Listen Twice As Much As You Talk

Twenty-six years ago I sat on a hillside overlooking Jerusalem and listened to a man chant about the destruction of Jerusalem. It was Tisha B’Av and while my friends and I listened to him chant from Eicha I made a silent promise to myself that when I returned to the states it wouldn’t be for long. I felt as if destiny was calling out to me and all I had to do was answer.

Twenty-six years later I find myself in a very different position than the one that the sixteen year-old boy I once was expected me to be in.

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It is not really a surprise to me to write those words because as a 42 year-old father I have the benefit of having lived and loved a little bit more than that boy. That boy wandered the streets of Jerusalem with his friends and swam in the Mediterranean with his first real girlfriend. He saw things and experienced pieces of a life that he wanted to live. That boy wasn’t sure how he would make it happen but he never doubted that one day he would live that life. Part of the benefit of being sixteen was that he wasn’t burdened by realistic expectations or concerns about things that could hold him back.

Life was there for him to live- provided that he was willing to go take it.

It feels a bit funny to write about myself like that but it is hard to put myself back in those shoes. It is not that I don’t remember because in many ways I do. There are pictures and letters that help to shore up the memories that lie between my ears and a thousand stories that have been told a million times. But so much has happened it is hard to really remember what I wanted beyond a few serious things and the superficial.

That 16 year-old would have been offended by this. He would have asked how I could forget being evacuated from a forest fire the day before we left the states and then talked about how the airline lost our luggage. He would have told that story about the six hour layover at Degaulle and the cab drivers who didn’t speak English. And even though he hated the Yankees he would have talked about meeting George Steinbrenner at JFK.

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And then I would have told him that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason- listen twice as much as you talk.

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The best part of moving is the way you discover lost treasures. Last week I found a six page essay that I wrote my freshman year of college. It was for English 101 and was titled “Why I Write.” My professor gave me an ‘A’ and left a comment on it that said that she thought that it was the best thing that I had written all year long.

I read it and remembered the 18 year-old who wrote it. Pieces of it sounded eerily similar to my life as it is now. It was a bit disconcerting to read those words and feel that sense of disappointment that maybe I haven’t done what I set out to do. I thought about it for a while and tried to figure out if I really thought that I had fallen short or if maybe destiny had come calling upon my door again.

There was a part of me that kind of liked the idea that maybe the carousel had finally completed the circle and it was time for me to try getting off of it again. It sounded a lot better than the idea that I had been taking a nap when opportunity knocked.  Or I thought that alternatively it might have been a case of me having to learn some sort of lesson before I could move on.

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I can’t say whether it was any of those things or none of them and it doesn’t really matter. What matters to me is how I feel about my life now and the future that lies before me. There is much to say about that but since I am writing this late Sunday night I think that I’ll save those thoughts for later.

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