Following Rosh Hashanah are the ten days of awe. This is a time for reflection and repentance. In this time, it is appropriate to express regret to those you may have slandered or mistreated. Once you have apologized for your wrongdoings and accepted the apologies of others, G-d can begin to forgive you for such transgressions. Your actions during these ten days determine your fate for the coming year. Will you be inscribed in the Book of Life or sentenced to death?
It was during this time that I had a total breakdown. Never before had I felt so alone, helpless, and like there was no light in my vicinity. I began to doubt what I was doing here at Penn State and where my life was headed. Overwhelmed and completely stressed out over school work, home life, friendships, and body image, I was in such emotional and mental turmoil, that my Dad drove up at 3:30 a.m. to console me and mediate the situation. While the next few days were full of tears, frustration, confrontation, and confusion, I came to some major realizations.
First, I recognized that although I did not like it, asking for help was really ok. Reaching out was not a sign of weakness, but rather great strength. If my Dad had not drove up in the wee hours of the morning, I truly am not sure what would have happened in the following days. I also realized that if you do not ask people for help, you cannot expect them to read your mind. Sometimes what I believe is crystal clear and common sense, it not as obvious to those around me. I am not a one man show and it is only natural and normal to need assistance from time to time.
Secondly, I acknowledged that I need more balance in my life. I need time to breathe! Although I just picked up a second major, after meeting with an advisor, I realized that I am technically way ahead of schedule and that there is no need to overextend myself academically this semester. So I decided that I would go easy on the credits this fall and put more focus on myself and becoming a healthier, more balanced individual. To accomplish this, I started by dropping two classes, which was extremely difficult. To me, it seemed like such a cop out; however, I realized that having more time to improve my physical and emotional state this fall, will only help me to focus and achieve great things in the coming semesters. I also became a certified dog handler and volunteer at PAWS, a local dog shelter. I noticed that working with the animals and people there was so uplifting to my spirit and would be beneficial to both the animals and myself. As Vice President of Hillel and Program Coordinator and Secretary of Tikkun Olam, my plate is far from empty; however, I have afforded myself more time to exercise, spend time with friends, and hopefully, enjoy life.
Although the ten days leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, were stressful and emotionally draining, I now see that they were quite successful. I remedied conflicts with friends and stopped burying my own issues underneath other responsibilities and commitments. As I stood before 200 people chanting the ten-minute prayer known as Kol Nidre, I felt empowered. Here I was, openly and audibly asking G-d to open his heart and listen to my plee before a room full of students, faculty, and family.
Yet during the next 24 hours of praying and fasting, I never once forgave myself. I thought about friends and family whom I loved and wished only the best for, but never once did I forgive myself for making mistakes, abusing my body, and not achieving all of my goals. My hope is that throughout the rest of the semester and year, I begin to foster great change within myself and conquer the inner demons that I often combat. For if not, I feel I will let myself down, my family down, and most importantly, I will disappoint G-d.