It starts in mid-November.
Look at the calendar, count the days. Work. Bake. Buy a turkey. Eat said turkey. Look at the calendar, count the days. Work. Bake. Shop for presents. Wrap presents. Give presents. Drink ‘nog. Argue with family. Look at the calendar, count the days. Work. Get drunk. Yell “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Celebrate National Hangover Day.
And then BAM, it’s over. You’ve spent nearly two months of your life planning for or participating in the holidays, and then the boring daily grind returns with full force just days after the new year begins. And although this comes at no surprise, you can’t help but become completely overwhelmed by a routine that was so easy only weeks ago, before the snow fell, when leaves still littered the ground.
For some bizarre reason, it’s almost as if life completely stops once Thanksgiving peeks its head around the corner. We become so enraveled in “the holiday spirit” that everything else gets put on hold until we miraculously emerge on the other side of December, wondering how we’ll pay the Christmas bills and staring at the calendar in the hopes of some random holiday magically appearing that includes paid time-off from work. (Which reminds me, is it Memorial Day yet?!)
Blogging? I stopped doing that regularly once the holidays approached. The gym? Ha, I haven’t been there since October (that one was partially do to lingering swine flu effects, and then Thanksgiving swiftly arrived). An eye-doctor or hair appointment? Well, I simply couldn’t afford that and presents for the family.
We spend practically two months in a holiday-induced daze, foregoing everything from much-needed doctor visits to frugal shopping trips. Yet we’re expected to swiftly and smoothly transition back into the work and social atmosphere as if we didn’t leave so much of ourselves and our lives behind. There’s no time for a gradual shift back to the mundane routine. All at once we take down the Christmas tree, pack up the ornaments, toss the leftover cookies and trudge back into life full force, attempting to make up for lost time in the process. I, for one, think this should occur little by little, allowing us some time to breathe and recover before plunging into reality head first.
No more “extra” vacation time to use if working a Friday doesn’t sound appealing. No more putting off that hour of cardio because I “absolutely have to buy this gift as soon as possible.” No more habitual grazing on cinnamon rolls and hot chocolate, using the “but it’s the holidays” excuse to justify my sweet tooth.
The real world is back … and it’s here for at least the next 10 months. And although I’m clearly going through wee withdrawals – despite recognizing how ridiculous it is to put life on hold – it’ll be nice to finally buy a new pair of contacts and fit into my pre-November jeans.
“I’m here to do a job,” I say to myself as I walk into the Mooresville Christian Mission, carrying my fancy $250 digital camera with my two-month-old $175 North Face jacket half-zipped up. Sure, I might be wearing a pair of shoes that have been falling apart for nearly a year and I’m clearly in desperate need of a touch-up to my highlighted hair, but my personal version of “poor” in no way compares to what I see before me.
Here are people – perhaps down on their luck this holiday season or maybe just unable to truly make a moderate living – spending what little they do have on worn clothing, discarded household items and used toys in the hopes of making a better Christmas for their families. Some are even inquiring about free food they can obtain. They actually struggle. They truly need. They face hardships I can’t even imagine.
And there I am, not exactly “rich,” but evidently different.
People like myself – the middle class 20somethings, if you will – often feel as though we’re tackling the same battles that those individuals I encountered earlier today deal with on a daily basis. We cry “I’m poor,” we complain about our inability to purchase a new cell phone or iPod, yet we have no real idea what it means to seriously contemplate foregoing gift-giving because the heat bill can’t be paid. We’re the people who have bad days when it comes to cash flow, maybe even bad weeks or months on occasion. These people are the ones who confront bad years or even lifetimes. Their struggles are different than our own, no matter how much we sometimes feel they’re similar.
Yet they, and even we, are the ones most willing to give, most eager to volunteer our time or put up what little we may have in the hopes of brightening someone’s holiday.
It’s the student teacher who decides he’ll assist at the soup kitchen and buy holiday gifts for a six-year-old girl he doesn’t know. It’s the college student who donates $1 to various organizations every time she’s asked. It’s the news reporter who works a second job yet “adopts” a 10-year-old boy for Christmas who only requests Star Wars figurines from Santa. It’s those of us who maybe live paycheck to paycheck, with little “extra” money each week, eating Ramen noodles far too regularly, who would give anything to ensure no child wakes up Dec. 25 with nothing under his tree.
We’re the ones who make sure a mom can get her sons haircuts or who ensure family-less senior citizens are still remembered during the holidays or who help dish out food to those who may have no home, let alone a place to cook a Thanksgiving turkey.
And hopefully you’re one of that “we.” You would step up if need be, if you saw poverty prevailing and Christmas slipping toward non-existant for someone in your town. If you came across a man who couldn’t buy his children the red wagon they wanted from Kris Kringle because the mortgage was due. If you heard a family would have nothing if not for the donations given to the local Goodwill.
It’s this Christmas feeling of giving, of hope, of love that we need to carry all year. It’s easy to remember those less fortunate when the holidays approach, but what about in May when you’re planning a beach vacation yet a young boy down the street won’t get to celebrate his birthday?
