My sisters and I decided to go to Miami one night, sitting in my living room while watching “Property Brothers” and arguing over whose turn it was to get up and get the chips from the kitchen. We had never been on a trip together, alone, and it was the only time that we had the funds to do so. The excuse was Shaina’s birthday, but really, after the ceaseless cold, the thought of sitting on a beach with the sun on our faces was too much to resist.
My accountant works in an office building next to the 23rd Street PATH rail station in Chelsea, on the fifth floor of a shared office space, staffed by a very polite receptionist. There is a TV playing NY1 in the waiting area. His office is a bit too warm, but comfortable, and there is a shelf of family photos watching over our proceedings. While he rifles through my papers, stuffed hastily in a yellow file folder I found at the office, he asks, very politely, if he can turn on the news.
I have only lived alone once, and it was not by choice. When I was a senior in college, my boyfriend broke up with me over the phone from San Diego, saddling me with a lovely studio apartment with an eat-in kitchen, lots of sun, and a rent payment that I couldn’t really afford. I paid my rent using a loan that I am still most likely paying off, and spent a lot of that long winter marooned on my bed eating frozen grapes and watching the Food Network, since I refused to cancel the expensive cable. I lived there for the whole year, alone, but was too sulky to appreciate what I had.
Work is work. We do it because we need to make money, to pay bills, to have a roof over our heads. We do it to imbue our life with a tiny bit of meaning. It’s the thing that makes it so that we can do the stuff we really like, like yoga classes and coffee with friends and fitful bursts of shopping on windy Saturdays. It is energy expended in order for money to be made. The very word sounds trying. The hard consonant is a closed fist. “I can’t meet you for apple cider and donuts,” you say, “because I have to work.” There are sympathetic sighs; a tacit understanding. The discussion is closed.
In high school, school spirit seemed like a nebulous concept; an easy way to rope kids into building floats for homecoming and planning pep rallies after school instead of smoking pot in the hills behind the building. It was clear to me that high school was merely one stop on the chugging train that is the rest of my life, and so to place so much blind faith into an institution felt wrong.
I have been lucky enough to work in jobs where I am given paid time off, but I usually don’t take it. The big chunk of free time hanging over my head makes me nervous, as if I’ll spend it incorrectly, or I won’t have the maximum amount of fun and relaxation that I should for something as exciting and generous as free time off.
When you tell people that you don’t like Christmas, they automatically think you’re a monster. “Everyone likes Christmas!” they say, their eyes wide as they slowly step back. “What could you possibly not like about Christmas! Its the best time of the year!” I am usually prepared with a laundry list of reasons why Christmas—or any holiday, really—isn’t my thing. I find that rattling this off incenses them further. Usually, these conversations happen at various holiday events, all of which I attend not because I care deeply about the season, but because I love a good party. I shrug in an attempt at explanation, and try, very hard, to change the subject.
Christmas is a weird time of year, full of stress and joy and financial worry. Christmas means spending time with family, sure, but it also feels like enforced over-spending, harried shoppers Sephora after work, clutching armfuls of gift sets. A gift is a wonderful thing to give and a wonderful thing to receive, but I think it’s much more special when it’s spontaneous. A gift for a friend, purchased because you saw it in a store and thought they would like it is nice. It showcases a generosity of spirit and a kindness that the holiday season, with its constant sales and flashing lights, lacks. Christmas gifts are purchased often out of habit. It’s December, there are sales, you will have to go home and spend time with your family, and they will have bought you socks and maybe a bathrobe. You will give them something that you think they need, but really probably already have because they are your parents, and ostensibly, can buy whatever it is they need or want for themselves. So, we buy things to give at this pre-ordained time, because it is customary. These things accumulate in corners of empty houses, gathering dust, still in the plastic. These things are eventually thrown out, and room is made for new things.