Dear Nine-Year-Old Me
The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers.
“A Letter to My Younger Self” is a series of deeply personal letters written by world-changing women to their younger selves at an age when they could have used a bit of advice. Join GOOD + GAP in celebrating the power of perspective and the universal moments of struggle, healing and triumph that inspire the best in all of us. #WomenInspire
Illustrations by Taleen Keldjian
Dear Nine-Year-Old Me,
I’m sure it will sound strange to hear this, but I am grateful for your struggle. The shock and sadness you are experiencing is real, and I know you think it will last forever. But I promise you, it will not. You have been uprooted—moving 8,000 miles across the globe to Israel, against your will and without your input. Your new home is a far cry from the comforts of Los Angeles. Things feel strange and uncomfortable, from the chocolate milk that comes in plastic bags, to the teachers who seem to shout at you constantly and without reason. But you will see, in the end, this place will become your beloved home.
I know you are angry with Ema (Mom) and Aba (Dad). You think they made this decision without considering you at all, when really, they did it for you. Your parents followed their faith to Israel. They wanted you to grow up in a place where your Jewish identity would surround you, alive and breathing, not just in a textbook or a prayer. What they did was take action. Not just talk, but do! You will grow up to be just like them.
I’m not going to lie, school is going to be rough. It’s not easy being the new kid. You might be an outsider now, but just wait! This will change. Give yourself some time to learn the language. It will be frustrating, and you’ll be doing a lot more listening than talking in this first year. The transition is going to be difficult for you, but whenever you feel a little lonely and left out, take comfort in the knowledge that you are honing one of your greatest superpowers. Listening is everything. You are learning how to communicate and hear without judgment or bias, and this special ability to listen will take you places you can’t even imagine. One day, you will use it to change the lives of incarcerated girls. These girls, who are not much older than you are now, have never truly been heard before. My job is to listen to their stories, help them discover their own worth, and set them on a path to rewrite their futures. I couldn’t have done it without you.
You see, being that outsider helped me learn to see otherness, and understand the need to belong. It taught me to adjust to change and speak my truth.
I now have 3 daughters. One is exactly your age. She reminds me so much of you, with your outspoken nature and intense emotions. You are a perfect reflection of her. I look at her and I remember how angry you were when your world changed without your consent, and I laugh—not because it’s funny—but because I am doing the very same thing to my own children. And do you know why? Well, because as I know now, it is the right thing to do.
You will grow up to be a facilitator of change, a peacemaker and someone who takes action. And that, my sweet girl, is a rare, unique treasure.
With much love,
Naomi Ackerman is an actress, activist and founder of the Advot Project, an organization that works with girls in juvenile detention centers, empowering them to tell their stories and learn behavioral and communication skills through theater. Born in the US, she immigrated to Israel when she was 9 years old, a powerful moment that shaped the world-changer she became.