I, for one, must become more diligent in this and – I apologize for saying this already – I’m sure you have to, also. It’s so simple to go about our lives 11 months of the year and then when charities come begging because the countdown to Christmas has begun, we feel the need to do our part. Us 20somethings will soon become the 30somethings, then the 40somethings, and so on. Imagine how much good we can do in our own communities over time if we start the giving back now, while we’re young and barely getting by?
I walked into the Mooresville Christian Mission today just to take a few photos for the newspaper. I departed with more than a desire to give back, but an absolute need to do so. Me, a 24-year-old who sometimes borders broke and penniless for days at a time, wishes she could’ve “adopted” 50 kids this Christmas, but whose wallet will only allow her to make a difference in a little boy named Dylan’s life this holiday.
I’m doing my part – and I promise here and now to keep to it throughout the year – and I hope you are, too.
I used to think I had a New Year’s Eve curse. I mean, when you spend several Dec. 31sts in a God-awful miserable mood – because you ended up with a stomach virus (1998), or because your boyfriend-at-the-time forced you to attend a party you didn’t want to go to (2002), or because you got a speeding ticket that day (2005), or hell, because your “best” friend “forgot” to pick you up and thus you were stuck home alone on NYE (2006) – you can’t help but begin to wonder if the New Year’s baby is pissing in your Fruit Loops just before bidding adieu to the previous 365 days.
And while I doubt that particular curse has broken, I’m starting to question my luck on Thanksgiving because, despite my best efforts to avoid tails-up pennies and black cats, I’ve had a fairly lousy-ish Turkey Day for a few years now… As you’ll see, one of the three was somewhat my own fault, but the other two were clearly out of my control. Anyway, onto my not-so-great tales.
– Thanksgiving 2006: The genius that I am decided one week before the singular holiday ALL ABOUT EATING to get her tongue pierced. Yep, I did it the Thursday before Thanksgiving and one week later – in spite of all the ice and soft foods I consumed for six days – my tongue was still swollen, making it quite difficult to consume anything but mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce. I somehow managed, but man, it was hell!
– Thanksgiving 2007: This is where the shit hitteth the fan. My entire family (mom, stepdad, brother, grandparents, aunt, uncle, two kids) planned to come to MoTown to visit for Turkey Day. They had rented a house out on the lake, I purchased a 13-pound turkey for the feast and other non-transportable foods, and I had an entire five days off from both of my jobs. And then, on the Tuesday beforehand, my step-father was electrocuted. He works in the sign business and was fixing a sign in Pennsylvania. The business had their switches mislabeled so a wire he thought the power was off to was actually active and when he cut into it, he was shocked throughout his body. Another guy leaped at him and knocked him off the wire, but my stepdad’s hip broke in two places, rendering it impossible for him and the rest of my family to visit. Not only was it tough spending my first holiday without any of my family, but I was also constantly worrying about my stepdad’s condition – he needed surgery where they had to rebuild his hip (did I mention he was only 42 years old at the time?) and was in the hopsital a few weeks with a lot of rehabilitation after. For several days, it was unclear if he’d really be okay and able to walk again, and my mother kept begging me not to drive the nine hours home (which I didn’t until two weeks later) to sit with them at the hospital. It was a crappy, crappy holiday…
– Thanksgiving 2008: After working 32 hours Monday through Wednesday to have Black Friday free from the newspaper (still had to work my restaurant job in the evening hours), I had a pretty sore throat for most of Thanksgiving Eve. I assumed it would go away, until I repeatedly woke up in the night wavering between freezing to death and dying of a heat stroke. The fever, cough, runny nose, etc. set in Thanksgiving morning making it yet another not-so-great holiday despite the best efforts of my boyfriend and his family to change the tone.
And here I am, still sick, completely under the assumption that there’s a black cloud looming over my Turkey Day … and damn it, I really enjoy the Thanksgiving foods! I mean, turkey and stuffing and pie, who wouldn’t enjoy that? Why, oh why, must my day be overshadowed each year with something else?
I’m already keeping my fingers crossed that next year’s festivities will bring me nothing but joy. Until then, I’m thinking of changing my favorite holidays to Valentine’s Day and Halloween. While most people mutter about how crappy theirs are, I haven’t had a bad one in … well, as long as I can remember ($10 says I just jinxed myself).
As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been a bit MIA in the last week – including reading blogs – and honestly, I’m blaming work. I mean, how dare they actually make me do stuff!!
Moving along… I’ll probably be sans-computer for the next four days, but wanted to give everyone a head’s up that yes, I’m still breathing, yes, I’m still in the blogosphere and yes, your regularly scheduled programming will return … eventually (I’m hoping Monday?).
In the mean time – following my marathon 32-hour/3-day work week – have a great Thanksgiving everyone and catch ya’ll (oooo, the southern life emerges!) soon. HAPPY TURKEY DAY!