Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Christmas Story

You guys might not know this, but I consider myself a bit of a loner. I tend to think of myself as a one-man wolf pack. Some of my gifts this year for Christmas included new tires for my car, and new running shoes for my feet. Both gifts couple well with some of my favorite hobbies: long, often solo road trips... and long, always solo runs. I also have been both self-proclaimed as well as notoriously been dubbed by others as being somewhat of a Grinch and/or Scrooge. After graduating high school, my parents divorce, moving out of the house I grew up in, and a few lack-luster (and at times lonely) Christmases, my sense of jolly had fallen by the wayside. I, for the better part of the last decade, had alienated myself from the Christmas spirit.

Last year, I tried turning over a new leaf. I opened up to the idea of Christmas a little more, got to spend time with my family, and enjoyed seeing the joy on my nephew Jude's face as he opened presents and talked about Santa. It made me long for some of the holidays from my youth, when that special toy, popular shoes, or brand new bike were under the tree. It wasn't a sense of jealousy I felt, considering I was the boy in my kindergarten class who told everyone Santa wasn't real, but more just a longing to be excited about a time of year that everyone else I know looks forward to year round.

As I departed for East Texas on Friday evening at work, I turned on a playlist of some of my favorite tunes, turned my phone off to save the battery, and began battling the holiday traffic. Once I got close to Tyler, I began contacting friends and making plans for the night. Hours later, I was surrounded by old classmates, friends new and old, ex's and old teachers and bosses, what seemingly felt like all of Tyler. Getting to see so many people I hadn't in a long time, and more importantly seeing my closest friends that I miss all the time was a really good experience. I used to dread going out in Tyler, and still admit to being very snobby about the scene now for obvious reasons of being spoiled to the nightlife available in my new home of Austin. But on this night, I realized that I wasn't out just for the sake of being out, and that I hadn't driven excitedly with a smile on my face all 4 hours to Tyler because I was looking forward to a Jameson and water at Rick's. I was so excited just to be in the presence of good people, the kind of people who have known me my entire life, been there for me through my highs and lows, and genuinely love me despite knowing literally all my faults and flaws. Although I am still bitter that the bar closed at midnight, it was still awesome getting to see so many people, and I woke up Christmas Eve in a great mood, despite the typical hang-over and lack of sleep.

I went for a long run at my old spot, Rose Rudman, in the rain, and tried to sweat out the toxins from the night before. After lunch at Jason's with my dad, and watching football with friends for a few hours, I was feeling extremely at home. Like I had never left Tyler, doing all the same things I did throughout high school and college. That evening, I went to my mom's house for presents, food, and drinks. Spending time with my entire family, eating a wonderful meal, sharing stories, exchanging gifts, it was a perfect night. Jude of course was as excited as last year, which was no surprise, but what was shocking to me was the excitement and sheer joy I was feeling as well. The gifts I got were all perfect, despite me not asking or even hinting for any of them, and the gifts I purchased for everyone all turned out to be hits.

This weekend has been hands down one of the best Christmases I've had in years. I wasn't focused on taking pictures to look back on later, I was focusing on making memories that I will look back on forever. As I drove the long drizzly drive back to Austin this morning, it finally dawned on me what my problem had been all those years. The true meaning of Christmas, past all the religious, political, and economical riffraff is about surrounding yourself with the people you love, that love you in return, and being able to share not only food and drinks and presents with them, but more importantly to share with them your feelings. To let them know how much you love them, appreciate them, and are grateful for them. It doesn't matter if you got that iPad you wanted, or if that gift card you gave was warmly received, its about the handshakes, the hugs, the kisses, and the I Love You's that the holidays bring out in everyone.

So just wanted to say to all my friends and family, both the ones I saw this past weekend and the ones I didn't but hope to see soon, I just wanted to let you all know that I love you all, I am extremely grateful and appreciative of all the love, support, friendships, and bonds I've been able to create, develop, grow, and share with you. I hope that everyone has had a great and warm Christmas, and that the new year brings many blessings and happy times. I am overwhelmed with how lucky I am to be where I am, but most importantly being who I am, and I know that the person I am is a direct result of the people I've been so blessed to be surrounded by in my life. Thank you so much!

Happy Christmas!

-Jo Jo (Jo)