Today I turned twenty.
Lots of people will be surprised to hear this. I quite often receive messages from readers who presume I’m in my fifties or sixties- not exactly flattering, but it makes a nice change from feeling held back by my age in a world where people won’t take young women seriously, at least not when they’re talking about the Torah. But I digress. Every birthday, somebody- usually a relative- asks me, “How does it feel being a year older?”. In the past, my response has always been “I feel the same”. It’s true. What difference does a day make?
But over the past year, I feel that I’ve grown in leaps and bounds. I look back on who I was this time last year- and for the first time in my life, I’m proud.
Pride doesn’t come easily to me. It’s easy to say that that’s a good thing- and to an extent, it is. But not when you go through life feeling like a total failure because you simply can’t be proud of yourself. Until recently, I always used to laugh at the fact that people came to me for advice- whether it was through my website or study group, or friends messaging me looking for my take on an issue. My own life is a shambles, I would say. What on earth makes them think I’m qualified to help them with theirs?
Then today, as I thought about where I was on my 19th birthday last year, and what I’ve been through over the twelve months which followed, I realised that perhaps I am a somebody after all. Perhaps, I tentatively suggested to myself, I am a success. There’s no one size fits all definition for successful, but I think that being happy with where you are is a good place to start. Am I happy with my life right now? Not entirely. I, like everyone else, have problems, and doubts. I have nights where I dread the next day, and days when I don’t think I can face the world. But somehow, I always manage; and that is my personal success.
I’ve learned a lot over this past year. Way too much to put into one short post. I’ve learned about true friends, and fake ones. I’ve learned about love, and I’ve learned about heartbreak. I’ve learned who the people around me really are, and I’ve learned about the power of a few kind words, or a thoughtful message on a gloomy day. I’ve learned- albeit over the space of a whole year- that perhaps I’m not one of the beautiful young women on Facebook with perfect families and healthy diets and tight dresses and faces so beautiful they don’t even need Instagram filters (honestly, can you imagine that?)- and that’s ok. Above all, I’ve learned who I really am. And as I think about all I’ve been through, I realise that, at long last, I’m proud of myself. Not many people could have been through what I have, and come out smiling- or at least trying to smile, because who says life is always perfect?
If you’re, like I was, a young person doubting your place in this world, and perhaps even doubting your self worth, I have some advice for you. I was going to interject Golda Meir’s famous quote here- “Don’t be so humble, you’re not that great”- but thankfully I realised that maybe it’s a touch insensitive. Instead, I’m going to tell you to look at where you were a year ago, and realise how much you’ve grown. Look at the bad things that happened, and realised you survived them all. Look at where you are today, and realise that, if, despite all the hard times and insecurities and tragedies, you’re still here, in one piece, reading this, then you’re doing amazingly.
I’m probably going to finish writing this article, all about growth and thankfulness and all those other things which make you roll your eyes, shut my laptop, and start complaining about the weather, or something which happened on my birthday. And that’s okay. We can’t be perfect and thankful all the time, but we can stop and realise how blessed and amazing we are; as I just did, and as I hope you will, too.