I think everyone has a story. With that said, perhaps if we share our stories, we can gain more confidence and strength, realizing that we aren't the only ones on the planet with ie. issues, challenges, good stories, or other things that may stop us from fulfilling our potential.
So, here it goes. One chapter at a time.
I actually didn't grow up religious. I was aware of my Jewishness, Passover, Hannukah, that kind of thing, but nothing you would call "religious". My parents were actually involved in Jews for Jesus from when i was a very young age and so we went to their synagogue on Shabbat but everything was at the same time Jewish and Jesus related. I am an only child. I always wanted siblings and it was kind of lonely growing up that way. Most people have one or two siblings. I had none, so made up for it by being close with my parents and their friends. I was always on the bright and overly mature side in school and socially found it challenging to get along with kids my age, who seemed "beneath" me, since I was so used to being around adults. I had cousins, but none that were blood related and so felt a bit distant to them, especially since as we grew older in elementary and middle school, we didn't live close enough to each other to get close. We also moved around every couple of years which put a stumbling block in the way of me being able to create lasting friendships.
Then when I was 6 and then 11, some very close people in my life passed away. My grandmother and grandfather (him on my birthday) passed away within a few years of each other. They were my father's parents and being that the ordeal (s) left him so bereaved, him and my mother felt it was time to move on. We were currently living in the valley and took a leap to sunny Arizona. There wasn't really much there for us, just a fresh start for my parents I guess, which is what they needed. I really was not happy and had a hard time adjusting socially to the schools there. The kids were really clueless to knowing people of different origins and were baffled by the fact that I was Jewish. At that time, we were still following the teaching of Jews for Jesus which made it even stranger since most of them were of Christian faith.
I managed and did very well academically, since the standards of learning there were much lower than the magnet school system I was used to in the valley. I had some really shaky experiences socially, having a sleep over where the girl stole something and when I saw it in school the following week, totally denied it, being sworn at by one of the popular kids...stuff that kind of shook me and I think made me stronger but in a more closed off kind of way. It definitely didn't teach me too many good things about trusting new people...
Fast forward and my parents started researching and finding out more about Judaism from a Jewish perspective. It led us to the Reconstructive Jewish community in our area and then to the Chabad center in southern Arizona. We started keeping kosher, shabbat, and other mitzvos of the Torah and eventually being in 9th grade with a bunch of other kids who didn't have the same habits or customs or Jewish values just wasn't working for me anymore. I also wasn't so socially with it at this different school