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Use Your Past to Create a Better You

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T onight, I had the amazing opportunity to listen to, and meet, a particular Holocaust survivor named Henry Fenichel. Now, I must note that this blog post is completely unplanned, unpredicted and is being created on a whim. While I am supposed to be studying for my next horrid, treacherous, unearthly French test (exaggeration intended but the feelings are, without question, being experienced at this exact moment), I am instead going to enlighten this blogosphere with my current feelings and what I would like to consider some “words of wisdom.”

Fenichel is an inspiring individual who, if I had gone into the event sheathed in my translucent journalistic gear, I would have LOVED to write a piece about. However, I was not fully prepared and have decided to, in spite, unleash this blog post as a lovely alternate. Okay, so maybe I am exaggerating this exaggeration let’s move on to the intended purpose of this blog post..

Fenichel was a very young boy during the Holocaust and was, after hiding, relocated to concentration camps, various countries and even into a children’s home. He experienced vast amounts of confusion, heartache, content and downright unjust and corrupt behavior. I could never even begin to understand what he went through, felt, experienced, or deals with to this day due to this past that he had absolutely ZERO control over.

Photo caption: Henry Fenichel and I holding his original Star of David badge. Photo credits: A very kind stranger.

Now, I don’t know if it is just me, but the sole action of trying to grasp what Fenichel went through is enough to give me a heartache and become overwhelmed in disgust and despair. This is where the realizations begin. The realizations of how lucky I am to be alive, to be free, to have an education, to walk, to be able to do the things I love, to be able to SEE the people that I love…my luckiness is endless, as are my thanks, gratitude, and gratefulness for this life and everything within it.

We often forget about all that we have. We often take all of the amazing things about our life, the amazing people that we are surrounded with, the amazing opportunities that we are awarded with for granted. Most times we are so caught up in the bad things that have happened to us, the terrible things people have done to us, that nasty boss who didn’t hire us, that we never sit down and, instead, think about all of the fascinating things we are awarded with.

Fenichel went through hell. Nothing less than hell, but probably a whole lot more. Instead of using this as an excuse to pity himself or live a life of sorrow, he instead studied his way to a Ph.D. in physics. Fenichel moved to America with his family and created a brand new, brilliant life for himself as a Professor at the University of Cincinnati. Moments and presentations like these are always cause of extreme gratefulness and gratitude for the life we live, regardless of upsetting or disheartening road blocks that may come our way. And with this terribly brief synopsis of an incredible story, I have this to say:


I know it is cliché, but it is the truth. Just because something horrible or unforgettably disastrous may have happened to you once, twice, or even 10 times, does not mean that you ARE those experiences.


You may have gone to hell and back in your past, you may be going through hell and back right now, but that does not give you any excuse to fall down and refuse to get back up. Instead of using these past experiences as a reason to emit pity or hatred or an excuse as to why you cannot, why not use it as a reason for why you CAN?


Fenichel suffered through one of the worst genocide’s known to man. Instead of letting this negatively affect his future goals and dreams, he instead turned his life around and made it exactly what he wanted it to be. Why not turn hurtful experiences into reasons you did instead of reasons you did not, reasons you became a better, stronger person instead of reasons you failed. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to say, “Look what I’ve become from this” instead of “Look what this made me?” Let me tell you, only you can make you, not those damned roadblocks we have to confront and collide with every once and a while.


Why do we always surround ourselves with, “What ifs?” We use so much energy thinking of what could have been instead of mustering up that energy and transferring it to a better thought and goal, like “What can I do NOW to help build my FUTURE?” Stop living in the past so you can start creating a positive, exceptional future for yourself.


I know that I am not the only one who often finds myself thinking, “Why me?” We repeatedly dwell over minuscule dents in our world, as if they are going to make or break us without our consent to do so. We must begin thinking of all that we are lucky for, instead of all that is unlucky. Why not confront each and every battle as a lesson to be learned, an encounter that will make you THAT much better, opposed to another obstacle that will tear you down? And always remember, what you are going through is nothing compared with the person that may be sitting beside you.

I know that these points are so often presented to us as common knowledge and routine thoughts. I also know, though, that oftentimes we forget to think about the little things in life and how appreciative we are for them, even something as simple as how lucky we are to be alive.

So, my challenge to you is to contemplate and consider how lucky you are for more than just a few minutes a day. Take time to be grateful for all that you have in life and all the positive prospects and opportunities radiating ahead of you in your future. Over six million Jewish persons did not get the opportunity to reach for and grab those shining stars of opportunity ahead of them, but wore them instead. You, however, can.

Stop giving yourself reasons as to why you cannot, why this person made you this way or that occurrence turned you into this. Begin perceiving things in a whole new way. How can you make that negative experience turn a future experience positive? How lucky are you to be able to see another day, to see another loved one, to be judged by your character and not your religion? Begin reflecting on and appreciating all that you take for granted, all that was taken from so many other’s within a blink of the eye and all that can be taken from you at any moment, too.

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