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Hazards & Hilarity: Succos Insecurities

Malka Hillelsohn

My social life was complicated, and lots of intricate maneuvering needed to happen for me to face Shabbos and Yom Tov without dissolving into tears

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Photo: Shutterstock

Are you feeling sorry for me yet? Because in the last two columns, I told you about having a hard time in elementary school, having a hard time in camp, and then having a hard time in high school. 

I did have a hard time. And this column is going to be about being miserable on Yom Tov. And the whole friends’ saga in which I worried all day if I had friends, if those friends I wasn’t quite sure I had would invite me over on Yom Tov afternoons, if somebody would call me to ask me to join them on a Chol Hamoed outing, if I’d have someone to sit with on the Chol Hamoed trip my school organized. 

But you don’t need to feel sorry for me because it’s actually a great thing that I had all these problems. Because now I get to write these columns. If I’d had had a boring teenage life, who’d want to listen to my sage advice? Would you want to listen to a story that sounds like this? I was a very good girl. I always listened to my parents. I always liked what my principals and teachers had to say and I was an excellent student with a billion friends. I was happy, well liked, smart, talented, and always Head of Something because I did everything right.

So back to the silver lining. My challenges help me realize now what teens need to be normal, act normal, and be happy. To be a writer, it’s best to have some miserable stuff to write about. 

And believe it or not, I became a teacher for teenagers. I knew all about lousy teenagers so I knew how to control a class — because the number one thing a teacher needs to do to be a great teacher is protect the class from getting out of control. Kids don’t like those types of teachers. Especially kids who can’t control themselves. They need the safety of a teacher who not only teaches in an interesting way and cares about her students, but who can first create a safe place for them to be in control so they can learn and feel their teacher’s caring. 

And then believe it or not, I became a psychologist and I love working with teens. They’re fun and interesting and funny and exciting. They keep me on my toes. They keep me so much on my toes that sometimes I think I can become a ballet dancer. I recognize a little of myself in each and every one of them. And it’s all because of my own challenges as a teen. 

So once again, you don’t need to feel sorry for me because everything turned out perfectly for me. I have great kids. I connect to my teen clients and readers because I can relate to their hardships, and I’ve grown from my life in ways that have made me a better, more sensitive, and more appreciative kind of person. 

But in any case, back to my Succos problems. 

I dreaded Shabbos and Yom Tov. Like seriously dreaded it.

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