I’ve been thinking a lot about shoes.
Someone once told me,
“It doesn’t matter what shoes you wear,
Nobody is looking at your feet.”
But shoes make or break an outfit.
Shoes make you feel confident.
While putting on my shoes,
Did I think:
“but what if I need to run?
How fast will these shoes carry me?”
There is a place in Canada that looks otherworldly, I’m sure you’ve seen it on Instagram. An influencer is perfectly posed in a canoe, on water as flat and clear as glass, with mountains in the background and cool blue skies. She probably doesn’t have a hair out of place, her outfit doesn’t have an ounce of dirt on it, and her hat is completely secured on her head.
We’ve all seen this photo and we have all wanted to go. And so, I did. [To be fair, I’ve been wanting to go since before I saw it on Instagram, but that’s neither here nor there.]
We did our research, we booked our hotel, secured our flights and our shuttle and off we went.
1. July is peak season in Banff. It is supposed to be their "summer" and it is the time of year when most tourists are in the park. Keep this in mind when booking your trip, that with peak season comes peak prices. It was almost impossible to find a direct flight so we had a 12 hour travel day in an odd order, but we got there eventually and it didn’t break the bank. Also keep in mind that you can't fly in to Alberta. You have to fly into Calgary and then take a 2 hour shuttle trip into Banff National Park to where you are staying. You will have to book your shuttle in advance of your arrival date because you need to have a reservation. I would recommend using the Brewster Express.
2. You don’t need to stay in the fanciest hotel. In fact, you probably wouldn’t even want to if you really knew how far away they were from everything. The Fairmount Banff Springs is about a 15 minute, uphill walk from downtown Banff, or you can wait to take the shuttle up there. The Fairmount Chateau at lake Louise is over an hour shuttle ride outside of downtown Banff. Of course, you’d be staying on lake Louise so what more do you need. The Banff Ptarmigan Inn is the perfect spot to stay. It’s reasonably priced, in the heart of Downtown Banff, located right next to Good Earth Coffee house and right across from a shuttle hub stop (more about the shuttle later). The Banff Ptarmigan Inn gives you that at home feel when you’ve come back cold and tired from a long day of hiking. That’s all you really need when you’re thousands of miles from home.
Again, I will say that peak season comes with peak prices and not a lot of hospitality options. Before we found the Banff Ptarmigan Inn the most reasonably priced option was an RV parked in the RV area of the park that someone was renting out as an AirBnB. Consider that your warning to book quickly and early.
3. The girls you see on Instagram all done up look great, but they must have a lot of confidence because literally nobody else looks like that. I mean there is a little bit of everything but most people are in hiking apparel and its not exactly what you would call "mountain chic". It’s fine and great to want to look your best, but just as you dress for the season, not the weather, I’d recommend you dress for the location and not your Instagram feed.
4. There are 17 hours of daylight in Banff. The sun rises at about 5 AM and sets around 9:40PM. Be prepared to eat at odd hours of the day and drink a lot of coffee or tea.
5. Pack a rain coat. And probably a winter coat. But you also might want to pack shorts, tank tops, and short sleeve shirts.
6. Take a lot of photos, but also make sure to appreciate the beauty of the world through your own eyes and not solely through your phone screen.
7. Be prepared for bears, moose, and mountain lions. Going to the mountains is like going into the ocean. You are a guest in their home, and the wildlife is always home. Respect that and respect them.
8. That being said, don't hike alone. Actually, most of the trails are recommended that you are with a group of 4 or more. And other trails its mandatory that you are with a group of 4 or more, or you will be fined. The trails near downtown Banff are easy and welcoming for all hiking levels, but the further you get into the National Park, continue with caution. Someone once told me, when I was at the peak in the Smokey Mountains, that "this is the safest you will ever be." And I believed that, and still do, because at the top, a lot of things can’t get to you. But it’s good to keep in mind that the mountain lions can see you, you just cant see them.
9. Public Transportation is a must. Banff utilizes a transport system called Roam. When we first chose this location for our adventure we assumed that everything would be in walking distance, but we were wrong. We had to utilize the Roam shuttle almost every day. It is free and easy to use especially because when booking at the Banff Ptarmigan Inn they provide you with your own bus pass for the entirety of your stay.
10. As with all trips, do your research so you know what you are getting yourself into but also go in with an open mind. Not all trips go as according to plan.
I have been counting down the days until July 19th since it was announced that The Lion King live action film would be released that day. Out of all the Disney movies that I know and love, The Lion King has always been my all time favorite and will always hold that special place in my heart.
Growing up I never had a pet but I always had an unconditional love for animals. So much so that I had imaginary pet friends, I had so many stuffed animals on my bed that you could hardly see me, and I spent most of my time crawling around the floor putting holes in my jeans pretending to be a dog, or of course, a lion. My parents took me to the doctor because they thought something was wrong with me, but the doctor said I just have a really active imagination.
Kids and imaginations go hand in hand. When you're young you're carefree, worry free, you're pure and it feels like nothing can touch you. And nothing really can because your parents, older siblings, family friends, etc. , whoever those important people were in your life, they will protect you from it…or try their best to.
