Every year, as the High Holidays approach, I get a sort of sinking feeling. A feeling knowing that I am entering a new year, and knowing that I am going to be older this year, and will be held to higher standards, and will hit a lot of bumps on the way.
While I am 14 and this feeling has come numerous times now, I vividly remember it when I was going into fifth grade. The whole time, all I could think of was two words: Middle School. And they terrified me. What would it be like to have several teachers, to have free periods? And would I be nervous with my Bat Mitzvah coming in a couple years? The uncertainty really scared me. I'd like to share with you my first day of middle school. My parents walked me and my three younger siblings to school. I remember walking down the New York City streets seeing kids in the grades above me going to school on the first day with their friends and no parents, and was fairly embarrassed. I could barely speak, and my body was shaking. When we got on the block to school, I saw an overwhelming number of kids outside of school and two huge doors to the middle school, which terrified me. My parents gave me a hug goodbye and whispered “you will do great. Good luck!” I walked in, all by myself and was horrified to see so many kids, talking with people…and then me: A shy, fifth grader standing by myself.
I couldn’t handle it. So I walked outside and ran back to my parents. I needed their support--I just couldn’t handle what I was about to experience for the first time in my life: independence. I held back tears, gave them a massive hug, took a deep breath, and told myself “it’s time”. So I walked back in with an extra inch of self-confidence, and an inch less of anxiety. I told myself, this is it. I am ready and I’m not walking back. I can do this.
Fast forward to today. I begin high school next week. And I am terrified, just as I was the first day in middle school. My parents will take me to school, give me a huge hug, and I will go right into it. But what I learned from that first day in middle school is that the idea of something new will always seem scary. But you won’t know until you try. And fifth and sixth grade were two of the most amazing years of my life. I matured, I overcame struggles, I loved the independence, I loved my teachers, and I loved school. This time around, I am preparing myself for high school by doing something I enjoy. In this case, it is spinning (indoor cycling with music). This is my way of calming myself down and showing myself that I am capable of more than I think. My favorite instructor whose classes I go to frequently has a mantra that sticks with me: I am. I can. I will. I do. And not only do I say this in spin class; I also say this in life and fill in the blanks. For example: I am ready for high school, I can succeed in school, I will try my hardest, I do feel a bit nervous. And right there I can go through my thoughts.
As you approach the new school year, I encourage you to figure out a motto for yourself, or something that represents you. For me, it will always be the day I walked in overwhelmed, walked out, and told myself I CAN do and I WILL do it, and walked back in. Tell yourself: I am. I can. I will. I do. Is starting a new school or grade easy? No. But you are given the power and confidence to do what you need to do.