The Gifts of Twenty-Two

The gifts 22 has given me:

  •  Two states, four homes, and a half a dozen fold out couches and futons where I’ve been able to rest my head for a day, a week, or a couple of months. Twenty-two has been a year of movement.
  • A blue notebook small enough to fit in my purse full of to-do lists with items that I’ve already done and doodles that left my fingers stained in ink.
  • Friendships with people from every corner of the country and from all around the world. Pen pals in South America and Facebook messages from Texas. People I can count on in every time zone and climate.
  • A pair of black knee high boots that have seen sun and rain and snow and sleet and obscenely dirty New York City streets. The toes have faded and peeled, and I’ve colored over them more than once with Sharpie markers.
  • A summer in Warwick where I learned that sometimes starting new is the best idea of all. A summer full of love and learning and adventure and discovery. Planning intense programs about Israel.  Plunging toilets. Making friends and making memories. Starting terrified, ending satisfied.
  • Taylor Swift’s ‘22’ sung to me by at least a dozen different people.
  • A third grade Hebrew school classroom full of the funniest, strangest, most excitable kids I’ve ever met. Passover plagues charades and Aleph-Bet flashcard trivia contests. Sounding out prayers with letters we just learned and singing songs at the top of our lungs. A Saturday making sandwiches for a soup kitchen and a Friday service with a gospel choir. Laughter and love and lots of learning.
  • Confidence in my work. My writing. My editing. My photography. My organizing. My teaching skills. A feeling—at least some of the time-- that I know what I’m doing.
  • Dance parties. With friends, sometimes. By myself more often than I should admit. In cars and theatres. On tennis courts and in living rooms. Lyrics shouted loud and dance moves done without shame.
  • A seventh grade Hebrew school classroom full of loud boys making silly jokes and shy girls who are so smart that sometimes it scares me. Lessons about fair trade and homelessness and poverty and what the Jewish commitment to social justice really means. Seriousness when it’s needed. The wonderful joy I get to feel as I watch these kids think about things they have never thought about before.
  • More than my fair share of panic attacks.
  • Monday nights when I can’t be home, so I wander up and down 86th street until I can’t feel my fingers anymore. Time in Barnes and Noble- walking up and down the aisles and reading 15 books a chapter at a time, until the plots mix in my head and I can’t match the characters to their stories. Sometimes, , I’ll treat myself to a movie and some treats smuggled in from the drugstore next door using a purse large enough to hide anything I want.  I’ll people watch for a while, near the subway stop. The commuters with their briefcases and the students with their overflowing backpacks. The parents navigating strollers through the busy city streets.
  • A haircut. Just one.

  • A hard drive full of Word documents. Some that I’ve sent out in to the world. Lots that I never will. Stories and essays and letters to no one. Bits of dialogue without any plot. Bits of plot without a story to make them work. Memories I had to write somewhere --  anywhere --  so I wouldn’t lose them to the failures of memories of time.
  • The best ice cream I’ve ever had, at a small shop overlooking the hills of upstate New York. A car ride to get there where we had to pull off to the side of the road because we were laughing too hard for anyone to be able to safely drive. Tears in my eyes and an ache in my chest from pure happiness.
  • A concert by my favorite band with one of my best friends. A chance to shout the lyrics to the song that has defined my life for half a decade as the band played it live and I jumped up and down on a floor sticky with alcohol, in a room full of people who understood how much that moment meant to me
  • Every emotion possible. Sometimes all at once.
  • A family who, as they have done every year, and I know will do in in all my years to come, has shown me nothing but love and acceptance, even and especially when I felt like I didn’t deserve it.
    365 days. Not a day too many, not a day too few.

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