Well it seems that now I have no choice but to continue the tradition that has started here just recently. Iím going to try my best but itís going to be tough having to follow up posts like this. Some people have way too much time on their hands.
I was born 22 years ago on the other side of the world to a single mother in Kiev, Ukraine. There I lived, with my mother and my grandparents, till I was about 2 and half years old. In March of í82 the family packed up and began our move to America, which involved a brief 4-month stopover in Italy. When we arrived in America, New Haven, CT to be exact, we had some help getting started from my aunt and uncle who had come here 2 years previous with their baby daughter.
We moved into a small one bedroom apartment which my mother, myself, and my grandparents all shared. Work was tough for my mom and even with an engineering degree the job opportunities were not plentiful. The language barrier was no help either. I began attending Hebrew Day School, which was one of the most conservative Jewish schools in the state, with the help of a very nice scholarship. I quickly picked up the English language in a matter of weeks as well as making some good friends in just as quick a time.
Soon after, when I was probably around 5 years old my mother landed her first real full time job in her field. And we moved into our own apartment. I also quickly made some friends there as well, one of whom Iím still friends with to this day. Times were tough for us and eventually my mother had to pick up a second job to support us. During this time I became very self sufficient. There were many times when I would have to be home and my mother couldnít afford to take off work and at the same time couldnít afford a baby sitter. But I was a pretty responsible child and my mother trusted me very much. This worked out fine, but I was lonely a lot of the time. This is about the age that I found my first two loves in life. Movies and books. With that much time to myself I watched a lot of movies and read a lot of books, particularly fantasy and science fiction. I let my mind wander and day dreamed about countless things that had nothing to do with where I really was. I also wrote alot of short stories.
During this time I also began attending a Jewish summer camp, where I was first introduced to childhood insults and ridicule. Camp was an eye opener for me. There had always been bullies around my neighborhood but bullies are pretty straightforward. And as I was a pretty hyper kid and known to ďspazĒ out, bullies seemed to keep clear of me. But this was new, people would make funny of you for anything possible, the clothes you wear, the style of your haircut, whatever. Making fun of people was almost as much a game as it was meant to be insulting, but I was never very good with words and just didnít have the knack for ďcutting people downĒ, which seemed to put me on the losing end of a lot of these battles. But overall I enjoyed camp and it served to help me get out of my ďmommaís boyĒ shell which I didnít even realize I was in.
In the 8 years I attended Hebrew Day School I excelled in my studies, well at least my English ones, and became quite religious as well. More so than anyone else in my family. Soon though it was time to leave and around the time my mother and I moved out of New Haven I began attending a very prestigious junior high, again on a pretty big scholarship. The two years there were not that enjoyable for me. The majority of students there were pretty well off and didnít really understand what it was like to not have money. I made very few friends there but did finally get to do something I had always wanted to do. Play sports on teams competitively. While they didnít have X-C or track for my age level, which is what I really wanted to do, I did swim, play football and baseball.
Finally high school came along, and for the first time ever I was attending a public school with over 350 people in each grade. Coming from private schools where the number of people in each grade was about 20 and 60 respectively, this was obviously a big change. High school was great. A lot of new things happened in high school. I made good friends, but for the first time ever I made friends not out of proximity, but because I found people that I really connected with and wanted to be their friends. I finally got to run competitively, which started out pretty terribly I might add(I was the last person on the team for the beginning of my first season). But by the time my senior year came around I was one of the top runners in the state and Captain of the X-C, Indoor track and Outdoor Track teams. School work for the most part, was relatively easy for me and took a back seat to everything else going on. I did well in all my classes, but didnít put much effort into them. Also the idiotic school system started me out in low level classes and it took me a few years before I had managed to work up to the honor level classes. Also during this time my mother met and married the man who today is my step dad, who helped us out a lot financially and allowed my mother to finally stop working 2 jobs. I also began to understand the sacrifices my mother made for us and for me during my childhood for my education and my life. And to her I am eternally grateful. One last thing worth mentioning from my high school years is that I lost touch with my faith. This was a slow process and continued on through college, but the more I thought and contemplated the less I believed in God and the truth behind any one religion. I still have much respect for the Jewish religion and itís teachings, and still feel connected to Judaism, and to a certain degree still consider myself a Jew but now my personal views tend to be more atheist or humanist or what have you.
I then made what would turn out to be one of the worst decisions in my life. I decided to go to Lehigh University and get a computer engineering degree. The bad decision was the second part of that sentence, not the first(although with the amount of loans I have to pay off now maybe the first wasnít such a hot idea either) But I didnít realize it at the time, with everything else that was going on in college. Going to parties, pledging a fraternity, being out on my own. I made great friends and learned a lot about myself and life in general. I had a great fraternity experience and loved it so much that Iím still involved today. I also took some really interesting courses, which of course had nothing to do with my major, but kept me interested in classes and learning. All these things seemed to blind me of the fact that there were a lot of things about my major that I didnít enjoy and that I really didnít want to sit in a cubicle in front of a computer all day every day. Iím sure thereís many things I could have done to figure out a solution to my problem, but at the time I didnít think so, and itís in the past anyway. I try not to harp on it now, and instead think of and work towards something that will make me happy now. I also stopped running competitively in college, which is another huge regret I have and hopefully Iíll soon have the motivation to get back in real shape and start racing again.
So now this leaves me right were it was I didnít want to be. In a cubicle in front of a computer screen all day. But itís not all bad, I do a lot of things on the side that make me happy, I still have some really good friends around, and I at least know that I donít want to be where I am and soon Iíll be out. I donít know where Iíll be or what Iíll be doing but I know I wonít be here. I also found this place. An online community with some really wonderful people and some really great conversations. Youíll never know how important this place has been to me in the last year and I thank you all for that.
Well, Iíve rambled for way too long now. Iím sure thereís some stuff I left out of this, but thatís how it goes. I thank all those that managed to read through this whole post. I hope I didnít let our new tradition down.
[This message has been edited by Strider (edited August 19, 2002).]
Thanks for posting, Strider. I did read it all, despite having Shadow Puppets sitting on the desk right next to me. If that's not an indication of my opinion of your value, I don't know what would be.
Great story. You have quite an interesting life and a great heritage.
This tradition should last a long, long time.
Also: Do you know any Hebrew? I can kind of read it, but I can't find any good sources on the actual language. The temple nearest to me is under renovation and so their materials are not available; otherwise I'd be learning. Any advice?
Kayla, I do still speak Russian. My family only talks to me in Russian. But I don't know Ukrainian at all. I think my grandparents do. Actually to correct myself, I understand Russian fluently but don't speak it fluently. Weird huh? I understand everything said to me but have trouble forming sentences and remember how to say certain words in Russian. Even the most simple words. I'll know them but won't be able to think of the word untill i hear it said. This is mostly from lack of speaking i think. My mom will say something to me in Russian and I'll answer back in english.
Funny story...when i first came to America i could speak Russian, but only very minimally. When i went to school and picked up English there was a sort of grace period of time where my mother hadn't really learned english yet. I would come home from school and try to talk to her and she couldn't understand anything i was saying and then i would start crying and it was a whole big mess. Imagine your son coming home and speaking in a completely foreign language and you can't understand a word he says.
Locke, I can still read Hebrew but can't really understand what I'm reading anymore. It's been 9 or 10 years since i've had to speak it or translate Hebrew to english. I can recognize words here and there but that's about it. Does your highschool or a local college have any Hebrew courses?
Aerin, truthfully I'm not completely sure. I'm 22 years old and i have no idea what I want to be when i grow up.
I'm trying to save some money right now. And I'm thinking about going back to school soon. I have a contract on my bonus from work for another year, so if i want to keep that money I'm tied down here till next summer.
I'm also actively trying to win the lotto. It hasn't been going to well.
I'm 33, and have only just recently realized that I am doing exactly what I want to do, right now. Sometimes you get caught up in what's expected of you, or what you think you should be doing. Then you start doing stuff and it just dawns on you...
Anyway, Strider, it's nice to know you a little better and see a bit more of the big picture of who you really are.