able to share and positively influence my grandchildren.
Chapter One. In the beginning, God created…then….
וַיְכֻלּ֛וּ הַשָּׁמַ֥יִם וְהָאָ֖רֶץ וְכׇל־צְבָאָֽם׃
The heaven and the earth were finished, and all their array.
וַיְכַ֤ל אֱלֹהִים֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂ֑ה וַיִּשְׁבֹּת֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י מִכׇּל־מְלַאכְתּ֖וֹ אֲשֶׁ֥ר עָשָֽׂה׃
On the seventh day God finished the work that God had been doing, and ceased on the seventh day from all the work that was done.
וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ אֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־י֣וֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י וַיְקַדֵּ֖שׁ אֹת֑וֹ כִּ֣י ב֤וֹ שָׁבַת֙ מִכׇּל־מְלַאכְתּ֔וֹ אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֥א אֱלֹהִ֖ים לַעֲשֽׂוֹת׃
And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because on it God ceased from all the work of creation that had been done.
Be focused. Be organized. Work hard and make something cool happen. Take pride in a job well done. Then, rest and take care of you. Shabbat Shalom.