Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Thanksgiving & Hanukkah message

This is a letter I shared with my 8th graders and their families the week of Thanksgiving.
Hello my "fowl"-loving 8th Graders,

Today, we all learned from Professor Randy Pausch (z"l) on what we should try to achieve and what life really means. While watching the truncated lecture he gave on the Oprah show with you all and then discussing it with you, I started to remember my last week before my Bar-Mitvzah. It was Thanksgiving Weekend. Needless to say my family and I were running around like turkeys with our heads cut off. Yet, I was unbelieavbly stressed; I was the first grandchild of my family to be reading the entire Torah portion (all 148 lines), the entire Haftorah, and to be giving 2 Divrei Torah. And as I grew up learning not to disappoint, I worked darn hard to make sure everything was perfect. I remember stressing so much that I barely slept let alone ate much. And, when Thanksgiving arrived, I joined the family for only a little bit as I felt I had to prepare. Instead of being with my parents, grandparents, uncle and aunt, I chose to focus on making sure everything was perfect.  I took that philosophy of rigor with me to high-school and college - every free moment in school, I spent studying or doing homework. I skipped out on playing with my friends. I missed many fun events and parties. I missed out on visiting my grandparents during vacations. 

And in the end, what did it get me? 

The same result as Professor Pausch - 16 letters of rejection from Medical School. And a feeling of tremendous loss that I did not spend as much time with my grandparents when I was older than I could have. Yet, what kept me going after the rejection letters and losing my grandparents was my faith - that if it wasn't meant to be and wasn't in God's plans for me to become a doctor then I had another purpose on this Earth, and I just had to find it. And eventually I did... serving those who will serve... that is, teaching. Teaching has been at the very core and soul of my life (both my parents were teachers so it is in my blood) because you - my students - fuel me. And it is through my teaching and in you, my students, that my grandparents live for I relay the lessons they taught me (including to laugh a lot - now you know why I laugh so much!). 

Reflecting on that stressful Thanksgiving week of my Bar-Mitzvah, I wished I had watched Professor Pausch's lecture to realize that in the end, while the Bar-Mitzvah prep was important, they were not the be all and end all. Life has so much more to offer. Live each day; rejections and failures are experiences from which to learn; treasure people not objects; apologize and mean it; treat others as you would want to be treated. These lessons Dr. Pausch taught and left humanity are good ones. As you sit around your Thanksgiving and Hanukkah table, share what you learned with your loved ones and friends. Life is not all about assignments, tests, work, and preparation; they are an important part of your lives right now and in the near future, but they are not THE ONLY aspect of your lives. Try to remember that. 

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!


Mr. M.