(In our first post, we started a conversation about the ways that you are leaving childhood behind, and that you are now thinking in more grown up ways.)
There are more factors that are broadening your horizons. Your body, has either already started or will soon start to grow rapidly. Your hips may get thinner and your shoulders will get broader. Yet other changes will occur. You will likely become interested in people and friendships that beforehand did not interest you. You might even find yourself wanting things in a more intense way and you may become moodier. Typically, this means that the right chemicals – more specifically hormones – are shooting through your body and that you are developing normally.
You have greater mobility, too. You can now travel much further away from home; you can bike miles at a time, and you are approaching the age that you will have the ability to drive (or at least be driven by peers) great distances.
All of the above expands your world. It sets up, for you, even in the presence of rules made by others, the possibility of making your own choices. For example, your parents are no longer in the position to dictate to you what to think and how to think.
Even when it comes to how they expect you to act, your parents aren’t fully in control. They cannot follow you everywhere. They won’t always know whose home you’ve chosen to visit. They may not even be able to stay up as late as you can. In short, you are often the one who decides whether to abide by the rules set by your parents, teachers and principals, or not. You are about to enter the zone of Bechirah Chafshit – Free Will.
Free will is powerful; it is dizzying. I’ll let you in on a deep secret. This secret is one that the Nachash – the snake who enticed Chavah into eating from the Tree of Knowledge – let slip, years ago: When you have access to more sophisticated knowledge, to intense desire and, thus, to Free Will, you become almost G-dlike, and you create worlds – at least your own worlds. Stated differently, the choices you start making, as a Bar Mitzvah, will form, shape and create the very situations and opportunities you will face over the course of your lifetime. Not surprisingly, it is the choices that you make that propel you toward adulthood.
So, I’d like to give you some advice, as you stand at the threshold of creating your own worlds. If you choose to follow this advice, you are on the path to finding joy and to achieving success. This includes being successful in school, with friends and at work. It allows you to build a family and find your place in the community of your choice. Things like self-discovery and recognizing your inner essence would also be within your grasp.
Here goes: The most valuable and meaningful things you can choose are connectedness and relationships. We’re talking about being part of, instead of being apart. This means connecting to yourself, to your friends and family, and very importantly to G-d.
(In our next post, we will talk about practical ways that you can choose to be connected.)
This series of posts is adapted from my contribution to: From Bar Mitzvah and Onward: Thirteen stories and insights for the road ahead, published by the Bitton family of Chicago.
Photo Credit: Peter van der Sluijs