I was at Starbucks the other day, studying with a friend for that final round of exams coming up before the long-needed winter break (thank God it’s here!). We were typing away to the sounds of Christmas classics, the oh-so-soothing background noise of near and distant laughs, and the hum of banter that always takes place in a coffee shop environment. It’s all so romanticized, but you can’t deny the nostalgia and joy you get when you realize you’ve become the person you used to see in the holiday movies that you always aspired to be as a kid: a student sipping coffee through a storm of shopping and holiday chaos in such a clichéd environment as a coffee shop (what can I say, it looked cool as a kid!).
So here I am: As I type – clicking and clacking away at a note I will one day drag into my trash folder – I pay attention to each song that comes on. The delights of being able to recognize a tune that most anyone would know after being spoon-fed the same music each holiday season in malls, department stores, and coffeeshops. An old white guy’s rendition of Jingle Bells, Destiny’s Child’s rendition of Rudolph, and so on. Just as I settle into it all, “Carol of the Bells” begins to play. As I’m listening in, I think back to the time my high school choir had us practicing and performing this tune for the yearly assembly. Now I’m smiling. I listen closer and recognize one specific tune from the tenor part that always struck me odd, simply by how flat and interesting the line is: “Oh, how happy are their tones.”
And now I’m laughing, having been brought back to such an innocent and unique time in my life. The camaraderie of choir kids rejoicing in the holidays. The childlike ignorance of high school for I had no idea what was to come in university.
When I was in my first year of high school, everything was so foreign to me that I feared throwing myself into new situations. If I hadn’t decided to take that step and join the choir in second year, I never would have known how beautiful it was to indulge and immerse myself in that sense of community. I would not have been able to enjoy the beauty of a laugh in the moment, looking back at such a bizarre line in a song I – we, as a choir – performed years ago. You never truly know how this exact moment will affect you in the future.
Always immerse yourself into the world around you. Don’t let yourself get caught up in the work, home, sleep, repeat routine. Do things you never thought you would do because you never know whether you’ll look back to it in five, ten, or fifty years and that one memory will push you to create even better things for yourself.
If you keep doing, keep trying new things, keep acting and indulging in things foreign or delightful, one day you will look back to who you were today, and a great smile will leap across your face. Not necessarily in joy that you are, or were, perfect in every way, because that’s too much to ask of any of us. But the beauty is, beyond all imperfection and all that is wrong with you today, your future self will be reminded of that romantic view of yourself, the side of you that chose to leap and bound beyond the obstacles, the part of you that gave in and did something completely spontaneous, and you’ll smile in recognition of a fearless you. Someone who was and forever will be able to say, “I did that. I leapt pass the boundary. I tried something new. I became the person I am today because of my past. I am strong.”
It’s the holiday season that brings out some of our saddest times. Despite all of the excess and materialism in this modern world, there is some beauty to the reflection that this allows. Due to the extravagant focus on money and gifting within the holiday season these past years, many of us long for family, or love, or one of the infinite things we are always wishing for even more than before. No matter where we may be in our life, at the peak of success or the depths of rock-bottom, we’ve all felt that winter sadness before.
What is great about it is that, combined with the need to reinvent for the new year, this time of year creates the need to reflect and change. To grow and improve for the next season. The reinvention of Spring. This reflection allows us to begin looking at our year, at our views on money and success, what and who we consider family, and how all of this impacts us at such a supposedly joyful time of year.
This is the time to begin immersion. Think of something you never thought you’d do and get it done this year. You never know when you’ll think back and be glad you made that leap and took that risk. So leave inaction in 2015 and start soaking up life. Grab it by the horns and you’ll get more fulfillment in creating goals to dive deeper into the life you want. To invent a new way of living. To take chances, make a plan, and get a little messy. Dive right in and immerse yourself.