You have to give up the life you planned to find the life that is waiting for you. –Joseph Campbell
05 Nov 2012 10 Comments
My son is looking at high schools. In a city like Los Angeles and a district like LA Unified, it is a daunting task. So on Friday morning I found myself in a vibrant, rich and exciting classroom at the Humanities Magnet at Cleveland High School. A program with an integrated curriculum of literature, history, philosophy and art history, the classroom walls, and even ceiling, serve as blank canvas for student embellishment. It was beautiful. Perusing the student murals, I came upon Campbell’s quote. I was struck by its simple truth.
We all plan. We all have expectations. We all think we know the direction we want to take our lives. And then, as John Lennon said, “life happens.”
I remember when I was a teenager. While bar/bat mitzvah is probably the best know “rite of passage” in Judaism, Confirmation is another. Acknowledging that most 13 year olds aren’t in a position to take on the mantle of religion, that commitment is made again at the ripe old age of 16.
One of the truly beautiful traditions of my rabbi was to offer each of us a personal blessing as part of our Confirmation ceremony. There was a condition, though. We had to affirmatively ask for it. And if we opted not to receive a blessing, that was okay too. We could always go up in front of the congregation and privately talk with him about the White Sox.
I remember my blessing. While I believe most of his students do as well, we almost universally hold that moment in sacred trust. I’ve never shared my blessing with anyone else, and I’ve never heard another’s. But I will share this: the blessing I received that day, more than 30 years ago, empowered me to do just that – to embrace the life I am meant to lead, regardless if it was the life I had planned. Those words have made all the difference, and they continue to do so today.