The holiday season makes my soul crackle with warmth and light. I walk around rapt by the magic of icicle lights and pine garlands snaking around city lampposts. I dream of parties with balsam fir-scented candles burning, crystal bowls filled with eggnog. I’m wearing a dark velvet dress with black stockings and red lipstick, embracing a friend with one arm, holding a glass of champagne with the other. I feel warmth. I feel at peace with my sense of self and truly believe in joy as carols quiver in the wintry air of the east coast in December.
Even if all this vision comes true for me this holiday season (that I magically fit into that velvet dress and that the red lipstick does not make my skin look sickly pale, but “Russian novel protagonist alabaster”) my body and spirit will be heavy — and not just with the weight of Thanksgiving indulgence or gluten-free fruitcake. World, you have taken some serious hits this year. There are not enough gifts I can give, letters I can write, or kisses I can blow to make those hits better for you, for myself, or for those around me. I’ve shed my tears for the violence in the Middle East and Europe, for the rising toll of BLM and police deaths. I’ve mourned the collective heartbreak of liberal, Muslim, LGBTQ, and ovaried America with the election of the notorious DJT, whose fledgling administration gives me pause, as just a year ago, I was in Yad Vashem, staring at the shoes of Jews who were gassed and incinerated during the Holocaust, thinking, “The world would never let this happen again, right?”
For all the horror, fear, and pain, I must remember that this was not a lost year:
I delivered my “grad school baby.” My cousins delivered real babies.
I recommitted to Boston for at least two more years (or until something worth breaking my lease for comes along).
I watched Bruce Springsteen in concert and met him in the flesh eight months later— the stuff of adolescent dreams, fulfilled.
I led events where student peers and faculty opened their hearts onstage, sharing stories about themselves at their most vulnerable in front of the rest of the community. I still have no idea how I did this in the context of a MBA program, which is all poise and pretense and polish.
I discovered Austin, Texas, and survived SXSW. I rediscovered Miami’s Coconut Grove.
I served as [wo]Man of Honor at a close friend’s wedding in Middle of Nowhere, Missouri. I was asked to serve as Maid of Honor at a close friend’s wedding in Beautiful Somewhere, San Francisco.
With the help of the latter friend, I discovered (and then revered) the music of ‘Hamilton.’
I learned what a sideboard was and what an endpoint was and what a Product Manager wasn’t.
I nurtured new relationships and cemented the older ones. I almost healed the one with my father. I partly healed the one with my body, as I finally wriggled back into the most-cherished item in my closet.
I lost some of my identity. I found some of my voice.
There are countless reasons for me and for others to cry about the broken state of you, to wring our hands in despair or bury our faces in them. But as the year ends and the snow begins to fall, I thank you, World, for reminding me that I still have reasons to smile through the holidays this year, to remain enlivened by the spirit of connection, compassion, kindness, and cookies.
Dum spiro, spero. While I breathe, I hope.
And I hope, World, for all the people who would wish you dead or have you end, that you smile and spin on.
Inspired in part by the “The How Life Unfolds: Letters of Peace” campaign