Last weekend I almost decided to leave the six month personal trainer program that I’m currently enrolled in. I was steadfast in wanting to become a personal trainer but I was having serious doubts about whether my current program was a good match for me. Agitated, I spent one entire night pacing my small house and thinking. I finally fell asleep shortly before dawn. Thankfully, things looked better in the light of day and I decided to figure out a way to make the program work for me.
Eighteen years ago I went through a similar experience. I was a new teacher and my assignment changed at the last moment. I was ill-equipped to handle the new subject matter and I ended up quitting after two interminable weeks. Though quite traumatic, quitting then was the right option, and doing so was the beginning of a new and positive chapter of my life. While quitting was the right thing to do 18 years ago, I’m feeling that it isn’t this time around.
In Judaism, 18 is a special number based on the Hebrew word chai which means “life.” There is a mystical tradition in Judaism that assigns a numerical value to each Hebrew letter. Chai has two letters and the sum of its two letters is 18. So the number 18 has come to represent life and also luck. Jews sometimes give each other gifts in multiples of 18 and sometimes celebrate milestones in 18 year increments. (Ariela Pelaia, “What is Chai in Judaism?”)
So it seems to me that I have a choice. I can focus on these two times in my life as two distinct events, separated by many years, in which I felt tested in similar and uncomfortable ways. Or I can see the two events as the starting and ending points of an 18-year-journey. Though some of my demons are the same as they were 18 years ago, in other ways I’m not the same person I was then. I’m better equipped now to handle my insecurities but also to figure out what I need. And if my current circumstances represent an end point, they can also be the start of the next 18-year-chapter of my life. I find that comforting…