I wouldn’t call myself a Scrooge, but I am certainly not known for being the most festive person in my friend group or family. I’ve always liked decorating the tree, wrapping gifts, and eating special cookies around this time of year. I have not been, however, the person who decorates that tree as soon as possible, or who goes mad on Black Friday, or who even has a particular knack for baking good cookies. Many years, I regret to say it, the holiday spirit felt like another chore to check off. Instead of feeling like a break or a celebration, some tasks felt like obligations that got performed almost robotically and hurriedly so I could get back to finals at Purdue, or start the job search and refocus on my next steps. It being the end of the year always gave my holiday season a sense of urgency that I couldn’t push from my mind for very long before feeling like my December was putting my January at risk of failure.
This year has been different. My family got our tree early and it wasn’t a hassle to find the time to do so. I discovered a treasure trove of ribbons in the attic and have already expertly wrapped several carefully chosen gifts. Best of all possibly, I am already dog-earring recipes from my grandma’s old books to begin practicing with. I can tell I am not the only one with an invigorated sense of the season; my neighbors had their lights up and brighter than ever by mid November. My mind is split in a million more directions than it ever has been, but somehow that seems to have been the push that got me to slow down this year. What helped the most was probably letting go of the idea of expectations. There is no pressure to do things perfectly this year, considering so much is outside of my control. It will be a holiday season unlike any other but while much of that is due to outside circumstances, we still have control over at least some of how we make this season special. My family has agreed to make this the year of simple pleasures; we will grow in our gratefulness for that which we so often overlook. We cook together more often. We share more stories and take the time to listen well. We pay attention to the details around us.
It is easy to dwell on all that we will miss this year - I won’t even begin to list them. That feeling of loss is entirely valid, but I cannot allow it to overwhelm my gratitude for this new perspective opportunity. Instead of commiserating each night about what we would have been doing, I want to celebrate what we have discovered this year that we were too busy to notice in years past. Being forced to slow down has truly humbled me this season. While my long term goals are worthy of my time, I must also remember to take a step back and appreciate what is right in front of me.
A Positive Approach to Teen Health (P.A.T.H) is a 501(c)3 organization that reaches seven counties throughout Northwest Indiana. Since 1993, A Positive Approach to Teen Health has been working to empower teens to make healthy choices regarding drugs, sex, alcohol, and violence.