Merry Christmas Eve!
This day has always been so special for me, so I’ve recorded an audio post for you — if you’re into that sort of thing — over on the Patreon. But, I made it available for everyone today, not just for members. So, head over there and give it a listen.
Or, if you would rather read it, the transcription is below.
Cheers to you all ❤
There is a scene in “Home Alone” when Kevin’s mom — Kate McAllister — has had enough of the universe’s shit that she blows up at the American Airlines counter in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
“This is Christmas, the season of perpetual hope. And I don’t care if I have to get out on your runway and hitchhike. If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.”
I’ve always loved this scene — I love this entire movie — but this scene in particular resonates with me especially this year. In fact, I love it so much, I even bought a print of it from Lindsey Letters, and it’s hanging in my bedroom.
I know no one wants to relive this year, but this needs a little bit of context.
I kicked off lockdown in March by postponing a trip to Iceland. Then, a few weeks later, I lost my biggest client and my healthcare coverage. I lost money I spent on non-refundable flights, didn’t get to go to adult summer camp, didn’t get to see any concerts, and — after traveling the world in 2019 — I didn’t see beyond the miles of Austin, Texas.
Like so many, I spent my birthday and every holiday alone. I’ll spend Christmas alone, too, opening gifts via Zoom.
But, I tried so hard to make this year “work.” I wanted to look back on it and not see darkness. So, I attempted to put an inflatable pool on my patio (it popped and I had to lug 80 gallons of water into my bathtub drain). I went to a drive-in movie and discovered my Jeep’s FM radio doesn’t work. I went to a drive-in concert and got bitched at by the people behind me because they couldn’t see over my vehicle. I volunteered to help at the polls but never got called to actually do it. I made BINGO cards for the presidential debates, and well, that was traumatic.
All year, I really worked hard to be kind and understanding and hopeful of this situation we’ve found ourselves in.
But we had so much working against us this year. And then someone broke into my car and stole literally everything in it — Grinch-style — down to the trash. And frankly, I’ve really felt like blowing up Kate McAllister style, at just about everyone I see.
But as it is Christmas Eve, and the holiday is upon us, I’m reminded of a song lyric that touched me so much last Christmas season:
The thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices.
At the end of 2019, I felt like the world was heavy with politics, and I just loved this line, that if we just hang on hope, we can very much rejoice. If you keep singing the song, it continues with: For yonder breaks, a new and glorious morn.
Essentially, that a new day is a new beginning. Isn’t that something?
The funny thing is, that lyric was pointed out to me also by seeing it on a print at Lindsey Letters. But this year, she put it on a green sweatshirt and I snatched it right up. I wanted to be able to wear a reminder of the power that hope brings.
Today, I’m thinking a lot about hope.
It’s been a year without much of it, and even though there are glimpses of it on the horizon, it doesn’t make the days easier.
As I’ve experienced, sometimes you have to muster up the hope for yourself.
A few days ago, I caught myself thinking about the holiday season in 2014. I was living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I’d just been fired from my salaried job. I didn’t qualify for unemployment. I didn’t have any healthcare. And I had some expensive bills to pay.
So, I was working three retail jobs and freelancing on the side to try and make ends meet. One of the jobs I had was at a home decor shop that was actually directly underneath my apartment.
They sold lamps and wall hangings and wreaths — Christmas trees and seasonal decor around the holidays — and candles, among other things.
It was never very busy, but the owners always wanted the associates to hound customers and get them to buy the overpriced items. I hated doing it, so I spent most of my time just straightening items and smelling all of the candles.
This place was easily one of the worst jobs I’ve ever had. The owners were rude. They had cameras all around the shop and if they thought we were standing behind the counter too long, they would make the cash register drawer pop-out to tell us they were watching.
I remember one time, one of the owners was supposed to relieve me of my shift, but she showed up 30 minutes late, putting me late for my other job. I was so angry, but I said nothing, and clocked out right when she walked in the door.
Sometimes, she would make passive-aggressive comments to me when I came in for the lunch shift. “Oh did you sleep in this morning?” She would ask me.
“No,” I would say. I knew she didn’t care that I was on my hustle. I was always up before the sun writing on the blog or scheduling interviews for freelance jobs.
The shifts weren’t so bad when I worked with other associates. Sometimes there were boxes to unpack or items to dust. But most of the time, I felt like I just wandered the store and waited for my shift to end.
I’d gone from working as a full-time editor to someone who rearranged ornaments on a tree. I felt very much like a failure, especially working with so many younger associates. I had to constantly remind myself that there was no shame in honest work. I was doing what I had to do to pay my bills.
I spent that Christmas alone. I worked on Christmas eve and had an early shift at the clothing store down the road on December 26. I didn’t want to spend any money on traveling or chance missing an opportunity to make money. I did freelance work on Christmas day and I cooked salmon and noodles for my holiday dinner.
I do remember feeling sad. But I also remember knowing that this wasn’t going to be how my story continued. Of course, now, I do not work retail — bless everyone who does — it’s not for me. But I had that grind for eight months after that Christmas in 2014.
I remember when the holiday season ended, we had to pack up all of the huge trees at the decor shop and I was so over it, I would just stuff as much of the branches in the box as possible, and then throw myself on top of it. I didn’t care who was watching on the cameras.
I eventually quit that job because one of my paychecks bounced.
But, by Christmas 2015, I’d moved to Austin and had a full-time job. I had a salary and benefits and healthcare. And I didn’t spend Christmas alone. But, funny enough, I actually got my December Birchbox that year, and it had a small candle inside it — one of the exact candles sold in that decor shop. Smelling it instantly brought me back and I realized how far we can come in a year.
I feel the same way this year. Last Christmas, I spent time in San Francisco, dressed up at a karaoke bar with my coworkers. This year… I’ll be at home in my pajamas — the same place I’ve been for the last nine months.
So, I get it. It’s been a shit year. And for some of you listening, I know you’ve had it rough. And I know it’s been tough see some people acting normal, to see people not caring, to see people being selfish.
This is the time when we have to look within ourselves for that grain of hope.
In college, I was going through an awful breakup and I was certain things would never get better, and my best friend said to me, “They will because they have to.”
And that’s where I am on this Christmas Eve.
Things will get better because they have to. We rejoice that tomorrow is a new and glorious morning. It’s a new day. A new opportunity to live, even if it’s not the way we thought it would be.
My hope, this Christmas, is for peace. For so many of us who have lost so much this year, I hope this Christmas is a day of pure joy, even if so tiny.
So, here’s to hope.
And I truly hope that you have a very Merry Christmas, however you’re spending it.