To Whom I Once Was

I’m writing this letter to you. Or talking to you in my head. Or whispering into your ear.

I’ve been watching you from afar, from up close.

And I’ve noticed something oh, so familiar.

How you quickly apologize when you’ve made a mistake.

How you deflect with a joke or the roll of your eyes when you’re uncomfortable.

How you end your sentences with something similarly vague and self-deprecating like “I don’t know, that’s what I think” or “whatever.”

How you become tense and irritated when you feel like someone is correcting you or making a suggestion or pointing something out.

Or something equally innocuous.  

You’re too young to have already learnt this all.

From me.

From the world.

One day a long time ago I took my violin out to play. I had just started learning and the only song I could muster was “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

I was seventeen.

I stood in my dining room where my family was gathered – three generations in one room.

“Do you want to hear me play?” I asked, interrupting dinner.

Can you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?

I stand in the doorway and begin to play my violin. Something oozes out of my fingers as I try to focus my fears.

Sounds. Notes. Music.

Hope. Forgiveness. Validation.

The possibility for acceptance.

But you begin to talk a couple moments after I start to play, conversing with someone at the table, drowning out my weak, flawed attempt at making music.

Amplifying my shame.

Somehow, this shame has become yours, the one I talk to now.

You, the one I observe, the one that I guide, the one I must care for.

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I know you are in pain.

I know the weight you carry.

I know you want to be valued.

I know you are afraid to make mistakes.

I know your self-esteem depends on how well you perform.

I know you feel a pressure to be on, to be invigorating and interesting and charismatic.


Is there any hope for you on this long, slope-filled road?

For us?

We are sitting in a synagogue in the Old City as Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year, dawns upon us.

“Come here,” I call to you.

I put my hands on your shoulders (are they already drooping?). I look into your eyes.

“You are perfect just the way you are, you hear me? Even when you make mistakes, even when you could have done better, even if you have to try again, you are so, so perfect. Just the way you need to be… I want you to know that. To really believe that. Ok?”

And you look at me. Your eyes are knowing. Your face relaxes. For a moment, I trust you’ve heard me.

“I know.”

Behind you, through the window, I see the sun setting. Shadows fall on the walls. The leaves rustle. Night is coming.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

What happens when you, only you, define your self-worth?

Please, find out.

I am talking to who you are.

Appealing to who you might grow to be.

To whom I once was.

And I pray, oh how I pray, that you hear me.