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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A bit of sentimentality... indulge me, I'm aging!

Not too long from now, I will finally move into my late 20s. OK, maybe 26 is still my mid-20s... but it feels late to me! Am feeling rather reflective about this particular birthday, in part because of an experience I had way back when...

When I was 17, I was busy applying to a number of well-known universities, some on the East Coast and some on the West. In many cases, I was given the chance to interview with an alum -- some of these interviews were more memorable than others, but one in particular has stayed in my mind. One day, I headed over to Century City to interview with an alum from University A, an older man now practicing as a lawyer. In the course of the interview he told me his frank assessment of the universities to which I had applied, and in particular his experience in applying to University B. This was in the days before political correctness, or even general tolerance, had taken root -- and as a young applicant he was told that his qualifications were impeccable, his grades superb... but that University B had filled its "Jewish quota" for the year, and that he should re-apply the next fall. Instead, he chose to attend University A, where Jews were welcomed and where he thrived in a more diverse and tolerant environment.
Perhaps he saw a bit of himself in me, a shy but overachieving Jewish applicant -- perhaps he was just a nice guy. He told me: Speak up, sit up straight, and don't be nervous. Right now, when you're an adolescent, it's hard to be confident; you're worried, and self-conscious. But someday, that will change -- by the time you're 25, you'll be gorgeous, and successful, and all of this will be behind you.
I realized that I've been holding onto that ever since -- the idea that at some point I would become a mature, confident adult. And that somehow, miraculously, my life would change when I was 25 -- no more appearance anxiety, no more self-consciousness. Sometimes I feel like there has been a change; and other times, I feel like it hasn't happened yet. But now, I only have a few hours left!

Teenagers, the bad news is that the self-consciousness never goes away entirely; the good news is that it stops mattering so much, and you learn how to be happy with yourself even if you're not perfect. As for the interviewer, I wish I'd kept his contact information, because I'd love to tell him that even though I didn't end up at University A, he was right, and everything did turn out well in the end.

Happy birthday, P.Y.L.! Yes, people with June birthdays really *are* great, aren't they? ;-)

© Paula Levy
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