Oy!Chicago asked Chicagoans to tell us the biggest piece of advice they'd give (if they could) to their younger selves-back at the time of their bar or bat mitzvahs. Here's what they told themselves!
It's ok to not have all the answers. Sometimes it seems like we need to have life figured out when we're still kids. What classes do you want to take in high school? Better decide now so you can be ready for the right college program, and get a good internship, and get your dream job. And what extra-curricular activities will you do? You want to be well-rounded. To my 12-year-old self, I'd say, it's ok to not have the answers. In fact, it might be better. Give yourself the room to try things. Give yourself the room to make mistakes. That's how we learn and discover what works for us and what doesn't.
-Aleeza Lubin, Chicago
Wear your retainer.
-Caroline Musin Berkowitz, Chicago
I would tell her to recognize the value of what we have and the value of our religious beliefs and be able to appreciate them on behalf of someone who might not have those same freedoms. I'm 100 percent sure I didn't fully appreciate that at 13.
-Dawn Smith, Chicago
Don't be afraid to ask for help. Even now in high school, people want to get to know you and those people are the ones that will push you forward and give you the opportunity to succeed. Also, celebrate mildly--that is, don't dance so hard at your own bar mitzvah party that you have to change your shirt halfway through the night.
-Josh Kahn, Chicago (JUF News summer intern and rising high school senior)
If there was one thing that I would tell my 13-year-old self, it would be a quote that was said to me when I was a little boy at White Sox Summer Baseball Camp and stuck with me forever, yet often times would forget its meaning. It was easy to remember because it was comprised of ten two-letter words, but it packed quite the philosophical punch: "If it is to be, it is up to me." Hearing that would help boost my own self confidence and motivation to succeed and reach any goals I wanted to set for myself, in any and all aspects of my life and not just sports. It was this quote that made me realize how much sports can teach you about life and it is through sports that I learned some of the most valuable experiential life lessons.
-Ari Moffic Silver, Chicago
My advice to my 12-year-old self would be: "You will never please everybody, so stop trying. Laugh instead of cry, especially at yourself. Mean girls don't always grow up and grow out of it. Sometimes mean girls are just mean. Find friends who love you regardless of your size, shape, color of your hair or clothes you wear. Cherish them. Good friends, ones who don't love you one day and ignore you the next, are hard to find and hard to keep. Make the effort. Boys are stupid. Love them anyway. But love yourself more. Be proud of your accomplishments, even if they are embarrassing. Take risks. Sometimes it's okay to not be the best, and not care. Life is not a competition. You were unique and wonderful and cute when you were little, you are unique and wonderful and beautiful now-and you are only getting started."
-Sandy Rockind, Chicago
Have a simple, haymish bar mitzvah. It means more to really understand what you're doing than to offer party favors and videos.
-Jonathan Edelman, Chicago
Only pursue what you love to do in life. Money isn't worth chasing as it's a road to nowhere.
-Harold Gerber, Chicago
To her I would say: First, do whatever you can to try to accept yourself and your family since you all have many, many years together ahead. Second: Some people have absolutely no idea what they are talking about while other people have really helpful and important things to say; listen selectively. Third: Watch less TV, read more books, listen—really listen—to music, make more art, look out the window, lie under a huge tree, and if you want to play more kickball with the neighborhood kids—it's still fine—you aren't that old.
-Joyce Heyman, Chicago