What Would You Tell Your 15-Year-Old Self?
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What Would You Tell Your 15-Year-Old Self?

Four Atlantans look back at their youth, through the lens of their present wisdom.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

Stanley Vogel
At the age of 15, you will start relying on yourself, developing your own executive function and learning to survive and thrive in the world. Develop a plan, and always know that your parents are your greatest resources. They have wisdom other people cannot teach you. Take good care of yourself and be resourceful. If plan A doesn’t materialize, there must always be a plan B, C and D, because circumstances change, and you cannot control everything on your own. Learn from your teachers and make good friends who can advise you, help you make connections and look out for you. Look out for them and help them, as well. Life serves as its own education; remember its lessons and put them to good use. Also learn the teachings of Judaism and connect with new religious acquaintances. Besides thinking about the most important thing in your life, which is learning to earn a living, also think about finding a wife, and later creating a family, everything in its own time. I don’t need to wish you good luck because I know you will succeed and live a life of happiness, overall.

Stanley Vogel believes in having plans A, B, C and D.

Yossi Ovadia
Growing up in Israel, I knew that I would be serving in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). Since I was a young teenager, my dream was to attend the Technion and become a Mechanical/Quality Engineer. My life took a quick turn in 1968, at age 16. It was then that I was chosen to represent the State of Israel in Europe on a youth exchange program. As a result of that trip, I was interested in improving my English. My literature teacher, who was going to the U.S. for a summer program, asked if I would like an American pen pal. One week before entering the IDF at age 18, I received the first letter from my new pen pal, Jill Friedman of Atlanta, Ga. Writing on a regular basis and finally meeting in person three-and-a-half years later, Jill and I married in Israel nine months after we met. I completed my military service a couple of months later, and we moved to Atlanta. I graduated from Southern Tech and fulfilled my dream of becoming a Mechanical/Quality Engineer, working at Lockheed Martin for 24 years. At my current age of 69, I would tell my 15-year-old self that, while there may be a fork or curve in the road, never stop dreaming, as dreams can come true.

Yossi and Jill Ovadia were pen pals for several years before they met — and married.

Jill Ovadia
As children, we can’t wait to be adults. Knowing what I do now, I would definitely tell my 15-year-old self, don’t be in such a hurry … adulthood is not all it’s cracked up to be! I married my Israeli pen pal of three-and-a-half years when I was just short of 20. I was working full-time, continuing my college studies and learning the ropes of being a wife. At the same time, friends were traveling to Europe after graduation and rooming together in apartments — travel and craziness and fun. This was their so-called rite of passage to develop their independent selves. I loved every minute of my life and decisions, but I definitely missed out on some great times with friends and a little less responsibility! With all the excitement of growing up comes pressure and worry, deadlines and responsibility. And here’s a secret: growing up is inevitable! So don’t rush it! Enjoy your youth for as long as possible, live each day to its fullest and appreciate the process … it’s no wonder every adult wants to be a child again!

Rachel Silverberg would remind her younger self to assume responsibility.

Rachel Silverberg
Fifteen was a long time ago. The broad strokes of what I remember are amazing friends, Teen Theatre at the JCC and doing well at school. My parents were supportive and present in my life, and my Orthodox family lived in a close-knit, warm community. If my memory serves, I was a happy teen, but I was far from perfect, so I do have some advice for my younger self: While you are living in a supportive and loving home, take advantage of the next couple of years and learn how to function as an adult. Start to take on more responsibilities. Pay attention to the food you eat, focusing on healthy food and healthy portions. Start a physical fitness routine and find what you enjoy. Talk to your parents about managing finances, saving money, planning for large ticket items like a car. Get a job and start contributing to your car/gas/insurance. Start making your own appointments to go to the doctor. Ask for a clothing allowance and stick to it. Your parents do a lot for you now, so talk to them about handling things that may come up when you are independent and responsible for yourself and others. I’m optimistic about your ability to evaluate what you learn in order to make good decisions.

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