It was then that it dawned on me: I wasn’t a wallflower anymore. I was Shulamis, a self-confident, friendly, talented part of the grade
Midterms were a disaster. But I took them all, reaching an agreement with the principal to study as hard as I could if they’d give me the support I needed. I stopped skipping classes and went to the tutoring sessions like a good girl. My grades improved significantly, and so did my teachers’ respect for me. I saw it in their eyes when they handed me back the exams, and I patted myself on the shoulder. It didn’t happen overnight; it took a lot of internal struggle. I explored my heart, peeled off the most hurting places, scrubbed myself raw. But the new state of mind was wonderful. I felt so good, so confident, that all the pain was worth it.
I devoted myself to my schoolwork. I had a long meeting with the principal, and we devised a work plan for the rest of the year and the upcoming finals.
Now that I was ready to listen to her, I realized that she really was trying to help me, and it was I who had refused to cooperate. The realization was astounding.
I was doing better on all fronts, but the day I really appreciated the change was the day I was chosen to be the head of the Purim décor committee. I had been slowly establishing some rapport with the rest of the class, and they started listening to me when I had something to say. When Purim came along, and the GO heads needed someone to help them decorate the school for color war, I was chosen. It was then that it dawned on me: I wasn’t a wallflower anymore. I was Shulamis, a self-confident, friendly, talented part of the grade. With my own hard work, I made myself a person again. It was wonderful to feel like I belonged.
I hear Shulamis is doing great in school now. She flowered into a talented, socially-involved girl, like she was earlier on, before I came… I feel so awful; did I turn her into a wilted, self-pitying and self-hating person?
But I have no right to blame myself. I can honestly say that I only meant well and I really tried my best… my absolute best to help this complex teenager.
“You see, Pessy?” my husband told me when I talked to him about Shulamis. “You tried your hardest to help this child, and it seemed like it wasn’t working. And when you let go, and put your effort into davening instead, the girl, seemingly out of the blue, is doing so well! It just shows that it’s all from Above, not in our control.”
True. I agree with him, I always do. But still, I have this painful feeling that I played a big part in making her so negative…
She pulled herself out so beautifully, I tell myself. You can’t blame yourself after the fact…
But I still feel uneasy. Maybe one day I will have to ask her forgiveness… my thoughts turn down the forbidden path before I can even stop them.
I wish I could just beg my dear Yonah for forgiveness. I wish I could tell him how upset I am at the suffering he needlessly endured. If I only had one more chance to get my son back — even for an hour!
There we go. The guilt again.
I started feeling useful. People suddenly valued my opinion. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know how to read. I felt valued and secure. One of the girls in my committee, Nechami Shlaff, took upon herself to do all the parts I couldn’t do. She read the instructions on the pack of glue guns, she realized the paint I plucked off the shelf in the school stock room was actually colored glue (why would a school even stock such a thing?), and she became my wonderful new friend.
One day, as I came home from school, my hands splattered with paint and a content feeling in my heart, I saw my mother waiting for me at the front door, her face serious.
My heart sank. What now? I was doing so well! I couldn’t handle another dip in my roller coaster life!
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 880)
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