Here we are again at the end of another calendar year. I feel lucky, as I may have said before, about having two distinct *new years* each year (one Jewish and one secular) that remind me and give me the ability to stop, breathe, review and begin again. Having just done my regular running around sprint of necessities (getting the car inspected), here’s what I’ve been pondering:
When I was a kid I gave very little thought to what I wanted to *be* when I grew up. I wasn’t exposed to very many jobs outside my day to day life experiences (teachers, nurses, bank tellers, the family business). Neither of my parents had a hobby or any real interests beyond our home. We didn’t go to museums, fairs, shows, movies or live performances. We didn’t travel, participate in community activities or engage in anything even remotely political (my mother with her conspiracy theories being sure it was all corrupt and fixed anyway). We were Jew-ish, meaning that aside from one High Holy Day service once a year we were not involved in a religious community. My parents did not cook, knit, sew, draw, paint, take photographs or garden recreationally. As a result, neither did my brother and I. Though I did watch a fair amount of Gilligan’s Island and Lost In Space. Neither of which offered any real-life career options, unless one pursued a life of struggle to find home (which I have pretty much mastered actually). In addition to my limited exposure, I was so busy trying not to go insane, (between suppressing the knowledge that I was really a boy and navigating my mother’s mental illness) I didn’t really have the leisure time or imagination to consider my future occupational opportunities or what real-life skills I might possess.
How I became a teacher is still kind of beyond me. I never much liked children. Never babysat as a teen and never went to camp (save for that one disastrous pre-school summer day camp). But by my 5th semester at B.U. I had to declare a major. So I chose education. Not that there’s anything wrong with teaching, mind you. I learned a lot and mostly enjoyed my time as a teacher. But sometimes I wonder what else I might have been, where the road not taken might have led me. But those vague “I could have been a contender” musings only serve to depress me. Because I wasn’t and so I’m not. And even with hindsight being what it is – that is to say 20/20 – it doesn’t change where, who and what I am today.
One of the great gifts of working with the elderly is that every single one of them has lived longer and more and is wiser in experience than I may ever be. And one of the best things I’ve learned from them is that you are never too old to learn or grow or to try something new. In fact, you should go in search of new things every moment of every day you are here. And in many ways and instances I now realize, I have learned and lived that message.
It is interesting to me and no small coincidence I believe, that in the years I have been working with the elderly, I have tried my hand at clarinet, guitar and piano. I have learned and continue to learn to speak Haitian Creole. I have played new sports, joining outdoor soccer leagues, indoor soccer teams and in the last few years, have found a real passion playing ice hockey. I have learned to knit (and even learned to unclench my ass enough to enjoy knitting). I figured out how to make really good bread (and bagels). So good that our family has not had to buy bread in more than 5 years.
When looking at the list in this way, I realize I have done more (living?) in the last 20 years than I have done in my entire life. Having permission and role models encouraging me to try new things, to take chances and go toward instead of away from adventure is a life-altering gift. And it isn’t that I wrote all this to be rodomontade. I am trying to look toward 2017 with an enthusiasm that 2016 seems to have robbed me of. As we head into a new and uncertain new year, I’m offering a blessing in the name of all those role models that helped me to achieve those things I never thought possible.
May the One who blessed our ancestors – Sarah, Rebecca Rachel, Leah, Zilpa and Bilhah; Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Ruth, Harriet, Esther, Yetta, Trudy, Mary, David, Saul, Isaiah, Izzy and all those not named who reside in my heart) – bless us as we enter into this new year. We must remember that the world was not formed by a single act. Each and every day God renews the work of creation. May I open my heart and mind to continuous growth, unexpected change, and the perpetual unsettling, liberating expansion of being alive; may I have the courage to name and sanctify these moments of change that shape my body and soul in the image of the ever-evolving Divine. Blessed are You, El Shaddai, our God, the Renewing One of the world, who has allowed us to reach this time and embrace transformation. Amen.