All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

(On The Way To) Becoming Me

Last Monday, my body went past the forty-first and-a-half anniversary of it's first encounter with the external world (why is it that only kids can get away with adding fractions to their age?).

I can't say that I noticed much change from the day before. I was too busy teaching kids, preparing lessons, trying to keep my excitable wife and kids calm and so forth. It came and went, pretty much like the previous data, six months afore.

Then again, I have marked it because I'm sitting here at 05:39, writing about it nine days later.

I was musing (as I often do) about reaching this venerable - or maybe not - age.

When I was a kid, I didn't know what I wanted to either do or be. Being Jewish, there is a lot of peer pressure to be successful. All the kids in my class were going to be either very rich, very educated and very rich or simply failures.

I suppose that I always knew I wouldn't be rich. For one thing, I didn't come from a wealthy family (which obviously helps) and for another, I wondered whether I would ever be good enough to get the kind of job that attached itself to a high salary.

To many of my said peers, it didn't seem to matter what they were, so as much as what they would become, which is understandable.

It was always a given that I would go to university, even if this vision for me was more of a mirage that actually the cold truth of fact. I didn't particularly have an interest to go to Yeshiva (Jewish Seminary), although most of my friends did indeed do so.

What wasn't ever discussed by either my teachers or friends was the aspiration to become someone of worth, without a single penny being considered. I don't ever remember being told by either my peers or teachers that the ultimate gift we could bestow on the world we lived in was by becoming menschen - decent human beings.

Now I'm not saying that any of us didn't believe that this was possible. I don't suppose you really think of things like that when you're 14. The attraction of mammon is just too addictive and overwhelming to be shoved aside by something as petty as decency, but I do wonder, after how many years of toil, how close any of use has come to that goal.

The first thing to state is that no-one can categorically state that they are a mensch. It is up to others to believe this of a person. Yes, we can aspire to attain this lofty status, but at the end of the day, how do we know if we've done enough. How many good deeds in the Bank of Life get us onto the mensch scale? If we behave in a way that is unbecoming, does that destroy all our attempts at menschkeit?

These questions are the unfathomables. I honestly don't know the answer to any of them.
What I do recognise though is my inner desire to be a mensch - not so much recognised as one, because I'm not after the kudos, but to do the very best I can to treat people in a decent and fair manner.

Speak to my wife and she'll probably disagree with me. Do the same with my children and friends and maybe even parents (and know I'm not trying to get any compliments if you're reading this), but notwithstanding all of their opinions, I'm still on that path.

I didn't make it in the money stakes. Became a teacher. Deal with as much stress as a stockbroker for a quarter of the pay. Come home and do even more work, all of it unpaid. End up being abused by obnoxious teenagers (not all, but a fair few) and teachers who should really know better (no names). It's very far from the chocolate waters of the Garden of Eden.

But something within me keeps on driving me on. I feel that I've changed more as a person in the last six months than in the four hundred and ninety two that preceded them (blimey, I'm four hundred and ninety eight months old - now that's depressing). For the first time in my life, I've made a conscious effort to work on myself, not only physically but much deeper inside my corps.

If you ask those around me, I hope they will see the difference. I am less prone to get angry and much calmer within myself. I am in no doubt that the fact I exercise on a daily basis has a lot to do with it, because I feel so much better within. It didn't hurt that I also got the job I'd been wanting to get for five years back in January.

But at the heart of it, I feel that I'm doing more to bring myself closer to the role that G-d placed me on this earth to perform (because at the end of the day, I credit everything I am and have become to Him) - I am finally becoming me, the person I always wanted to be, but have only just discovered, just as I hit my forty first and-a-half birthday.

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