| Diary Serial |

Spreading My Wings: Epilogue

How could I feel comfortable publishing something that I had once guarded as so intimately private?


I was helping my mother through some deep cleaning in the kitchen this year when I came across an old, yellowing notebook. Curious, I opened it, and I was surprised to see a rounder, more girly-looking version of my mother’s handwriting.

“Ma, what is this?” I asked. My mother came closer, took a look, and laughed. “Wow, that’s my diary from my first year of teaching after seminary,” she said. “I didn’t even remember that I kept a diary.”

“Can I read it?”

“Why not?” she said.

I could think of a few reasons why not. “Uh, maybe you wrote things about yourself that were private.”

My mother smiled. “I hope I’ve grown enough since then that that’s not me anymore.”

My seminary diary is not exactly yellowing yet. I’m not old at all, no matter what my students think. (You know who you are — thanks for being my best cheerleaders throughout this serial!) But when I started considering publishing excerpts of it, the very thought of it surprised me. How could I feel comfortable publishing something that I had once guarded as so intimately private?

My mother’s answer made it so clear. It’s because it’s not me anymore.

Coming home from seminary might seem daunting. You have no way to know how your life will play out, which roles you will assume and when. You’re faced with making decisions that will have real long-term repercussions in terms of what you do and who you become.

Plain and simple, you’re moving out of the bubble of childhood — that “incubator,” as Layla put it on our last Shabbos in seminary — into the big wide world. You’re leaving the growth-oriented cocoon behind and venturing out into a world that expects you to be a grown up when you don’t feel much older than you did in your pleated skirt and uniform shirt. Who’s making your decisions for you now? Where are those infusions of inspiration going to come from? What’s going to happen to the aha moments, those magical Shabbosim in far-off places, those tefillos that were so real and sincere at the Kosel, the time of life when every word said by others felt so significant and weighty, when the world beckoned with endless possibility?

The achievements you make in your seminary year are yours forever. They remain with you, lodged in your consciousness, as long as you stay true to them. If distractions draw you away, they’ll be there to reignite when you’re ready.

You can be objective and reflective about your past self if you have continued to put effort into growing further. Because growth doesn’t end with seminary. Real life is an uphill battle. As you find your footing within real life, you will be growing. Growing up. Growing higher. Gaining perspective, insight, wisdom. No matter where your decisions take you, who you are will always be a choice you make, constantly, at every moment of the day.

Once you have grown far enough from the “you” of back then, you will find that you can look back and reflect objectively on her.

I hope that reading about my journey has done something for you. Maybe it gave you a glimpse into the wonderful world of self-development. Maybe it gave you a reason to look forward to seminary. Maybe it brought back memories of your own seminary year. I hope it made you laugh. Maybe it made you think. My greatest hope is that it inspired you and gave you some measure of confidence to spread your own wings.

There will come a day when you, too, can look back at your younger self, respect her for the incredible young woman she was, applaud her courage, get inspired by her idealism and the insights she had that seemed at the time to be so beyond her years — and at the same time, laugh at her insecurities, soothe her fears, and view her challenges within the framework of your swelling storehouse of wisdom. You’ll congratulate yourself on how far you’ve come. Then you’ll set your sights on the remainder of the path that awaits.

Goodbye for now. I’m rooting for you.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 853)

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