It's so easy to become bogged down in the end of the year. There is the cramp of finishing work before leaving for a break; there is the stress of making sure you have everyone you can think of on your list. Your calendar is swamped with parties, meetings, dinners, and shopping.
That's a lot of negative, right? But who would I be without thinking about the positive? Well, for starters, I began my Christmas present in November so I am not currently on a deadline crunch to find the perfect gifts. But it's more than that for me as well. I have been in a school system for 16 years. That's 8/11th of my life (I am currently working on fractions with some students) or about 73% (if you're a percent fan). This is my first year of not being a student; I'm still in the school system, but on the other side, as a teacher. This is my first year in the adult world, adulting, and that has given me a blessing I wasn't expecting: observations of joy.
So often I used to get caught up in myself, in my progress in school, in my GPA, and not what all of those things were leading me towards. Now that I am working 10 hours a day with students who have not taken their education for granted, I am looking back at my life with fresh eyes. I was blessed; and by blessed I mean that I didn't see education as an option. All school—including college—was a must. I feel so exposed when I mention my college experience to a 60-year-old woman who is at a third grade level. That vulnerability doesn't come from her end at all—she wants to learn more about me—but it comes from me because I never want my education to be seen as a barrier between us. Rather, I want her and my other students to see it as a goal and an aspiration; it might not be a four year college, it may be a trade school, but education will not fail them; so many other things in life have but this will not. I won't let it.
So, back to joy. Because to me that is what this season is about: anticipation and joy. There is this raw energy in joy that is nearly impossible to describe; instead, I hope you can remember moments where you felt joy and remember that raw energy yourself. For me, joy sneaks up and presents itself in the simplest moments; and that is why it's raw. It's a Kodak moment that can't be captured or planned. Examples of this can be seeing someone in the airport after they come home...finally. It can be getting that call saying you got the job you have dreamed about and strived for. Or it can be as simple as sitting on the couch with you dog and listening to a song that moves you to tears.
To me, joy is the times when I am surprised by my students. It's when I dance with one during our Thanksgiving Potluck and make her laugh; it's when one of my students gives me a book and movie to borrow because he thinks I will enjoy them. It is the simple sharing of ourselves that is joy, no strings attached, no camera filters, no rehearsed lines. That is joy.
So even though the holiday season is coming to a close and we all anticipate going back to school and work, remind yourself not of the gifts that flocked underneath your tree or the relatives that overextended their stay. Instead, remind yourself of the raw moments of joy that sat at your table and curled up by your fireside. There are always those amazing moments that you can see if you look for them.
I am asking help for my song from a New Orlinean, Louis Armstrong. “What a Wonderful World” really encompasses the idea of joy in every time and place, even if you aren't looking for it. Happy holidays!