I’m 23 and I’m writing this note in a tent. I’m reading in my sleeping bag while eating 1500 calories of white chocolate. I chose to be here so close to Christmas because I enjoy it. It’s minus 15 out and everything I have except this chocolate and this book is wet and/or frozen and it’s all miserable and I’m content.
I’m 19 and I’m writing this note in a coffee shop. It’s 9pm and it's empty except for me and the bored barista. They’re playing Nat King Cole on the sound system. It’s the only time of year you get to hear Nat King Cole on coffee shop sound systems, if you can wade through all the other stuff they play. I’ve got nothing better to do than sit here and listen and I’m content.
I’m 21 and I’m writing this note on the ferry. It’s 11:30pm on Christmas and I’m heading back to the city so I can be at work at 7am to sell rich people snowboards they’ll never use. It’s raining hard and I’m standing on the deck of the ferry drinking a covert beer and alternately watching the black waves go by as the people inside sit alone and I’m content.
I’ve spent the better part of many Decembers alone. Or at least lonesome. Half a country away from the celebrations I’ve felt I should be at. Or at “home,” near those celebrations, still feeling a little alienated and confused on returning to a hometown I’ve lost touch with. I suspect those feelings aren’t rare. In light of the pandemic and the neoliberal decline of comfort in our daily lives, we’re increasingly overworked and strung-out. But even before that, people sat through Decembers in public places forlorn and humming Blue Christmas, or wandering snowy streets like Holden Caulfield in search of company.
Frankly, it’s all fitting. Anyone who’s sat through an excruciating dinner or awkward gift exchange is aware of the toxicities of the North American holiday season. For all the happy, warm nights, for all the slow, cold walks, for all the intricate cooking rituals, there’s many iterations of department store arguments and sleepless nights of debt and biting winter winds as you walk back through the enormous parking lot to brave the warzone that is the mall once more.
But maybe, if you’re lonely on the holidays, don’t fight it. Wallow in it. I do. Find a place and carve out some piece of calm in what is the most chaotic season of the year. Tis’ the season where everyone from coast to coast is struggling to capture, bottle, encapsulate the world and fleetingly transfer it to each other topped with a bow and taciturn smiles. While that all swirls, know, for maybe just a moment, that the world is yours. On the way home from school late one night, the bus, on which you are customarily squished shoulder to shoulder to window, you can sit in any seat in the dark and listen to your music in peace. Sit in the coffee shop that ordinarily drowns out all individuality with the inflectionless hum of a dozen conversations and instead feel a kinship with the few others there while you read or write or just look around and listen to them softly play Christmas jazz of variable qualities. Walk through the city and stare at the lights and wonder why we don’t decorate our spaces with a sense of sentimentality and fun all year round.
But remember there is no guilt. When we’re lonely for the holidays, it has been hoisted on us. By callous bosses or malevolent workloads or indifferent circumstances. This is why we can revel in the lonesome, find the little joys in solitary time spent. Because there’s nothing much we can do about it. It is not the height of summer when you cannot bear to be sad while the sun shines for sixteen hours a day and some refreshing lake calls your name. It’s December and the nights are long and cold and the music and the lighting always seem melancholy and you can sit alone and feel that everything is mediocre but at least it’s okay. In light of it all though just sit and feel fine and remember that there’s people all over feeling the same, only for now.
Happy Holidays everyone, all the best.