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Part of me

            There’s a part of me that really really wants to be cool; wants to be liked not just by the nice people, or the empathetic people, but by the mean ones, the materialistic ones, the narcissistic ones who couldn’t care less about me or anyone else.

“Wait a minute. Why is my picture here?”

            This part of me doesn’t much like the rest of me: the chubby, exhausted, sympathetic, empathetic, creative, turtle slow, endlessly curious majority of who I am. She wants me to stop eating, completely, and to stop writing a blog that brings in no money, and to stop thinking about what I want or what feels satisfying and do what will make me rich and famous.

            I was not especially successful in my attempts to be cool as a kid or a teenager (or ever); first and foremost because I couldn’t figure out what “cool” might mean in any given situation. At first I thought it had to do with my clothes, or the music I listened to, or my clunky glasses, but over time I realized that it had a lot more to do with how cool, or cold, a person could be – seemingly indifferent to the opinions of other people while still being able to meet or surpass all expectations.

            I am not good at being indifferent. If I cause someone pain, even accidentally, I feel the guilt for years, not just hours. I don’t “play it cool” very well, or hide my emotions successfully. My eyebrows jump up and my cheeks turn red and I cry easily. I am no one’s idea of impervious.

“That’s one of the things I love about you, Mommy.”

            But I still have this part of me that believes I SHOULD be cool, and believes that I am all wrong the way I am, and believes that if I were cool and indifferent and mean then I’d be successful. And this part of me has always been there in the background yelling at me for being such a loser.

            I know where she learned this: at school, at home, at camp, at my best friend’s house, pretty much everywhere there were loud voices telling me that my problem was that I was too nice and too much of an emotional sponge and if I could just stop reacting to everything then people would stop picking on me. And if I would just do what was expected of me – marry the right man, get the right job, have the right number of children, etc., I’d be fine; if I would just stop being so permeable, and stop trying so hard to be good (which is clearly a waste of time) and learn how to climb the ladder, no matter whose neck is in the way, then everything would be right with the world.

            The reality is that the few times I’ve attempted to let that cool part of me take charge I’ve been unsuccessful, both at stomping out my empathy and at ignoring my shame.

            At a certain point, I tried to put that cool part of me in a box, on a shelf, out of the way, because she was causing me so much pain and because I was so afraid she would act out and the shame would last forever. But lately I’ve been wondering if, maybe, I overestimated the threat she posed, and underestimated the pain and fear behind her belief in the need to be so cool.

            What if what I really need is to open that box and let her out, a little bit at a time, in order to offer her comfort and to hear her stories and to help her figure out what she really needs rather than what she thinks she needs?

“She probably needs chicken treats.”

            But I’m afraid. What if I let her out and she pushes me into self-destructive behavior or behavior I will regret, or what if her pain overwhelms me, drowns me, because it’s so deep. I know that more than just her pain and fear got locked away in that box, that other valuable memories and feelings were locked up too. I’m just not sure I’m strong enough to deal with her yet.

            Therapy allows for growth, but it doesn’t make growth inevitable, or easy. It leaves room for the possibilities in all directions. And I still have a lot of calibrating questions to answer, like: when does a healthy amount of self-doubt (as in, I can’t always be right, and sometimes my assumptions will be wrong) turn into an unhealthy amount of self-doubt (as in, I can never be right and I have to trust what other people say about me, no matter how destructive); When does a healthy amount of self-care (resting when tired, crying when sad, eating chocolate cake when necessary) become selfishness (I should have my every desire met at every moment, no matter what the cost to others); and when is it safe to trust other people to see you clearly, and offer constructive feedback, and when is it as dangerous as offering a loaded gun to an enemy? And how do you know the difference?

            I feel like I’m vaguely moving towards a reckoning with this “cool” part of me, but I’m still tiptoeing around her, worried she’ll explode into a million pieces or take me down into the deep with her, instead of coming up to meet me in the daylight. I want to be able to trust myself, my whole self, but I’m not there yet.

“I trust you, Mommy.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

About rachelmankowitz

I am a fiction writer, a writing coach, and an obsessive chronicler of my dogs' lives.

95 responses »

  1. I think everyone’s definition of cool is subjective. I think it’s harder, and ‘cooler’, to be kind than indifferent. The ‘cool’ kids in school were only cool because they thought they were and the rest is hadn’t learned that trick yet.

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  2. This sharing really resonated with me. I was never part of the cool crowd either. If you think about it we were pioneers of our kind back in those days. Great post!

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  3. You seem pretty cool to me.

