April 16, 2024
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April 16, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rewinding My Timeline, Part 2

To recap last week’s installment: I’ve decided to take some time to look back at a few periods in my life. I spoke about my experiences in seventh grade, how I experienced an awakening of sorts and decided to become more social and put myself out there. And I ended with a teaser about another defining era in my life–I’m sure you’ve spent the entire week with bated breath wondering what it is! Or maybe your week has been so packed and stressed like mine that you haven’t given it another thought. I don’t blame you. (If you missed last week’s article, you can find it on The Jewish Link’s website by searching for my name.)

Last week was one of the most stressful I’ve ever experienced–the school play, as I write this, is less than a week away, so it’s crunch time for our rehearsing. Add to that history and Spanish tests, a general lack of sleep, and it’s certainly not a good combination. I was even dangerously close to missing the deadline for this article.

But this stressfulness actually gives me yet another impetus to actually write this thing. First off, obviously it’s a good way to take a break and relax–I’ve always found writing cathartic. But it’s also doubly important for me to be able to look back now and see how I’ve gotten to where I am now. My life doesn’t happen in a vacuum.

So the next (and for now final) era in my life that I’d like to look back at would probably be the beginning of high school, ninth grade. If you looked at my life as if it were a television show, that year would have been the show’s “soft relaunch.” That is, there’s still the same protagonist (me, in this case), some of the same supporting characters (e.g., my siblings Aliza and Zachary, and my parents), and it takes place in the same world (the Jewish NJ-NY community). But much of everything else changed completely. Joining Ramaz meant a new commute to school (back in Yeshivat Noam, I lived five minutes away; now it would take more than an hour); a new location to get used to with its own culture and character (New York City, of course); a whole new school that worked much differently than my old one and, most significantly, a new set of friends, many of whom were strangers to me when I first came in. I had met two people in my new grade briefly, and others had friended me on Facebook (instantly a sign of complete devotion and bonding, am I right?), but for the most part it was all a blank. There was so much potential for everything to go so right or go so wrong.

What still strikes me even now is how quickly everything developed back then. Thrown into a completely new setting, my siblings and I (they were the only ones from my old school who accompanied me to Ramaz Upper School) had to quickly adapt. There were 5,000 new people, give or take, to meet and learn their names and faces. Some clicked the first time, while others I confused far too much. (For instance…Day 1: Are you Rachel M.? Day 6: You’re Rachel M., right? Wrong both times.) And I knew it wouldn’t be easy in the beginning, having to start new friendships and integrate myself into a new grade while staying true to who I am. A lot of people knew each other, and I knew nearly no one. But then I worked on myself to put myself out there more. I signed up for some clubs, and tried to meet people in classes, and just to be generally social.

I owe a lot of credit to everyone in Ramaz for not making my high school appearance be like the misery-fest depicted in most TV shows and movies. My grade, for instance, was very welcoming and I really did manage to get to know a lot of people and get some very close friends. It was also a challenge just to adjust to going to school in the city and having to commute, but as my body adjusted to getting less sleep and my eyes to earlier mornings, it got better. And I also owe a lot of credit to God, for just making all of the convoluted gears of the clock tower that is my life. (Isn’t that a great metaphor? I’m practicing for the SAT essay!)

Okay, so these were only two periods from my past. Unfortunately I can’t fit a full autobiography into this paper, not that I really need one or should be writing one just yet. (It feels just a little too early, isn’t it?) But it’s enough to make me feel better.

But what about what’s yet to come, in the future? (Once again, as I mentioned last week, this is not where I say, “I’ve enjoyed writing this column and will miss you all because this is the last one”–I’ve still got a lot of ideas left!) Obviously there’s the immediate future, such as the Talmud test tomorrow that I really should be studying for or the history paper notecards due in a few weeks. But there’s also just the future in general, where I’ll take on new challenges, meet new people, and discover more about myself. (The next “soft reboot” in my metaphorical TV series, The College Years, will be arriving before I know it.) What I can do is to tackle what’s next head-on, remain confident that with God’s help I can succeed, and as I’ve just done, look to the past to give me the assurance that I’ve already come so far.

Oren Oppenheim, age 17, is a junior at Ramaz Upper School in Manhattan and lives in Fair Lawn, New Jersey. He spends his free time writing and reading, and hopes to become a published novelist. You can email him at [email protected].

By Oren Oppenheim

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