Greetings gentle readers! I am writing to you from a coach seat on the Coast Starlight, the magical silver bullet that will transport me from my everyday life to Christmas Town!!! This is how I am expecting myself to look:
But here is how I actually look:
Why the long face? Not because anything is inherently wrong, not because I have bad memories of the holidays, not EVEN because the woman sitting next to me is snoring and it’s not even 5:00pm (harbinger of terrible things to come in my opinion). No gentle readers, I am not a humbug, I am a realist.
I talk a lot about owning my choices and perceptions thereof. This same principle applies to the holidays. As you age, the inevitable truth is that the Holidays lose their magic. Santa turns out to be your mom, your mom turns out to be not so good at keeping up the charade, and your family all turn into people you love (probably), but don’t see very much (also, probably) and therefore *might* not have a TON to talk about with. For me over the last few years, family visits have turned into a time of re-telling my life. You tell your best stories with all the benefit of hindsight, you get to practice the jokes all year, you get to pick which parts of your life make the final cut. I have long thought that if I only have a limited time to spend with people, then why waste it dwelling on negativity and complaining on things that the people you are visiting have no control over? No point in ruining the time you have together by dwelling on bad parts of your life that your family cannot change. It leads to advice you don’t want, excuses they don’t want to hear, and bad feelings all around.
So then with all that said, why doesn’t every visit turn into a holiday-esque love fest riddled with inside jokes from childhood, happy family photos and bonding experiences? Because gentle readers, the holidays are only the Holidays when you decide they are.
I know this is fairly rudimentary but it came as quite a shock to me. I felt the change after I struck out on my own (ish) and got my very own place (ish) in the real world (ish). The passage of time after my college graduation has steadily increased to a dull roar and in the blur of days between now and eternity sometimes I wake up and realize I am losing some of that magic. When you are young, the holidays are landmarks. They are things to look forward to, things to dream about, things to discuss with your friends and to use to light up your world. Now at the ripe old age of 23, I see the Holidays as a time to stress about others expectations, spend too much money, and ask for time off of work (hey there, silver lining). I have come to realize that in order to enjoy the Holidays as an adult I need to do something I have tried to avoid ever since I learned the phrase “intersectionality”:
I NEED TO DRINK THE KOOLAID
I’m serious. I need to chug that sugary, syrupy, anachronistic, probably-cancer-causing tradition juice and figure out what I can use from it. In order for the Holidays to hold any kind of meaning, I have to let myself believe the hype.
I am a naturally skeptical person. I do not tend to accept the status quo, I try to be the most accepting and open person I can, and I shit on capitalism like it’s my job (lol). But during the Holidays some of this needs to allow for the possibility of indulgence and understanding. If I scorn accumulation of material wealth, how will I justify buying presents? If I renounce my parents’ Episcopalian faith as a product of the Protestant Spirit of Capitalism that led to the current state of our nation, how will I participate in our family traditions (or keep my dad from crying when I won’t go to church)?
I do not advocate letting the Holidays become a free pass for letting the values and convictions you hold dear go out the window in favor of a hedonistic parade of displays of wealth and earthly pleasure or allowing religion to take a position in our society greater than that allowed to it by our founding document. I DO however endorse prizing of compassion and love over all other things, at least for a few months a year. You cannot live your life in constant, unrelenting service and adoration of those around you. That is a thankless existence that no one should stand for. But acknowledging and embracing the worth and value of those around you is something we all could do a little more (myself included and probs at the top of the list). Holidays let you do this and create that base layer of happy memories essential for a familial relationship to be successful. I firmly believe there must be good times, you must show love, and you must pander to someone else’s interests every once in a while to make human relationships work. Continue to call out your racist, classist, sexist, any kind of prejudiced friends/relatives this Holiday season but maybe also do something they like to make them happy and make them understand that you love them and see them as something more than the problem you have with their beliefs. Social Justice starts at home but it’s just a house if you don’t stop yelling long enough to hear them say “I’m sorry.” Celebrate what you love about those people while still firmly (but kindly) letting them know where you (and the modern World) stand.
This time of year only becomes the Holidays when that dumbed-down, cheered-up story you tell your family about your life is not the only thing you share. You have to drink the Koolaid, believe the hype, get stoked, throw down, and just do the damn thing. Or at least gentle readers, I’m going to.