Keeping Cool for Christmas


I am sitting in my dorm room that overlooks the Boston Common and allowing my self to be blinded by the sunbeam glaring straight at me from the State House’s golden dome.


Boston is a city, but it is not as vertical as most, so you can see uninterrupted sunset for miles.


The trees are now mannequins wearing colorful lights for the holidays. And Frog Pond is now a small ice skating rink where I can see people gliding around, celebrating the season in their own way. 


The world feels calm and wide open for exploring right now. And I feel a comforting stillness in my body—no tension, no nerves, just stillness. 


They say that calm comes before the storm and in the next two weeks, I will finish up the semester with papers, loads of reading, and some fun things like campus events. 


After that ends, I will finish up the calendar year with a similar kind of stress: cramming a suitcase to go home, readjusting to suburbia, and again, fun things like seeing my home friends. 


I want more than anything to feel at peace when I go home, but I am still figuring how to achieve this after my snow globe world got shaken up a few months back. I am learning to redefine words like “home," “family," and more timely, “holiday.” 


Just a few years ago, holidays were a big family affair. I am one of ten cousins and while we did not all get together, I got to see a good amount of them. Every Christmas, my house would fill with cousins and their significant others, aunts and uncles, Nana, and the dogs. There were more desserts than people at the house and I soaked up the whole magical day. 


We always talk about how Christmas is not just a day or even a season, it is a feeling. It’s this whimsical, spiritual pursuit of happiness. We all become selfless and little things like holiday flavored coffee enchant even the earliest of mornings. 


I have not felt that seasonal spirit strongly since my Nana died when I was 17. That was the year that cousins were all grown and big family holidays became smaller, with each immediate family doing their own thing. I’ve been told this is normal, especially for families that are not as geographically close, but it felt devastating to me. 


I have struggled to find the magic in Christmas or any holidays these last few years, but I did find peace with them because it meant going home to my cozy house for a few weeks, holidays became synonymous with much needed hibernation time. I loved sleeping in my big bed at home and lying around on the couch watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians while cuddling my dog—my guilty pleasures. Essentially, I found my seasonal delights in something else.


Here is where things change a bit. I did not know that my last Christmas in my house would be the last Christmas in my house ever. I think I considered it a possibility, but I did not know for sure that the house would sell last Spring and we would move out in the Summer. 


I definitely did not know what family life would look like after that, which brings me to redefining terms like that. 


Everyone in my family unit (Mom, Dad, brother) are doing well despite us not all living together and I am doing well here at school, but the holidays have struck up insecurity in me. I crave routine and comfort, so no matter how many times my parents reassure me that a house is not a home and we are still a family without living under the same roof and without huge celebrations with our extended family, I feel lost when I am at new home.


I don’t have my own space anywhere except school, so going home feels a lot like having freedom taken away. It feels claustrophobic not because of the size of the house I share with my mom and a few extended family members, but rather because nothing in the house reflects me. 


I am learning to be okay with all of this. I am certainly stronger for it. I have never dealt well with change so just me saying “I will make the most of this” is a strong step. But I am also scared that the calm I feel right now is only preceding the storm that will enter me when I go home.


I worry that watching cars swarm below me from the comfort of my dorm building will be replaced with tears while driving by the neighborhood I grew up in on the way to new home. I fear that Christmas morning flopped into the arm chair in my living room will turn to sleeping in and tiptoeing around other people’s celebrations. 


It is only a month that I will be on break from school and forced to confront these fears, but knowing it is a short amount of time does not deter my feelings.


For now, I am hoping that keeping low expectations and recognizing that this is a transitional year for my family will help keep my attitude positive and my mind healthy. 


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