With the exception of my wedding day and the birth of our four children, graduation from high school was one of the happiest days of my life. I know that there are loads of folks out there who refer to their high school years as "glory days." But not me. High school was slow and painful torture for me and I couldn't wait to get out of there.

It wasn't just the academics that plagued me. I mean, I did okay in most of my classes, excelling in the subjects that required the use of words, and scraping by in those that demanded the use of numbers and formulas.

Different is downright uncomfortable; I fought that feeling, tooth and nailAnd it wasn't that I was unpopular. In fact, I was one of the "cool kids" - a social status I pursued with the commitment and precision of an Olympic athlete. I was editor of the school newspaper, and a competitive swimmer. I was even voted "Duchess" of the prom in my junior year. I could hang with the surfers, the punks, the hippies or the jocks, and feel equally accepted by any of them. But I was never really a part of them. I always felt a bit different, and "different" for a teenage girl in the public school system is downright uncomfortable. I fought that feeling, tooth and nail.

On a very basic level, the main cause of my teenage angst could be chalked up to the simple process of growing up. When a seed begins to flower, it starts by breaking apart. If someone who didn't know anything about the journey of a seed would take a look underground and see the seed shedding and breaking, they'd think the seed was dying. But, as we know, that breaking is an integral part of the growth process.

Well, when I was growing and breaking apart the different pieces of myself, sometimes I felt like I was dying; not literally, but in an emotional, metaphysical, metaphoric kind of way. I felt misunderstood, and lonely, and confused. I didn't have the maturity or wisdom to see beyond the reality I was in at the time, and I certainly did not have the headspace to consider that the feelings I was having were, perhaps, of a spiritual nature.

In fact, if Moses would have appeared and told me that my teenage "pain" was really the cry of my distinctly Jewish soul trying to find expression in the soulless halls of UC High, I wouldn't have believed him. I was totally convinced that I knew everything.

Truth be told, even if I was remotely aware that my internal crisis was spiritual, there wasn't much I could do about it. Public high school is the study of the body, not the soul, so there were no answers there. And I certainly wasn't going to "hang" with my local rabbi. Like I said, I was trying to fit in, be "cool," and at the time, my profoundly limited vision did not allow Judaism and "cool" to occupy the same sentence (unless the word "not" was involved). So, the novice soul searcher in me sought the teachings of sages and mystics elsewhere – mostly of the psychedelic variety.

I had absolutely zero intention of falling in love with what I was learningI suppose that helped with the "cool" status I was pursing, to a certain extent. But it didn't really help to patch any of the gaping holes I felt in my heart and soul. That came later, after graduation. My mom, in her wisdom, encouraged me to take a year off and travel to Israel before I started college.

Being young and impetuous, the very thought of being alone in a foreign country - even if it was the Holy Land - with nothing but a calling card and a backpack, was utterly enthralling. I figured I'd do some time in a Jewish learning program to please my parents and ramble on to wherever the wind might take me.

I had absolutely zero intention of falling in love with what I was learning. But that's what happened. For the first time in my life - which at the time seemed pretty long to me - I began to feel truly comfortable in my own skin. I felt part of something and connected to the people I was meeting. It was my first non co-ed experience; I was learning with women from all over the world with different pasts and different stories and I was loving it. No sexual tension, no trying to fit in. I was just "in."

Surprise of surprises, I discovered that it was possible to commit to a traditional Jewish life and still be "cool." This concept blew my mind. I had always imagined classic Judaism as an archaic, ancient, religious - and therefore boring and colorless - way of life. But the authentic and committed Jews I was meeting were anything but boring and archaic. They were educated, cultured, warm, colorful, funny, and holy. That was the biggest of the missing pieces for me in high school. The holy part.

In Hebrew, the word for holy, kadosh, translates as separate, or, in other words, "different." That is exactly the experience I was so afraid of. But as I've come to see in life, the thing that we resist most is precisely the place G‑d wants us to go. So, G‑d plucked me from Southern California and plopped me down in Northern Israel to dive inside of myself and see what I could find. I faced my fears of living an uncommon life… a traditional Jewish life, a life where G‑d is invited. A life in pursuit, not of the "Cool," but of the "Holy."

I overcame my fear of reintroducing myself as I really amAfter graduation, I didn't really look back… until recently. Last year, I joined an internet networking group that specializes in connecting people online. I decided to add my maiden name to my married name a few weeks ago.

Within a few days, the people I used to know in high school were sending me hugs and pictures of their kids and pets. At first, it scared me. I thought, "How am I going to be able to relate to these people? My life is so different now." But I slowly overcame my fear of reintroducing myself as I really am: a committed Jewish Woman.

I have reconnected with some old high school friends, good people, each of them a world unto themselves. In the process, I have had the unique opportunity to reflect on the fifteen years of my life since graduation, and share my journey with my old crowd. The perspective is amazing.

This time of year, the Jewish month of Elul, is a time of self-reflection. Our sages encourage us to reflect on where we've been, where we'd like to go, and how we plan on getting there. Explaining my life to old friends from what seems like my past life, has afforded me the opportunity to reflect from a different perspective.

This Elul, I am using my accumulative past, not just the past year, as fuel to help me get to where I want to be next year, G‑d willing. Looking way back, I can see how far I've come, and appreciate the accomplishments I've made along the way. Looking back has taught me that, although I have not quenched my desire to "fit in" and be "cool" altogether, I now seek to please G‑d more than I do to please the crowd. In that sense, I really have "graduated" to a higher headspace.

Hats off to that.