An edited version of this post can be seen on the Elephant Journal website.
Times They Are A Changing
Since when did we fall into some purgatory realm of the holidays where we are neither the center of attention, nor do we have access to all the things that used to make this time of year so special?
Being in your 30’s (and being single in particular) at this time of year can make for hellacious confrontation with just how much our lives have changed now: good, bad, or indifferent.
Where Did Everyone Go?
Probably the most obvious difference for most during this time of year is the absence of people who provided a role in making those early holidays so nostalgic. Or, the absence of a loved one you shared your own personal holidays with in recent years. This realization is the hardest to cope with during this time. It is the elephant in the room. The ghostly visions of people from another place and time. You forget about a lot of these things throughout the rest of the year because of all the distractions in your life, but they’re always right there waiting for you to relive during the holidays. You remember the smell of grandma’s french toast, the excitement of a parent watching you unwrap gifts, or maybe that ornament you used to have that signified you were once not alone. They all haunt you, and you struggle to be as excited as you once were. You wonder if things will ever be the same; knowing they won’t. The only thing you can possibly reconcile to make it better is that our parents and grandparents too must have had people in their lives that made their holidays special before we came along, so maybe this is just a transition period to better holidays down the road. You sure as fuck hope it ain’t permanent. Hopefully, the time has just come to fill roles ourselves, and start new traditions and memories of our own.
It’s All Fake
No longer being the little kids who were once the focal point of everything this time of year, a lot of the holiday spirit can seem artificial now. No one has to pretend to be Santa, the presents don’t magically appear the day of, logistically being able to decorate as a family is nearly impossible, your mom doesn’t even take the time to take the pie out of the store box anymore, and gift cards seem to be the least (and most common) thing anyone is willing to get you. Sadly, we’ve fallen into the ‘you’ve seen this all before’ age where no one really puts forth an effort to make things special. But, the thing is, at age 30 that’s all we really want. What we want more than anything is a chance to go back and relive some of our childhood, and have things be pretend and carefree and magical again. To go back to a time when people planned for a whole year for an event worth video taping on a VCR camcorder. To just laugh, and play, and eat, and hear ridiculous imaginary stories while sipping our hot chocolate; minus worrying about how many empty calories are in marshmallows. We’re tired of spending the other 300 and some odd days adulting. We don’t want to adult anymore. Give us back Santa!
I Hate Buying Presents
It used to be your parents got their own stuff, and then you made stuff for them in school, and then chocolates and some cheap earrings made a nice gift for your teenage girlfriend, and then? Well, now you’re fucking out of original ideas even with the help of Pinterest and Etsy. Also, how much you spent before on gifts didn’t really matter because you weren’t analyzing the cost of everything in your life. Whereas now you have a gift budget that coincides with each person’s likely disposable income so that you don’t create a negative gift giving ratio, orrrr, spend all your mortgage/rent money on someone else. The personal struggle over what to give or how much to spend is almost as bad as the Budget debates on Capital Hill. And God help you if you have someone who is incredibly thoughtful or artistically talented in your family. You’re pretty much always gonna look like shit then.
It’s just absolutely terrible trying to buy gifts for people you’ve being doing so for the last 20 odd years; especially, since apparently now that you’re on your own more is expected from you for some reason. Not to mention, if you’re dating someone there’s a whole different set of expectations this time of year. I feel bad for you if you’re that guy, because you are probably doing everything in your power not to have anything remotely close to a small box lying around. Knowing you’re probably already letting her and everyone else down enough by not having one, but have no need to dig a deeper hole for yourself.
Man, do we envy the families that have decided to no longer give gifts and just spend time together instead or do something charitable. Too bad someone would always screw that up in yours, and get you ‘just a little something’ to make you really feel like a selfish bastard. Yay holidays.
However, Socks Are An AWESOME Gift!!!
Remember when grandma used to always throw in a random pair of socks as a gift, and you were always like wtf granny? Not anymore. Socks at one point did seem pretty stupid and thoughtless in comparison to the GI-Joe’s and Easy Bake Ovens of the world. After all, we had people – our parents – who bought socks for us all the time, and really had no use for anything other than your basic white calf sock. Now? Well, who has the time to buy socks these days? Not to mention all the different kinds you need for a million different occasions. There’s the workout sock, the business casual sock, the fancy, I wear this shit once a year sock, the sporting event sock, and then the winter and summer version of all of the above and many others as well. And, some of those damn things cost like $20 a pair. So, pretty much because we don’t take the time to buy new ones or because we don’t want to spend the money on them, your sock collections probably start looking like mine. Each sock tries to be an all-in-one; making each one useless in the process. You just hope no one notices you’re wearing toe socks at work. Therefore, I hereby declare socks acceptable gifts hence forth!
Wait, I Thought This Was My Time Off From Life?
You can’t help it, but sometimes all you think about is that this is one of your only days off a year, and you’re spending it driving all around the country spending money on stuff that you’re not even sure if anyone will like or need. You need to be doing a million different things around the house, but instead you volunteered to help wash someone else’s dishes because no one seems to use anything that’s dishwasher safe this time of year. And you can’t just relax and ‘stay for a while’, because your dog’s daycare only has an hour long window to come pick them up in and you don’t want to pay for an extra day. You want to relax. You planned to relax, but you forgot how much of a fucking nightmare christmas shopping and holiday traffic are. I mean it’d be great if you could just eat and get drunk and watch sports or play cards with the family all day, but someone’s baby is always sleeping and there’s no Uber in the god awful suburbs your family moved to. The holidays have become less vacation and more ‘how long can I make it’, and you hate yourself for not being able to enjoy it all.
Be The Change
I kinda alluded to this before, but despite all these complaints we have now about how the holidays aren’t what they used to be: we have the power now to make them what we want to be. Despite everyone being scattered across the country we can now choose to be there for someone else, as others used to do so for us. We can create new traditions that serve a greater purpose than the old ones, and that possibly bring cheer to those less fortunate than ourselves. We can communicate to others what we want, and maybe find out that that is what they want as well. Creating less stress in everyone’s lives. We can choose to create the magic ourselves instead of waiting, or wishing, someone else would do it. We can do anything we want to do except to expect others to want that for us. It may not be easy reliving the past or dealing with how things have changed, but we are given a gift everyday; it will always be the present.
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