When I was 19 years old, I had the chance to audition for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in New York City. I had to prepare two pieces - one was a soliloquy from "Henry IV," the other was a soliloquy from "The Seagull" by Anton Chekhov. "The Seagull" I did passably well. The other was a disaster, but neither one was terrific. There was no reason I couldn't have done well, except owing to my state of mind. I was heavily addicted to drugs. I could never get it together to rehearse those two pieces. I flew to New York from Los Angeles and went to the audition knowing I was unprepared but hoped I could squeak through. I did not squeak through. My folks had put aside money to get me to New York City and all kinds of stuff. I had failed. I didn't have the self-discipline and the self-esteem to do a good job. That would be my do-over. I would have rehearsed more and done a good job in the interview.
I would want to be born as a non-Jew. Sometimes, when we are born into something, we take it for granted or even do things out of habit. It doesn't allow you the opportunity to learn, delve and grow into it on your own. The inspiration, intellectual stimulation, tradition and so much more can be lost if you just go through the motions. I would want to question, research, question again and then after some long introspection, accept upon myself all the beauties of our tradition. But since there are no do-overs in life, I will try to reach the same level of inspiration and commitment even though it was gifted to me by my parents.
I'd probably try to learn a multitude of different languages, rather than to just speak English. I feel very limited in what is going on in the world, now. I don't speak French, or Creole or Spanish that could aid me in some of the work I do on behalf of the church. I had a call recently from Trinity Wall Street, an Episcopal church in lower Manhattan that was looking for interpreters. I was able to help find someone, but I wish I could have been able to be an interpreter. I do know some Spanish. I stumble to get every third word. I can read Spanish, but can't speak it. I haven't decided not to learn Spanish, but I'm so busy, and it hasn't come together. I was given a gift of Rosetta Stone tapes to learn French. I haven't started yet. I also use being busy as an excuse for not learning French. What would get me to learn French or another language? God's going to have to sit me down with the instructions for the Rosetta Stone tapes and tell me that there's an hour a day of something else I'm not going to do just to make this happen. I have to do something soon because the person who gave the gift to me is going to eventually ask me if I enjoyed it.
When I was 16, I had the opportunity to go to France on a summer exchange program, and to live with three very different French families - one in the arts, like my own family; one in manufacturing; and one family was a member of the French nobility. They were as unlike one another as they were unlike any American families that I had known in the way parents and children related one to another, in their attitudes toward culture, politics and religion. However, as I got to know them better, I began to see similarities as well as differences between these families and my own. If I had it to do over, I would spend at least a year living in another culture, and, thereby gaining insight into both that culture and my own. In our country, because of distance, we are quite isolated from other countries, and this can lead to an "us" versus "them" mentality. As a Quaker, I feel strongly "that there is that of God in every human being." In living with the family from the French nobility, I learned what it felt like to be treated as "other" and less worthy because of a difference in background and ethnicity. I think that one way to learn respect for difference is to live for a time in a culture other than your own.