Since I was old enough to understand culture and religion, let’s say 20 years, I’ve identified as a Jew. But in the last 10 years, I’ve neglected one of the most crucial activities young Jews must do – education themselves about their religion, culture, customs, and history. Last year I worked on my relationship, this year I work on my religious and ethnic identity with a trip to the holiest land of all.

Let’s back up. I was raised as a reformed Jew. I spent my weekends in Hebrew school at our synagogue, learning about the Jewish holidays and customs. In the fourth grade, every Wednesday afternoon I learned Hebrew in preparation for the Bat Mitzvah that I never actually completed (though I did get close). Judaism was a significant part of my upbringing, and every holiday was celebrated in one way or another, either at home or at shul.

Once I had outgrown my synagogue’s own education program, I was sent to the new and modern Jewish community center to take classes for confirmation. My religious peers cared more about chasing boys and screwing around in the back of class than learn about the history of our people. I got fed up and dropped out of my Jewish education.

By the time I made it into high school, it was rare to find me at synagogue other than for the high holy days. By my junior year, I had stopped going to those services too. I was struggling with forming some sort of relationship with God and feeling deeply tormented by my past let-downs with a higher power. I felt that Judaism didn’t offer any guidance.

A few years later and looking for a sense of community when I got to university, I joined my campus’ Hillel. I met a few friends, learned a bit more about my religion, and had a lot of fun. On the other hand, I encountered a lot of cliques that made it hard to feel included. As meetings and events became more about people’s drama with one another and less about actually connecting to our faith, I stopped going altogether.

Give or take a few years, that leads me here. I’ve done my best to keep up my Jewish traditions, which at this point just means lighting the Hanukkah candles, making latkes, and maybe eating some matzo at Passover.

Aching for a way to really understand the significance of everything that Jews do, I signed up for Birthright this year. It’s a 10 day trip to Israel to see the holy sites, explore the country, and, most importantly, learn about the history and significance of our people. To me, it’s a way to pick up where I left off in my religious education in a setting that’s far more meaningful than sitting in a fancy community center with a bunch of ambivalent teenagers.

I’ve been told by everyone who has gone on the trip before me (my cousins, most of my friends, several colleagues) that it is life-changing. I really hope that’s not an oversell. I don’t think it is. I couldn’t be more excited. I leave in May, and I really hope I come back with more than just a few souvenirs.

16 Years Later

I don’t want to get emotional, though I am. I never want the “sorrys” or the pity, so please do not give either to me. It hurts like hell to share the pain of losing a parent with the world, but it hurts more to keep quiet.

All I want to say is that it sucks that I’ve now spent about 2/3 of my life without you. You were here for the first eight, but not the last sixteen. Every day I replay a memory from those years, making sure as little slips away as possible. Every day I miss you. But every day I’m thankful for what you taught me. Every day I’m proud of the person you were. And every day I remind myself that you’re proud of me too.

Not Resolutions, But Goals

I don’t resolve to do anything this year, but I do have goals I want to accomplish. Given that last year I set just one goal for myself (run a 5K) and I was able to achieve it, I’m setting the bar higher in 2013. Here we go:

  • Sit in the Arcade and Bleachers at Giants games. I’ve watched the Giants play at AT&T Park in every level, from Lower Box to View Reserve, including the private boxes. But I haven’t sat in the bleachers with the crazy fans, or sat in the arcade where I can turn over the Ks. I want to do both this year.
  • Run another 5K and/or run my first mudder race.
  • Think Less, Trust More. This is my 2013 motto. Trust my judgement more, make more snap decisions, and think less about 2 hours, 3 days, or 5 weeks in the future.
  • Save for a new computer. Yes, it will be an Apple laptop. No, I’m not exactly thrilled about that.
  • Start an IRA.
  • Get addicted to caffeine. Ha ha. But seriously, I need more energy.
  • Alternatively, fix my sleep patterns.
  • Use my Fitbit more/track my health metrics.
  • Learn more Spanish. Hey, I’m already halfway there!

It’s an ambitious list, but I’m hoping I can tackle it. Now I just have to wait for the New Year’s resolutioners to get sick of going to the gym so I can get my spot on the treadmill back. Ciao!

Feeling Metaphorical

One of my favorite inspirational quotes is “Never left the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”

While I love it because it combines baseball and motivation, it also got me thinking. What if you’ve gotten over your fear of striking out, play the game, and strike out anyway?

In that case, a few more metaphors are equally helpful. In life, (or work or school) you’ll get up to bat many times. You might have confidence that you’ll hit the ball, but you strike out. That might day might seem like a total disaster, but there’s a game tomorrow kid. And you’ll get your butt back to that plate again.

Some days, you’ll hit a single and just get through the day. Hopefully most days you’ll get a double, meaning you do good work, make good decisions, and have a good day. Sometimes you’ll get a triple and feel awesome because you did something great. And finally, on those few occasions you’ll hit that ball out of the damn park (into McCovey Cove) and do something epic — anything from nailing a huge project at work, graduating from school, or accomplishing any great goal you’ve set for yourself. (Yes, there’s the grand slam too, but I’m not sure where that fits. Maybe that’s reserved for child birth because that’s crazy hard to do.)

What’s the moral of my ramblings? It might be hard as hell to get up to the plate everyday, but you have to give it everything you can. On the days when you strike out hard, treat yourself to something up lifting. On the days you get a hit, pat yourself on the back and cheer yourself on if there’s not a crowd to do it for you.

Pics From September

I meant to post this before September ended, but I guess the beginning of October is just as good.

Here are a few shots of my life in September. It started with a trip to the Valley (San Joaquin, not of the Sun or Silicon), and ended with cold, foggy weather. Insert a few random work events, five trips to Palo Alto, two Pumpkin Spice Lattes and Salted Carmel Cake Pops from Starbucks (I wasn’t a huge fan), and some crazy weather and you basically have my September.

Bay Bridge in the fog
M&Ms cookie and lemonade from Panera
Train tracks on the way home
A rare sunny day
One of the many pretty flowers at the Stanford Shopping Center
I caught the sign midway through lighting up
Back to the fog at the end of the month