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  4. You are cooler than you think. Just be you.
    And some day I’m going to meet you in person and talk about paw paws.

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  5. Cool is so overrated. You be you, Rachel. That’s what I like about you.

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  6. Oh my ❗️ I will have to √ your book out later right now I am tracking down Bambi’s missing son a ten point white tail I suspected he is hanging in my brother’s barn in Minnesota with five others after of My Nephews and Nieces fall harvest 🦌

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  7. Oh yeah, I feel this. I’ll never be one of the cool ones and I’m coming to accept that and work on being who I am and be happy with that person.

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  8. I think it’s cool that you are a consistent writer and blogger.

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  9. I think kindness outranks coolness any day.

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  10. COOL Rachael~?~?~?, what the heck does that mean.. Sounds like something a teenage kid may come up with and mostly those who have large ego’s think they are COOL~! Why would you want to be like them~? The person that I keep up with on this blog is a down to earth person, who like me, has her ups and downs, two dogs and loves them passionately just as I love my animals. She is thoughtful and sounds like a person I would like to meet in person just sit and talk to, as I read her posts, EXCEPT she does not like another person who she does not think is “COOL” enough, somewhere in her subconsciousness.. BS~!

    Those dogs love you and so do many people who read your posts and correspond with you regularly. I see and feel a kindness for others including animals and a love for God and our country, this is so very superior to so many others I see.

    So stop that feeling sorry for the person you don’t think is cool enough to be you. If we all thought like her we would all be feeling sorry for our selves instead of seeing that thoughtful person struggling to get out~! You mother, church, dogs and intelligence should be first in your mind as they seem to be, but you keep putting them down trying to be that “COOL KAT”~!

    Maybe I need to read that book “Yeshiva Girl” after all, but you have made me think that I would not understand it, as it is written about a person and a life that I do not know or understand, and you do not give her a COOL build up ~! Starting from a negative approach may not be the way to interest others in her life story~!

    There are very few really COOL people in this world, mostly only fools who like to think that they are~!

    I sure am happy that I am not “cool”, because then I could only associate with others who think that they are cool too, and this would bore me to death~! I would rather associate with someone who is a deep thinker who writes in a way that I understand and is broad minded and intelligent enough to hold a great conversation~!

    SAM

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  11. Just be yourself and enjoy life, Rachel. Don’t worry what others think. Your dogs have the right idea.

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  12. Apropos of nothing, your mom’s hands look like my mom’s hands. It must be such a comfort to have her there with you through all of your struggles. 😊

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  13. “to stop writing a blog that brings in no money”… I’ve been blogging since soon after blogging became possible and have steadfastly avoided “monetizing” it all of that time. I have loved the fact that I can have a small corner of the cyber-swamp to do with exactly as I please, however off the beaten path it might go. It’s a wonder anyone comes back for more (thank you!). All the blogs I like best are like that, mostly small but true voices in a world so dominated by the greasy buck. I don’t know what cool is, really but my secret is I don’t much care. I admire your blog just the way it is, and I hope you continue it. Your blog, by the way, has so much going for it. You have a fabulous readership, and all the likes and comments you receive post after post are enviable.

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  14. We are all cool in our own way, regardless of what the others say. We just have to realise and try to find our inner coolness. ✨

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  15. Being ‘cool’ is really not tht great as it is made out to be!
    Being genuine is the way to go.
    And I’m sure you’ve checked so the boxes in tht!

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  16. I feel you! The “cool” ones always seem to be able to treat others, however they want. People, like you or myself, if we did what they did, no one would like us. It’s confusing as all get out! However, as I grow “up”…and out (haha). I’m learning to not worry though, it is hard. It makes no sense.

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  17. You know what though as well? All you need is the love of those two doggos ❤ That is freaking cool!

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  18. Cool is overrated, unless it comes from an AC on a hot summers day. Be you, do you! Do what you love, the rest will follow. I enjoy your blog a lot because it’s still one of these real blogs where people gather and share thoughts and not such a “modern” advertisement nonsense pseudo blog. You and your blog are perfect the way they are and your dogs are the bestest anyway. Dogs rule! Thank you for sharing Rachel. Have a pawesome day and be safe out there.

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  19. The balance between our own needs and those of others is something that takes some of us a lifetime to strike. We have to learn that our superego should not dominate and that we can comfortably be who we are. When told by my Director of Social Services that I should not apply for promotion to a higher level he told me that I was not in the forefront of change. “Someone has got to do the nurturing” I replied. That is what people like you and I try to do – and the world needs it more than ever now.

