And so, my 613th post.
Numbers are mostly arbitrary. I love the title of the Simpsons clip show, “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular,” because really, just because we live in a base-ten society, does that mean there’s something so fantastic about numbers ending in zero? Numbers in Judaism really mean something but, as the Passover song, “Who Knows One?” shows you, there’s something special about pretty much every number. As promised, 613 is the number of mitzvot, or commandments, in the Torah. Now, you knew Jews had a lot of rules, but did you know how many? (Teachers guide says: 613). I like 613 mostly because it doesn’t really mean anything else. When I was a kid, I had a silver bracelet with three silver balls on it. I liked to think that they represented the members of the Police, about whom I obsessed all the livelong day. Clearly, they were a Christian symbol. Or a family. Or, you know, the whim of the jeweler. But when I see 613, I know that’s what it is.
No one can follow all 613 rules because some are for men and some are for women and some are for parents and some are for people with parents, etc. And even in the best of times, I never followed all that I could. But what I like about them is that they correspond to every aspect of your life. That is, with the smallest thing in your life, getting up in the morning or crossing the street, you could be doing those things in a way that benefits the universe and mankind. I know that seems heavy but I think it’s really a relief. Because one of the signs of growing up is that you start to search and think about what the meaning and purpose of your life and the world and all that exists is.
That could be the end of the post but just for fun, it’s actually the intro. I wanted to talk about growing up and random numbers because very soon, I’ll be hitting a round, base-ten number birthday. Not for a few months, but Summer break was when I always started thinking of myself as the next year older because I spent my summers as a child in the camp where my family worked and was surrounded by a different set of kids. Kids who had all had their birthdays in March and April. So in order to not seem a year younger than everyone else, I just pretended my Fall birthday had occurred in the Spring with the result that by the time my actual birthday rolled around, I had already mentally been that age for several months.
On my last zero-ending birthday, I spent a long time worrying about it. And then one day, for some reason I still am not sure about, that all vanished and I embraced it. I took a day off work, went to a spa, and had lunch with my parents and dinner with friends. Really a perfect, perfect day. But the day wasn’t that important in the scheme of things. The important part is that each decade has been better than the last. I mean, think about it. While new experiences are great, there’s something to be said about knowing what you’re doing and having the maturity and wisdom to handle everything that comes at you. I’m still not totally there but I wouldn’t trade the confidence I have now for any part of my “youth.” And I’m sure when I look back in ten or twenty years, I’ll laugh at how much I thought I knew at this age. Because that’s the way I look at my teens and twenties now. Excruciating. Don’t get me wrong, I miss the culture of my teens desperately (you may have noticed this) but not at all the awkwardness. And the wondering about what life would be. And the desperation of (gasp!) trying to find a guy to complete me. To be comfortable in your own skin is priceless, even if that skin isn’t as dewy fresh as it used to be.
A friend of mine from my youth, Molly Ringwald, just wrote a book for women of our age group, apparently. I doubt I’ll read it but I did like this one thing she said:
“When you’re a teenager, you’re forever thinking, ‘Do they like me?’ ” she writes. “When you’re a grown-up, as anyone over the age of 30 can attest, the question becomes, ‘Do I like them?’ ”
“I never thought I would be glad to be older,” she said, finishing her pinot grigio, “but it is kind of a relief.”
Amen. So in the end, I think numbers are really as meaningful as you want them to be. If you want to use a base-ten birthday to celebrate how far you’ve come and to be thankful for another year on this fine earth of ours, that’s all well and good. And if the 613th post on your blog reminds you to add meaning to all your actions, I’m sure that’s just what God and Al Gore intended when they invented the Internet. But I think every number is special.
Now, we all know the meaning of life is also a number: 42. But now that I’ve grown up a bit (and really, just a bit), I think I’ve come back around to my original view, that it’s about giving to others. And maybe this is the decade where I’ll really make that happen in the way I promised to in my high school yearbook. I’ve certainly gotten smart enough to have a better haircut. But of course, I’m no longer a person who needs to express who she is through her hairstyle, so that’s already a contribution to mankind.
Just as I was finishing this post, Postsecret appeared in my feed reader with this as its
final (oops, not final… just where I stopped reading!) postcard:
I considered making it a whole other post but decided that it worked in this one. I sometimes think that my twenties were spent trying to relocate the life that had been sucked out of me by that place. All I can say to this person is that life is a journey and that your sacrifice made you the person you are… not your education. This person may be talking about an entirely different sacrifice, but for me, I never think about whether it was worth it. It happened, I got through it, I like who I am, and even though seeing this picture made me want to cry, it’s all good now. It will be good, I swear.