Friday, October 20, 2006

Metamorphasis of a Teenage Punk

Okay, so Ezzie told me that the best posts don't get feedback and that is SO unjust because I'm a female and need lots of reinforcements. So please comment!!!
The following is an essay that I wrote for English class, on the topic, "Growing Up." Enjoy.
Metamorphosis of a Teenage Punk
Many people have a hard time digesting the following information about my past, but I guarantee it is no jest. Despite my current appearance as a happy, religious, and overall normal young adult, my turbulent teenage years saw me as an angry and rebellious punk. For some, the most shocking aspect of my transformation is that I speak about it readily; they expect a closed attitude of, “Let history remain history and move on.” However, I feel differently. Though my past may conjure up some unpleasant memories, I have made a conscious decision to learn from my experiences and use the lessons to better my present and my future.

During my early high-school years, I hated everything Judaism represented, mostly because it had been misrepresented to me. Many teachers refused to acknowledge my questions on the existence of G-d or explain the traditions we were being instructed to practice. My persistence in questioning eventually rewarded me with answers, and I am ever thankful to the patient few who guided me in the proper direction. The truly influential people in my life were the ones who never forced their beliefs on me, allowing me to instead come to my own realizations. What affected me perhaps the most was that I saw my mentors apply the principles they were teaching into their own lives. I anticipate the day when I can use the knowledge and insights I gained through my journey to help others who are seeking the truth.

The change in my attitude towards Judaism brought about a change in my outer appearance as well. My wardrobe back then was very black- right down to my nail polish and spiked leather bracelet. Like most teenagers, I was expressing myself through clothing. My goal was to convey to the world that I was displeased with everything life had to offer. Since my spiritual metamorphosis, my closet has also morphed into a more conservative, button-down blouse and kick-pleated skirt style. Due to my drastic change, I that people would be changing their mental judgments of me. This brought me to the realization that dressing as an observant Jew is a responsibility. My future actions would be stereotyped as typical of Orthodox Jewry, whether that became my objective or not. It is my hope that I can accurately represent my people and my faith before a judging world.

Perhaps the most important discovery I made as a teenager was about the true path to happiness. I spent much of my punk stage miserable that my life wasn’t perfect. I blamed my unhappiness on the dysfunctions of my family and on my own character flaws. What I didn’t realize was that I was bringing about my own sadness; I was not allowing myself to become happy. Happiness requires constant effort and self-control to keep from thinking depressing thoughts. That might be to be a lifetime battle, but I am confident I will succeed.

To quote the character Rafiki from Disney’s The Lion King, “Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.” My experiences as a teenage punk helped form the person I am today. The journey is not over, but I hope to take the lessons I’ve acquired with me as I struggle to soar higher.


  1. That was a great essay, and a great post. More importantly, it's one of the most important lessons - you can learn something from every single thing that's happened to you, good or bad. More and more (especially after reading Off the Derech) I consider writing my own story and what I learned from it - and my situation was nothing near yours.

    By the way, I remember the spiked leather bracelet. For some reason, I keep thinking there was a necklace, too. (?) I remember I used to always think of a bulldog. (Sorry. :/ ) I also remember when you didn't watch much 'reinforcement' from other people. You've definitely come quite a way in many ways... (teach me!) :)

    Most importantly, I've never understood why people are unwilling to discuss the past. There's so much to learn from the past - not only for a person's own self, but to help others as well. The best guides are usually the ones who have actually been down the road before.

  2. It's not necessarily the best posts that invite too few comments, it's the fact that good posts are often long posts.

    In a bizarre way I have a jealousy towards people who were not always religious.
    They've experienced so much more and when they become religious they know where they come from and thus that much more motivated to do it well.
    That’s why I think it’s great that you don’t pretend it never happened.

    Your story points that out again.
    Kol Hakavod for having found the strength to climb out and up.

  3. How about screw on spikes in your doc martens or in your cap?
    Yes, I too was a fan of the color black and shiny pointy metal back in the day...
    We should compare!
    Most interesting hair color?
    Most interesting piercing?
    hehe, we could probably start a teenage punk poll.
    And I'm going to go a little further than you and say that I don't even regret anything from my past because without all those interesting experiences, I wouldn't be who I am right now(so cliche, I know, but it's TRUE!), and like you said, I wouldn't be able to grow even more.
    I always love hearing people's punked out stories cuz it reminds me that I wasn't alone back in the day.
    Oh, and Ezzie, don't feel bad. Back when I was punked out, people would just come straight up to me and tell me that I was scary looking.

  4. Very good essay. If a person can't learn and grow from their past & their mistakes then they are fulfilling their purpose here on earth.

    What I didn’t realize was that I was bringing about my own sadness; I was not allowing myself to become happy. Happiness requires constant effort and self-control to keep from thinking depressing thoughts. That might be to be a lifetime battle, but I am confident I will succeed.


  5. Great post. I also have a similar background and found your views on target with ‘most of us’. To be an ‘individual’ in a subculture where everyone basically looks the same isn’t that difficult. To exercise our free will and chose who we want to be and elevate our existence is way more ‘punk’!

    You might enjoy the following two postings:

    Have a great Shabbos.

