Part of the reason I started this blog was to chat about the twenty-something lifestyle–or at least, figure out what exactly that means. So many magazines/blogs are written for capital-T Teenagers, or maybe just overgrown Teenagers, who care about boys and boys and hair and boys. So many more magazines/blogs are written for capital-A Adults, with 2.5 kids, a golden retriever and a dishwasher.
I am neither of these things. I am a twenty-something woman–whatever that means. I like boys and hair just fine, and family is great, but I’m not really in a position to zoom into any of those niched-out worlds. In my world, I read cracked.com, watch College Humour, and try to understand your favourite webcomics (usually, I even get the obscure jokes…or pretend to). I try to care about the news. I scroll down to the comments after paragraph #1 bores me. I read almost anything put into a list, especially if it makes me laugh. I enjoy the odd Capital-A Adult blog, if it’s candid enough.
But what of this directly relates to me? Not much.
Fact is, I can’t seem to buy into any “chicklet” journalism. I also can’t fully skip into the world of those who seem to have their shit fully together, all tied up with a neat little mortgage and morning routine. I’m not there yet. At all.
And so I’m here, writing about what “getting there” means. I find myself constantly straddling the “I totally know what I’m doing,” and “Dude, I know NOTHING.” Maybe that’s just how life goes, but I’m feeling new at it. I am new at it.
And, like many people who are “getting there,” I’m definitely new at doing Christmas like this.
I’m new at doing Christmas like a lowercase-a adult who’s very much in between traditions. Last year, I hosted our immediate family Christmas at my apartment–which was good, but weird. This year, I came down to my parents’ place for Christmas. My parents live in the suburbs of a medium-sized city. The transit system is awful. The backyard is big. I lived here for eight years, or so they tell me.
This is weird, too. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but it is.
The family is different. We’re older. There used to be people here who aren’t here anymore. Some have passed away, or otherwise walked away, but some just grew up. Capital-T Teenage Shauna isn’t here anymore. Neither is the overzealous-about-family-crafts Mom. All four kids used to live at this house, but now only half of us do. The puppy is has clearly become a fully-grown dog in my absence.
It’s not that there isn’t enough love in the room. It’s just that it looks and feels different, even though the room is the same. Any expectations that I hold onto about good ol’ family Christmas are at risk. I have to get my head around that.
I know that different is okay.
Today, I started feeling kind of odd as I hung new decorations, coordinated with the new furniture, with my newly adult-ish family. I didn’t expect it to feel quite so “new.” I lived here for eight years, right? I know these people. It’s December. We got this.
It wasn’t wrong. The new stuff looks good. It’s alright that we waited so long to decorate, that we were only half there, and that we didn’t go all out. And it’s not a bad thing that we decided to grow up a bit–it has definitely done wonders for our conversation and cocktails. It’s okay that people and traditions change, or even that they sometimes leave altogether.
But it’s also okay if different doesn’t feel perfect right away.
People and traditions stay around so long as they’re good and healthy and make sense. And they leave when they’re done. This is the natural order of things. It’s change. It makes room for other things to come in, it makes you appreciate that which is stays around, it gives you a basis with which to develop your own traditions.
But the process of un-learning and re-learning what to expect (or how to stop expecting) can be unsettling. I felt that today. After hanging those new decorations for a few minutes, I decided to take a breather. The whole scene wasn’t really working for some reason. Commence attitude adjustment in my old bedroom (now dad’s office). I looked out the window, read a couple Psalms, considered a nap.
Suddenly my phone went off. It was a friend of mine from Ottawa:
Move safely and be lovely ❤
What? That was perfectly timed, and completely unexpected.
I responded: Haha what a random message! But thank you.
She texted back: I was just thinking of you. Moving off to washington. I look forward to creeping photo albums.
This friend is not a person I knew back when I lived here. I am not even a person I knew back when I lived here.
Would I trade my new life for some old decorations? Not a chance. That doesn’t mean I have to be completely comfortable with this updated version of Christmas. Not right away, at least. I just have to accept that it is the product of a lot of moving forward, and that moving forward is good. This friend, and all my Ottawa friends, are great. My upcoming opportunity in Washington is fantastic.
