There is a feeling I have, just on this side of jealousy, when I see a young runner running fast. Having started running less than four years ago, I am left wondering how I might have done had I started years before. I know that there is no going back, but I still find myself wondering “what if?”.
I spent the weekend on a retreat with my school’s sophomore class. We spent the time learning, talking arguing, thinking and singing. Basically, we got a chance to see each other in a different light. At several points over Shabbos (the Sabbath), I was asked to sing part of a song in front of almost 200 students and several dozen adults. Despite a small degree of nervousness and a large degree of a bad singing voice, I delivered. I found myself thinking of the same retreat almost 25 years ago, when I attended as a student in the same school. As the Rabbi in the middle of the room would have scanned the room looking for singers, I would have found myself trying to hide, shrinking down into my seat as if it was a cave and praying that he not ask me. Even if nominated, I would not have done it. Fear would have won out. Could things have been different back then? Perhaps my newfound confidence is a product of time and experience.
As my dad lay in his bed in the hospital, my head was racing. He seemed stressed, and I found myself making small talk in an effort to calm him down. After a while, I excused myself, told him I would see him in the morning and said good night. What would I have talked about had I known that would be the last conversation I would ever have with my dad? What might I have heard, that I will never know?
There is one class of sophomores with which I have struggled this year. I have been alternatively too lenient and then, as if I could compensate, too strict. I saw a side of them this weekend that I don’t get to see in school and I suspect that, if pressed, they would say the same about me. What might our experience have been together this year had I gotten to know them at the beginning of the year? Is it too late to salvage this year?
Truth is, had I started running while I was younger, my running would have been different. Less desperate I suspect. The ease of running with a young man’s body, the lack of fear of dying from the disease that killed my dad, would have made me a different runner. Better? Worse? I can not say. Definitely different though. I can’t go back. I’ll never know how things might have been. I need to keep my eyes on the road that lies ahead.
I have started a blog. Pass It On! http://middleofthepackrabbi.blogspot.com