  6. You're really lucky that you found the right people who could accept you and help you with your questions. One of the things that troubles me the most about the state of Jewish education is that there are fewer and fewer teachers who are willing (or for that matter, able) to deal with a student with questions. B"H, I was very fortunate to have some teachers who were willing to put in the time and effort, but most aren't so lucky (including the students at my former school, where those teachers have either left or been forced out).

  7. SCORE!! alreayd 6 comments! in response:

    Ezzie- there were necklaces, too, but they were not spiked. Just metallic enough that i needed to remove them before going through the metal detectors in airports. Also, what did you mean by, "I also remember when you didn't watch much 'reinforcement' from other people."? Oh, and i totally agree- there are so many lessons i can take from my past, it would be a chaval to ignore it. I feel like the people who believe in "let history remain history" really just have not come to terms enough with their past, and are afraid people will look down upon them for where they've been. From my experiences, I've never felt that way after letting someone in on the secret- they always seem to see me as this incredibly strong and thinking person who became this way because of my past- not despite it.

    pragmatician- i understand the jealousy, but in the same vein, i'm jealous of the people who "saw the light" without ever seeing those dark moments. On the other hand, "Ain domeh tefillas tzaddik ben rasha l'tfilas tzaddik ben tzaddik" (or something like that) is (i believe- i'm a little rusty) Rashi's explanation for why Hashem listened to Yitzchak rather than Rivka's prayer for a child. People who grow up knowing that the Torah lifestyle is correct sometimes need to work harder to make it *real*. also, remind me one day to post a great poem someone showed me called "Lament of an FFB".

    mordy- i always remained in a frum environment (just in the wrong crowd), thus missing out on some
    punk dress codes. Never had Doc Martens or screw on spikes. However, my hair went through many stages, the best being black as i'm extremely pale by nature and i was anemic at the time, too. but go ahead and make a teenage punk poll- should produce some interesting results. and the cliched "my experiences made me the person i am today" is 100% true. oh, and people didn't always tell me to my face that i was scary, but in 12th grade (after i'd already morphed out of it quite a bit), a girl told me that when i'd shown up the first day in my new school (i boarded), everyone was whispering about how they were scared of me and i'd never last. proved em all wrong!

    sarah- thank you. you're right- mistakes are really just learning experiences, and to ignore them is kind of dumb.

    neil- thanks for the links, very

    scraps- unfortunately, the school which i attended from pre-K through 9th grade did more to turn me off from Judaism than it did to turn me on. I only found people willing to answer my questions when i went out of town to another school which prides itself on being open to discussing the basics of faith and answering all questions. and the sad part is, i think the first school is still refusing to pay any attention to the thinking (ie: rebellious) kids.

  8. oh, and nobody asked what grade i recieved- i got an A-, which is pretty impressive cuz this teacher refuses to give an A on the first paper of the year, saying that if someone was capable of writing an A paper, she would have placed into Comp II. :-D

  9. That should have said "want" not "watch". You used to act as if you didn't want anybody's approval, though you were never bad about it. Just very individualistic.

    I've always felt that the boys division of the school you went to handled it completely the reverse of the girls. They may not have been intent on discussing subjects, but they tried to answer issues and questions. And from the impression I get (which is weak), the girls' division hasn't changed much.

    and are afraid people will look down upon them for where they've been

    One of the things I remember from when I finally switched out of the school I needed to get out of. When I was debating it, my sister said to me "Nobody's going to look down on you for switching back or for leaving the place you're in now. You need to do what you need to do for you."

    Oh, PN - can I give this to BeyondBT to post?

    oh, and nobody asked what grade i recieved- i got an A-, which is pretty impressive cuz this teacher refuses to give an A on the first paper of the year, saying that if someone was capable of writing an A paper, she would have placed into Comp II.

    Yeah. In CompI, I got an A- on every paper. Each one took me less than 15 minutes total (page and a half). But no, I wasn't good enough to be in II. Ha! I walked into the final 25 minutes late, finished 20 minutes later. Without looking at the paper, the teacher said I got an A- for the course.

  10. PN, I'm pretty good at commenting on your posts!! I know how you feel because I love comments too (hint).

    I love that you embrace your past as the pathway it was to becoming who you are today! Really grest stuff!

  11. great essay :)

    and ezzie is right - the most important thing is that you learnt from every situation and experience and use/embrace that to improve/change etc in the future.

  12. ezzie- i guess.. you can cross-post it... sure. no prob.
    but only if you put my new post (the poem i promised to put up) into one of those fancy boxes. cuz i always forget these formatting tricks....

  13. I have some sort of past, not like yours; but stuff that i would not dream of doing now. Ive told people about my past and they see how I was and how i am now and tell me that i am thier role model for how much ive changed.
    Talking about your past helps you and it can also help others.

    people also have to learn that you cant judge someone on thier past if theyve changed. Peoples pasts can cause major problems when it comes to shidduchim and it shouldn't. If someone has changed then what they used to do should not matter.

  14. wow, that was a really good post. it reminded me of a song from i think the googoodolls. "Scars are souvenears you never lose, the past is never far." Keep writing!

  15. This doesn't sound as drastic as you guys were saying the other night!
    Probably because I don't know your family, and how you were expected to dress and behave.
    Also, nowadays, frum women wear black all of the time!