The Chai Road


Reflections from your editor, Cindy Sher, on people living their Jewish lives each day.

The Chai Road

Advice to my 13-year-old self

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Today is the 21st anniversary of my bat mitzvah. My bat mitzvah is a legal drinker! How'd that happen so fast? I remember on that day, Oct. 5, 1991, being so scared that I would suddenly get a case of the hiccups or go all "Peter Brady" and crack my voice during one of my Torah portions. Not to keep you in suspense, I was hiccup-free that day and the middle Brady brother was nowhere to be found in the sanctuary.

Looking back on that day, that unsure and awkward time in my life, I think about that 13-year-old me up there on the bimah and I want to tell her a few things--13 of them actually: 

  1. Don't worry about what other people think. Now I know that's way easier said than done, but teens and--who am I kidding?--adults too, spend a lot of time concerned about how they come off to other people. We obsess that others are judging everything we do. But I got news for you: Everyone else is way too concerned about what they're doing so how could they be paying attention to your every move?
  2. Go to Israel. Take advantage of the incredible opportunities in the Jewish community that will get you to our Jewish homeland. It will change you forever.
  3. Listen to the stories your grandparents and parents tell you about your family tree. They're your roots and learning where you came from reflects on who you are and has a lot to do with who you will become.
  4. Appreciate summer break. You're not always going to have the luxury to take three months off from the rest of the year to do something totally different.
  5. Be kind to people--and treat them just like you'd want them to treat you.
  6. Eat dinner with your family whenever you can-especially on Shabbat. The life and schedule of a teenager is kray-zee, but share a meal at the end of the day and week as much as you can to ground you from the chaos of our daily routines.
  7. Be you. Don't just go with the crowd, wear stripes and polka dots together if you want to, and stand up for what you believe in--even if it's not the popular thing to do.
  8. Tell the people you love that you love them.
  9. Be nice to your little sister or brother. If they're anything like the little sister I was (and still am), they look up to you and want to be like you.
  10.  Pick classes and activities you actually want to take in high school and college, as opposed to what's going to look good on your applications and resume. You've got the whole rest of your life to worry about your job. Taking courses you're interested in will make you a more well-rounded person--and more fun to talk to at cocktail parties.
  11.  Send a letter. My 13-year-old self didn't know from cell phones and texting, but if she did, I'd tell her to occasionally write a letter to someone on good old-fashioned paper. I know you'll probably have to find where your family keeps the stamps because it's rare to use them these days, but think of how fun it is to receive a letter in the mail every once in a while.
  12.  When you learn to drive in a couple years, try not to drive up onto your neighbor's lawn. You'll give your dad a heart attack. And never ever drink or text and drive!
  13.  Remember that this too shall pass! You won't always have to go to school with that bully, you will one day pass geometry, and you're not always going to be in love with that one guy from your class. I promise you that next semester, you'll have a crush on someone else.
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