I didn't need business school to learn I'm a guppy for good ol’ American marketing. My mind is awash in visions of silver and gold and pumpkins and pine and velvet from November to February, from “Decorative Gourd Season” to “Chocolate Covered Strawberry Season.” I can't stop my romantic visions of the holidays filled with food and family and connection. Glittering lights and gleaming smiles. Tall glasses of wine and taller candlesticks. The centerpiece of some artfully-roasted animal, glistening with fat and fit to be carved by some attractive older man in a cable-knit sweater.
My holidays never measure up to those depicted in elaborate marketing campaigns, but even if they did, I'm pretty sure I'd still feel confused about the holidays. Whenever people ask me if I'm enjoying the holiday season, I never quite know how to respond. I know the "correct" thing to do is say "yes" and rattle off a few exciting things I've done or name drop people I've seen. I can check those boxes handily (and thanks to a trip to New York City this weekend and to San Francisco next week, I'm lucky to get to double and triple check them). But the holiday season is something of an enigma for me. And this year, I was determined to write it out to figure out why.
Part of my "(holi)dazed and confused" state has something to do with the fact that I spent many a year--like a semi-typical stereotypical Jewish kid from the tri-state area--making the pilgrimage to Florida. Semi-typical because I wasn't visiting grandparents in Boca Raton or Coral Gables; stereotypical because many a Christmas was spent eating Chinese food at Christine Lee's and going to the AMC movie theater at Aventura Mall. At any rate, when you're spending your holiday season on the sand instead of in the snow, things about the holiday season are bound to get a little confused. A little kid with a big imagination, I fantasized about the lyrics of "Walking in a Winter Wonderland" materializing along the Miami seascape when I visited each December. Some people believe there's nothing that exemplifies "winter wonderland" more than sea, sand, booze, and bathing suits, but I'm a sucker for seasons: when winter comes, I prefer snowballs and 'Fireball' to tank tops and tequila. Partly out of aging-related vanity, partly out of fear of skin cancer, I spent most of my times in Miami embalmed in sunscreen and, if on a beach, in a bathing suit but mummified with towels and sitting underneath an umbrella reading a book.
The other reason I find holidays confusing is I can't remember a holiday in which I wasn't doing some sort of work. My senior year of high school, I was writing a long essay on Hamlet. My first year in college, I was camped out in the Barnes and Noble of Loehmann's Fashion Plaza evaluating the influences of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown stories and Edgar Allan Poe's "Purloined Letter" on Jorge Luis Borges' only crime fiction story, "La muerte y la brujula " (I had tough time writing a 20-page paper in Spanish, but it was still more fun than studying for my Physics 103 final.) Last year I was working furiously (in more than one sense of the word) at Violette Bakery to pay for kitchen rent for Zen Cookery, baking and shipping out crowdfunding perk packages, and planning out farmers market logistics for January. This year I've been crafting cover letters in various cafes and doing preparation for internship interviews that I hope to have secured in a month's time.
Another strange thing about the holidays is I somehow find myself feeling very alone, despite this being a season that seems all about togetherness. I waver between being okay and not being okay with this feeling, even though it's a perfectly legitimate one. For one, I know I'm not alone in feeling alone, and this is true in and outside the holiday season. I also know that if given the choice, four times out of five I'd opt for being alone over being suffocated by hordes of people I barely recognize but who call themselves "family" and sitting at an extravagant, Italian-style Christmas dinner with courses and small talk conversations that go on for hours.
At the heart of this confusion is something more subtle: I never treated holidays by the true meaning of the word: holy days. Holidays are holy days. Sacred days. Days of rest. Days of celebration. Days of pause. Days of joy.
Then I got to thinking--what really differentiates these days from any other day on the calendar? A government's approval. A business' decision. A religious occasion. But really, little else. So I thought about what would it mean to take this idea outside of the holiday season, asking myself, "What would it mean to really live each day?"
In the spirit of the New Year, instead of writing out a too-long list of resolutions, I settled on one intention for 2015: to treat every day like it's sacred. Because it is. Bad day or good day. Rain or shine. It's still sacred. It's still a gift. Not everyone gets another day to live. But today I do. Tomorrow I might. And I promise here to not let myself forget it that the day after that and all through next year.
Happy new year!