Learning, Struggling, Learning, Succeeding – Eric J.

Eric was a second place winner of a 2021 NJCTS Scholarship Award. 

This was the essay he included with his application.

Depressed, hopeless, and rejected. My classmates were pointing at and mimicking my
tics. When the bell rang, I ran out of the classroom. My worst nightmare was coming true again:
kids were laughing at me. I have Tourette’s syndrome.

A few months later, while sitting in the bleachers at a San Francisco Giants game on a
week-long trip with my sleepaway camp, one of my friends ordered and was served a beer.
Before the trip, we were given explicit rules about appropriate behavior. I worried that I would
end up getting in trouble because the counselors would hold everyone in our group accountable
for his actions. I began ticcing and twitching uncontrollably and feared that my friends would
notice and make fun of me. When we got back to the hotel room, the same friend pulled out a
juul. Again, my heart was racing. I thought about speaking with him directly about my concerns,
but decided against it. I was intimidated by him. He was bigger than me and more popular than
me. I wanted to report him, but did not want to be considered the snitch who got him in trouble.
My nervousness was drowning me. I could not sleep. In the morning, I decided to tell one of the
counselors. This was the only way for me to relieve my anxiety and keep my tics low. My friend
was sent home that day.

I started to panic that my friends would find out I informed the counselor. Out of fear of
being caught, I told them myself. My friends were furious. When we stopped at an amusement
park, nobody wanted to go on the rides with me. Miserable and lonely, I called my parents not
knowing what else to do. Despite their comforting words, I realized they could not help me from
afar. When we got back to camp, my friends continued to shun me for the rest of the summer. I
found myself lingering in doubt over how I had handled the situation.

The following winter, my Hebrew high school teacher announced that the class was
going on a weekend tour of New York. I immediately became anxious about going on another
overnight trip. I knew there would likely be smoking and drinking, so I considered not going.
However, I wanted to learn about Jewish life in Manhattan, so I ultimately decided to challenge
myself and go.

As I feared, in the hotel room, my roommates pulled out their vape pens. Just like the
summer before, I got very scared that I would get blamed for their behavior. I could feel my face
starting to twitch rapidly. Not wanting to become the scapegoat a second time, I spoke with my
roommates directly, telling them I did not want to participate. To my surprise, my roommates
respected my wishes and told me they were not going to pressure me into joining them or blame
me if they got caught. By taking direct action, I felt calmer and my tics stayed under control. For
the rest of the weekend, I sought out other students who, like me, were focused on the activities
and did not care about my tics. At the Tenement Museum, I learned about how Jewish immigrant
families managed their daily responsibilities while living in extremely compact apartments.

Looking back, I let my anxiety and obsession over my tics ruin my trip to California. I
am glad I built up the courage to go to New York, speak up directly to my roommates, and find
people with whom I could enjoy the trip. In college, making friends and seeking out new
experiences will be risky for me. I may become anxious, start to tic, get laughed at, and feel
embarrassed. I might suffer through my worst nightmares again, but I am committed to
developing the fortitude and confidence to continue to grow



One Comment

  1. Such a brave man. Congratulations on maintaining your principles despite the cost.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *