April 10, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rewinding My Timeline, Part One

This article is a bit different from the ones I’ve written so far because I’ve decided to split it into two parts. I usually alternate my articles for my column between personal retrospection and thoughts on community issues. This one falls into the former, but as I was writing it I realized that I was covering enough ground to stretch it out over two weeks. I promise I won’t make it a cliffhanger.

In early November I was talking to the associate dean at Ramaz about the Open House Ramaz was having for prospective new students and their parents on the following Saturday night. I was to give a small talk to a group of families, and we went over some of the details and what I would be saying. Then he said something about how I probably wouldn’t be confused with the younger students coming to look at the school. “I don’t think you could pass for an eighth grader anymore,” he said, which made us both laugh.

He thought the idea of how I’ve changed over the years and how I’ve developed as a person could make an interesting article, and I agreed. That’s why this piece is about me looking back and seeing how things have changed. It has nothing to do with any sort of ending, as in “It’s the end of the school year, so let me take a look back,” or “It’s my last article so let me take a look back.” (God willing this is nowhere near my last article!)

And there’s also a deeper reason. I feel that it’s always a good idea when I feel overwhelmed with work and with everything happening in the moment to take a step back and look at how far I’ve come. It makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something; though things are tough, I’ve done a lot and time keeps moving forward. I mean, right now I’m bogged down with test studying and stress and the chaos of junior year. Maybe it would be a good idea for me to look at the big picture for a little bit.

Where should I begin? Well, I remember that Mom’s womb was nice and warm… Okay, maybe that’s a bit too far back for now. I’d like to take two eras from my life to look back at. (As you can probably guess, I’ll save the second for the next installment.) I think a major turning point in my life, in my development as a person, was the seventh grade.

You see, I wasn’t a very social child. I had friends, thank God; I could be talkative sometimes. I could also sit on the side of the blacktop in camp and daydream about Lego sets. In other words, I was a bit of a loner. I would sit out sport games, shun conversations, and kind of take myself out of the group. There’s nothing wrong with not being social. But I was a bit too quiet and withdrawn, to the point where I was a bit static. I don’t remember myself really changing too much over the years up until that point.

And then, sometime in seventh grade, I had an “awakening” of sorts. I realized that this wasn’t the type of person I wanted to be. No, I wouldn’t become the grade’s most popular kid overnight, but maybe I could have more friends and put myself out there more. I wanted to shed my isolation and be more of a part of the world. (This felt quite dramatic to my 12-to-13 year-old mind.)

I felt I succeeded one Friday afternoon in Teaneck. I was staying over at a friend’s house for Shabbos, and we were hanging out with another classmate who my friend knew better than I did and with whom I had never been that close. We started playing basketball in the driveway and as time went on, I talked and joked around more and more with this person who I had never expected to connect to! I threw off my shy, insular persona and knew what to say, knew how to interact, and we started becoming pretty good friends after that. I know this might not seem significant, but back in seventh grade this suddenly meant the world to me. It was as if I had finally proven to myself that I could be a social, outgoing person. It proved that I could finally feel like I was really someone. (If the people I’m talking about are reading this, please drop me a line!)

So that was one defining era for me. Another was…

Sorry. I know I said earlier that I wouldn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it was too hard to resist. To be continued!

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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