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  20. I honestly never thought about wanting to be “cool”. I think I was too busy fighting for the right to just be “me” when who I was wasn’t what who everyone else wanted me to be. I had no energy left for the fight to try and be “cool”. Almost 50 years out of high school (yes, I’m that old!), I’m glad I didn’t work towards being one of the “cool crowd” because I see who those people are now through mature eyes and honestly, I’m not terribly impressed!

    No one can do you as well as you can, so just keep being you and keep striving to grow and you’ll find a place some day where you’ll learn to be content with your life just as it is.

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  21. Just want to say your pics with the captions always make me laugh!! So funny. Thanks

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  22. Chicken treats always make ME feel better!
    Seriously, I think your post is very thoughtful & thought-provoking (for some, it might be the “angry” part that has been boxed in & who knows what will happen if that is released??).

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  23. Bloggers who blog to make money rarely write anything worth reading. You always write something worth reading, so you should never stop blogging.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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  24. Just be your best version of your self

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  25. I’ll never be ‘cool’, but I’m cool with that. It was a bit vexing when a teenager, but now that I’m in my mid-fifties, its far less important than it seemed, and rather amusing to me to see some others of my age still obsessed by their own sense of being ‘cool’. At some point it becomes ridiculous: crikey, it was ridiculous even when a teen, really, but we just don’t know it while all those hormones are distracting us.

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  26. We are artisans in apprenticeship in this craft called life. Precious few of us are authentically cool and many of us are good at putting on appearances. And that’s OK.

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  27. What’s indisputable is that you have a cool dog.

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  28. You’re perfect as you are my friend!

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  29. Rachel, what an excellent, contemplative piece of writing! Being cool is vastly overrated, just as being true to yourself is vastly underrated. I would much rather spend time with someone who is sincere and considerate. An old friend, said we he got to fifty, he realized he did not need to suffer fools, unless he had to in business.

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  30. IMO it’s cool to be ourselves. So what if we think differently to other people? That doesn’t make us uncool or bad. I tried to be what people thought I should be, act as people thought I should, think as people thought I should. The result was a messed up individual who didn’t know who or what she was. I would not wish that on anybody. Your Mom loves you. Your students love you. Ellie and Cricket love you. Your blogging family love you too……… and care. That’s cool enough, yes?

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  31. Rachel, I think we were all cute little kids in elementary school, and didn’t experience “cool” until junior high. The cute girls who attracted the cute guys on the basketball team, or who went out for cheer leading to be “more” cool and the cutest of them all. Everyone hung with the “cool” kids hoping some of it would rub off. But let me assure you that when you graduate from high school, cool disappears. You are thrown into a whole new realm of either getting a job or going to college to find your way in life. That cute high school sweet heart is competing for the same jobs as the smart kids or the nerds. The competition is stiff out there and in college/university there is a lot more competition. Once you fill out a job application, you will notice there isn’t a question about “Were you one of the cool kids”. It’s more like, “Tell me why you want to be a teacher and how will you integrate teaching Hebrew to your students?” For this, you just need to be the smart you, the caring you, and the great teacher that you are. Cool is extinct. Just be yourself Rachel, you are more than enough!

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  32. I struggled with this a long time, initially giving up in dispair because I could never be cool–the right clothes never looked good on me, I am incapable of giving up food I love, and I am passionate about things that other people consider irrelevant. But I have the advantage of age and years of self-reflection, and this is what I know…
    I am the person I am because the world needs me right here where I am. Other people with other values, interests, and opinions have their own place, but they don’t belong in mine. I have lots of self-doubt, and a strong sense of inadequacy, but I also know that I have to keep fighting the good fight to satisfy the needs that are mine to take care of. If I don’t do it, there is no one else, because I am the sole occupant of my place in this world.
    Based on what I’ve read, your blogging is a service far beyond any ability to quantify. You offer a warm, accepting forum for people who share your concerns. No one remembers Rome or Greece for their money. They remember their art, their philosophy, their literature. Your writing has a much more far-reaching impact than any amount of money you could ever earn.

