Another Guest Posting by Lyss from No_Blog
I was never the most popular girl in high school. I was pretty, but definitely spent some of those years going through an awkward stage. It didn't help that my cousin went to a nearby boys yeshiva where he played on sports teams and was a total chick magnet. Girls used to come up to me in the hallway and ask "are you John Doe's cousin? He's so hot!". I never really knew how to respond appropriately to that. Should I have said "thanks" like I'm taking the credit for him being hot? I wasn't really going to agree with them, I mean, he's my cousin. Ick! This is not Kentucky.
Anyway, I've been thinking back to high school lately ( probably from all the free time on my hands due to my unemployment). Like I was saying, I was not really popular. Not sure if I wanted to be. A lot of the popular kids seemed* kind of shallow. Funny, considering it was a yeshiva, where one is supposed to learn about the value of spirituality and how it can separate us from the amoral and secular world. Sure they were observant. But when someone who is usually up on their moral high horse asks to cheat off you on the upcoming social studies test I wondered if they realized the hypocrisy of their own actions?
I had my friends whom I loved dearly. Too bad we don't really speak anymore. I guess we live in different worlds. I had three best female friends. When we graduated I went off to Ithaca and the three of them attended Rutgers together. We spoke occasionally and saw each other on breaks, but as time wore on we lost touch. I'd hear snippets of news about them through my family (the northern NJ Jewish grapevine is amazing in its reach sometimes). The last time I saw two of them was when they came to see me when was sitting Shiva for my father. A nice gesture. I hoped that we would be more in touch after that but it hasn't worked out that way. I miss them. They all stayed in the NY metro area while I went upstate and then off to New England. I sometimes think that since my parents were not Othrodox and I didn't grow up in the Teaneck/Englewood/Fair Lawn triangle it was easier for me to get out, so to speak. Despite spending something like 60% of my time in high school in Teaneck at my aunt and uncle's house I was a visitor to their world, living on the fringes. I didn't come from Moriah or Yavneh like the majority of my classmates did (the rest of us were a mix of RGHDS (where I had gone), Solomon Schechter of North Jersey, ASHAR, public school, Kushner, YNJ, and SAR). I was an outsider from day one simply because I was not as observant as the bulk of my classmates, I pronounced my my Hebrew words correctly (Bereshit, not Bereshis), and I was not in the Kollel level classes (which meant staying extra hours after school on Thursdays, not appealing to someone who lived 45 minutes away with the awful NJ traffic).
Though I didn't love it at the time I suppose that being an outsider taught me how to survive when you're the one labeled different. It gave me strength and taught me that being who I am is more important than being who someone else wants me to be. My friend, L, put it this way in an email: "You're not afraid to let people know who you are off the bat and you don't compromise who you are for whose company you're in".
*I am not saying that all the popular kids were X, Y, or Z...just writing about the way things seemed to me.