I went downstairs. I sat on a new chair, in front of a new computer, and pulled up a YouTube video I had just discovered. My brothers, now old enough to face profanity, laughed through it with me. I suggested that after decorating (whatever that means this year) all six of us gather in the living room and watch the Christmas episodes of Community. Unanimous agreement. And so, armed with gluten free snacks for our growing number of celiac family members, we sat in front of the television. Netflix streamed to us the meaning of Christmas according to NBC:
Maybe this Christmas is different. Maybe it’s going to be a little different each year. I’m not going to like all the changes that happen in life. I might even sob in the face of some of them. But tonight proved that–with a little flexibility, a little creativity, and a lot of love–I can laugh in the face of some of them, too.
Move safely. Be lovely. Let different be.
9 thoughts on “Hey Christmas, Did you lose weight? You look different this year.”
Well said, darling girl. I think that, overall, one of the keys to happiness in life (whatever that is exactly) is to avoid putting expectations on things and that can be really difficult when it comes to something like Christmas which is ALL about expectation (OMG something amazing is going to happen guys! It’s going to be the BEST DAY EVER.). But we have to remember that while we’ve grown up, Christmas has stayed the same size. We have to give it room to just be what it is.
This Christmas will be the first I will celebrate in my old childhood home since my father died. This was the first time in three years that I decorated a Christmas tree in our living room, and it will be first Christmas that we will have turkey dinner in our dining room, with an empty chairs at the table in honour of absent friends, those who are travelling in this world or the next.
Nothing can ever be as it was. It can never be so simple. But we can celebrate all that we have, while raising a glass to what we’ve lost. It is not about sorrow, and it’s not about joy, in the end it’s all about love.
Oh, Caitlin! 🙂 This post was definitely inspired by conversations with you (and Kate) leading up to this Christmas. I know that a lot of people are having to wiggle around a little to fit into Christmas this year–it can be like trying to fit into an old pair of pants sometimes.
I guess we have to realize that love doesn’t need to fit into old pants. It doesn’t need to fit into a few days in December. It can be nostalgic and messy and look different every year–and yeah, empty chairs and lost traditions are allowed to suck. But the fact that we notice the empty chairs and lost traditions means that there was a lot of meaning there. And that there’s going to be a lot of meaning to come. How beautiful is that?
(No, I don’t know why I brought pants into this.)
Your family is in my thoughts, as always. MERRY CHRISTMAS, my dear.
I imagine it must be hard coming back home once or twice a year and seeing the world you used to live within, different. Objects, personalities and traditions that provide the basis of your childhood disappear or change. If you stayed home, these changes would happen gradually giving you time for acceptance. You would have some influence on the direction.
When you return home, it should feel like home. Everyone always says that home is not the things, but where your family is. But lets be honest, having some of those little things are nice too. My mom makes me shepard’s pie when I go home once or twice a year. That’s not about love or where my family is. Its about the shepard’s pie. And my mom does not realize how important this is to me. She just knows I want that shepard’s pie when i come by. Oh, one thing: she is always tweaking the recipe. So while the tradition holds, its still a bit different
While your Mom and I have every intention of growing, adapting, and experiencing new things, we will always be sensitive to those little things that made your world special. So, when coming back once or twice a year you experience an overwhelming sense of disorientation and loss, just mention a little thing or two that would make it feel more “homey”. Like “can we put up a few of the special Christmas ornaments – its important to me.”
You know us, we roll with it.
p.s. Your mom still likes to craft. But, she likes to craft with you. Ask her, you’ll see.
This is the sweetest thing ever. Thank you!
Tradition for tradition’s sake alone is never a good thing. Every year can bring it’s own way to celebrate…or not…and everything doesn’t have to be jammed into one day. That is something my partner of 20 years and I still struggle with, as to not hurt our families feelings. We wait til Epiphany, “Little Christmas” and have a quiet time to ourselves (or rush around for 12 days longer!) It sounds to me like you are heading towards an excellent balance of big A little a adult. You are wise enough to know things take time and to enjoy the journey.
On another note, I’ve never watched “Community” but I’ll watch just about any sitcom that has a holiday episode because they are usually so hokey.I’ll have to check it out.
Happy,Blessed Holidays to you and Yours.
Thank you Donna! Waiting for Epiphany is a great idea. And I highly recommend Community…Chevy Chase is one of the main characters in the first 3 seasons, and my parents got a huge kick out of seeing him back in action.
I have never related to a blog post as much as I can this one. While I don’t go to my childhood home because we moved after I left home, it still is not anything like being a kid or a Teenager.
Thanks Katie–I think fitting into things like Christmas is a really big (often unspoken) challenge we all have to face as we get older! It’s great to be able to share experiences like this 🙂