| Teen Diary Serial |

The Girl That Was: Chapter 12 

And then she told me something that was so amazing. She said to me, “Do you know that you are allowed to speak up for yourself?”


WE were finally seniors! Hurray!

But along with the start of 12th grade came the word that I came to dread: seminary.

Most girls were going to Eretz Yisrael.

But it cost SO much. I felt like there was no way that I could ask the community fund to do that for me. I thought that I would just stay local. And maybe if I was staying local I would only go to half-day sem and start working already.

I wasn’t so happy. But what choice did I have?

Choices? We all had choices. Mrs. Schonfeld insisted on that point.

But not in this area, I said.

And then she told me something that was so amazing. She said to me, “Do you know that you are allowed to speak up for yourself?”

“Of course,” I stammered.

“Listen,” she said, “I’m not a therapist. But there is something that you told me a long time ago that I never forgot. You told me that when you were sitting shivah, people were telling you what to eat, and what to do. When your brother moved in, they told you where they would sleep and when you should go back to school. I think you lost your voice. Maybe you felt stuck because you were the youngest. Maybe you felt like you had no rights because people were being so kind to you. I think that you struggled with speaking up for yourself.

“In addition, you told me how badly it hurt that your father chose not to have any relationship with you. All this affects a person. Maybe it even made you feel worthless.”

I smiled because of how true that was.  I was always the girl that gave in to whatever anyone wanted. Whenever anyone ever asked me what I wanted, I would say, “Whatever everyone else wants,” even when I did have an opinion.

It was as if Mrs. Schonfeld was reading my thoughts because she continued, “It’s a good thing to be mevater and let others have what is important to them. But it isn’t good to let yourself become a doormat. That breeds resentment. That isn’t true vatranus. You are a tzelem Elokim. You aren’t a nobody, even if life dealt you harsh circumstances. It’s okay to ask for what you need.”

This was all new to me. But I saw how right she was. I really did think of myself as a nobody. And not in a healthy, humble kind of way. That couldn’t be what Hashem wanted from me.

But she wasn’t done yet. “In addition, when we think we don’t have choices, we feel stuck. And again, feeling stuck makes us feel bad about ourselves, and breeds resentment towards others. I think that you’re feeling stuck. As if you have no choices.

“Why do you think that you can’t even ask? If you find your voice you’ll realize that you have choices. All you need to do is to ask. It may take courage. Do you think you can find that courage within you?”

It took a lot of hard inner work. I started noticing more and more how I didn’t speak up for myself and how stuck I constantly felt. I saw how true her words were about feeling anger at people simply because of my lack of self-worth and fear of speaking up.

I had my work cut out for me.

So, with a lot of support, I called up the man in charge of the fund. I spoke to him about going to Eretz Yisrael. We had a few conversations about it. In the end he told me that he would have the money for me to go.

But guess what? In the end, I decided that it really wasn’t the best thing for me to go. I decided to stay local for seminary. But it was my choice. How empowering!

No one was surprised when I was chosen to be valedictorian at my graduation.

This is what I said.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 929)

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