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  33. Do you think, maybe, you’re having trouble accepting your whole self is related to the abuse you suffered at the hands of someone you were supposed to be able to trust? You have trauma, or had it; idk how much of it you’ve dealt with. But when people suffer trauma, it messes with our bodies-physically, emotionally and mentally. It’s more difficult for children to go through trauma, because their prefrontal cortices aren’t fully developed yet. And the PFC is responsible for regulating emotions, forming memories and making decisions.
    On another note my husband was very popular when he was a kid and all throughout school, but he never felt like he was. He also was, and still is, very concerned with how people view him and his actions. My point is not every popular person views themselves the way you view them. And they don’t climb over others to get to the top. Some certainly do.
    You have a good heart, and you’re very caring. Those are much better traits to have than being successful or wealthy, especially if you had to climb over others to get there.

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    • The fragmentation is definitely trauma related. It’s hard to learn to trust myself when my earliest experiences of the world were filled with betrayal. But I don’t want to lose pieces of myself as I heal, I want those pieces to heal too.

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  34. In therapy this week my therapist reminded me of something I’m prone to forget, but which is so true. Nobody really thinks of anyone else that much. Everyone is focused on themselves and we all have that voice yelling at us for not being “cool’. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t wonderfully compassionate, giving souls out in the world (you’re one), it just means that worrying about how we seem to other people is unnecessary because they probably won’t notice either way. Because we’re all inwardly focused to a degree. I think that letting the mean girl out of the box a bit at a time is a great idea. I’ve had to learn (and it’s only recently that I did) that there’s a big difference between entitlement (I DESERVE whatever thing I want because I’m me and I’m the only one to consider) and boundaries. A lot of the polished, cool people have very healthy boundaries, and that’s why they come off so cool and polished. I suspect underneath? There’s the same frightened little person as the rest of us, cool and uncool are most of the time. I love reading your blog, I always get to learn something new. Thanks, Rachel! ❤

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  35. Suavy and deboner. Yeahhhh. That’s the ticket. Cool was never my forte. If I ever ‘look cool’ I feel out of place.

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  36. You have dogs you’re a dog person- that makes you cool as far as I am concerned. Your dogs will always love you, always support you and never betray you. Dogs will never bite the hand that feeds them, which is more than be said for some people. I think you are doing well Rachel, and I learn so much reading your blog – and that’s pretty cool too.

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  37. I wasn’t even aware that people your and my age could be “cool.” Or that anyone cared. Maybe letting that person out and playing with her in your own home would be fun and help diffuse her, especially laughing at her while you play. He, he, now I’ve got a picture in my head of me doing that!

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  38. The flippant part of me thinks ‘don’t ever take up poker’ but then I think you are blessed with fantastic insight and self awareness. I am pretty hopeless at keeping my emotions under control and and certainly not ‘cool’ in any shape or form. I’ve always been one of nature’s enthusiasts – not always successfully. But I cry at sporting events, at memorial services or celebrations and my brother refused to take me to the cinema after my emotional outburst at Bambi and then Dumbo (I still can’t watch this now). Be careful with the cool kid, they are not always so cool on the inside. 🙂

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  39. Don’t worry about all the cool kid crap. You are YOU and that’s what’s great! But I totally understand where you are coming from. I struggle with it too. You have your own destiny so don’t worry too much about how you should live. I spend all my time worry about that stuff too and I drive myself crazy. In lockdown it really drove me crazy especially since I was locked down with people that aren’t exactly my crowd. I enjoy their company but after 18 months my mind couldn’t take it and started to play really funny games on me. I do feel the crowd I was in lock down with is more “live life one way.” There is no one way to live life. Just be a decent person and do what makes you happy 🙂 I’m still not quite right in the head, let’s make a promise we’ll be a little easier on ourselves and we’ll try to just enjoy ourselves for who we are. Easier said then done but practice makes perfect! Thank you for writing this, it really hit home and made me feel less lonely.

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  40. Hugz, Rachel. Big hugz. 🙂

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  41. I’ve enjoyed realising myself over the past few decades, especially. Overcoming all the fears, created, introduced and manufactured has been a monumental task; one I haven’t always enjoyed, but one I now hold dear. Objectivity was and is at the core of everything. With objectivity as the intentional view of all things (which, by the way, I first thought of as selfish, unfeeling and uncaring) I slowly began to lose the subjectivity that had been my forever downfall.
    Life truly is so sweet these days. I wish for you the same!

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  42. Pingback: Thursday Theories: Too cool, not to be cool – Lolsys Library

  43. Really interesting read. You sound a lot like me especially in struggling for ages if you hurt someone. I think its cool to be kind and empathetic and to care.

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  44. Other people have bodies that will turn to dust after they die – just like us. Therefore, we should focus on pleasing God, not making other walking dust balls think we’re “cool.” They are but for a moment of time, we are but for a moment of time, but God is forever.

    Reply

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