At a very young age I learned that you can't always be protected from some things, heartbreak. My mom was out of town on business one weekend and my dad was left to take care of, and entertain, two little girls, my sister and I. He and my uncle thought it would be a great idea to go to an Indians game, of course. Now that you know a little bit about me as a child, you know that I loved stuffed animals. I took one with me everywhere I go. One particular stuffed animal, Simba.
Simba and I were inseparable, I took him everywhere. He was my favorite stuffed animal and good friend, I loved him more than I loved crawling around on the ground pretending to be just like him. I held him tight all the time, and every time I gave him a little squeeze, he would make a little squeaky growling noise. That weekend my mom was away was no different. If I was going to the Indians game, Simba was going too. My dad asked me "Do you really want to bring him in?" but I couldn’t say no and leave him in the car. He had to come with and so he did.
This even occurred years back when the stadium still had that kids section with food courts, a play area, and picnic tables. I don’t really know if that still exists because now when I go to games I spend most of my time at the bar. But that’s neither here nor there. So, we went to the kids area to grab food and enjoy the game.
When you go to the Indians games the food lines are always long and seating is limited, so we wanted to reserve a spot while we waited in line for food. My dad said something along the lines of "Why don't you leave Simba at the table so he can save our spot for us?" and we headed to the line to get food.
When you're young, your imagination is active, everything is exciting and overwhelming, the smallest things seem like the biggest and you have the best time wherever you go. We had the best day at the Indians game that day. Until we got back to the car, my dad was buckling me in the seat, and I realized that Simba did not make it back to the car with us. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw him, but it was the minute that I left him on the picnic table.
My dad tried to go back to the stadium and track down Simba while I sat back in the car broken hearted, feeling completely defeated. I think we all knew that I would never seem him again. To this day, this story still breaks my parent's hearts. And it breaks mine. It's even still difficult to type, though I've written it many times before for every college entrance essay ever.
The search for Simba never ended. I wished for years, every Christmas, that he would be under my tree. But he never was.
It wasn't until we went to Disney World for the first time, when I was 12, that we got close to finding him. My parent's went in to every store that sold plush and told them the story. The Cast Members would take us to the back and we would search through pages and pages of plush Simba's, but to no avail. We found a few, but they just weren't the same.
I went back to Disney World when I was 20 and was working as a Park Operations Intern in the Disney College Program. I wasn’t there looking for Simba this time, I was looking for something more than that. I had hit a rough patch in my life, once again experiencing a lot of heart break, I was constantly surrounded by toxic people and I was failing classes, treating my body like crap, and struggling to pull myself out of this rut.
Disney saved me, in a way. I made friends that I still consider my best friends to this day. I learned what it means to work hard, to fail, and to succeed. I learned what it means to love. To love yourself, to love others, to love your life.
One night, close to the end of my program, I was hanging out in Magic Kingdom with my best friend. We were in some of the shops in FantasyLand when I came across the cutest Simba. He was so soft and just looking at him made me smile. It was near park close and we decided we weren't going to buy anything so we headed back towards the front entrance of the park. Somewhere along Main Street I stopped dead in my tracks and looked at my friend and said "we have to go back, I can't leave without Simba".
We ran, as fast as we could, with bookbags on and everything, back to that store because this time, I was not getting into a car without Simba.
Heartbreak sucks, it never gets easier. But I learned a lot from Simba. Things change in the blink of an eye. People are here one day and gone the next. We have to cherish every moment we have, treat others with love all the time, live every moment to the fullest, because you never know when it could be your last moment here or your last time seeing someone. No one can ever replace the person you love and miss or the memories you made and love, but you can find someone and something that you love just as much.
So on July 19th, try not to need me because I will be sitting in a movie theatre, (not really because I will actually be exploring the Canadian Rockies) watching my favorite movie and my favorite character that taught me so much about life and love.
The other day at work I said something along the lines of “I can’t figure this out, I’m so stupid” and my friend looked at me and said “Don’t talk about my friend like that”.
I started thinking about how often I hear people in my life say negative things about themselves.
“I’m so fat”
“I hate my body”
“I drink too much and I hate myself in the morning”
“I have a shitty personality”
“I’m losing my hair”
“I hate that I'm dependent”
“I hate the sound of my voice”
“I hate that I care so much about what other people think of me”
“I hate that I take things so personally”
I could keep going but I won’t, I'll just leave you with this; I don’t know who needs to hear this right now, but if other people can love us for the same things that we hate about ourselves, I think that we can try to learn to love ourselves too.
I haven't written anything in awhile and it's not really because I haven't done anything that’s worth writing about, it's because I don't feel like I have the time to take the time that it takes to write. I think this is because of the way society conditions us to think; Society tells me that I have to go to work every day and then I have to come home and work out, get things done around the house, run errands, etc. So I go to work, I drive home in rush hour traffic, I come home and I exercise and by the time that is all finished I am ready to take a shower and get in bed.
I read all the time that you need to take an hour for yourself each day and i think about this often. What do I do for myself each day? I forced myself to exercise because I've been told to think that that is what I need to do. But if I don’t necessarily enjoy exercise, then is that really taking time for myself? I don’t really think so.
Little bits and pieces of my blog have been popping up here and there; at a graduation party one of my quotes from I Don't Mean to Brag But I Be Like...Doing It Anyway was displayed as a centerpiece on the table, and that’s a nice reminder that this blog, my very own little escape, still exists and maybe I should make time to write more often.
A few days ago my super talented friend took time out of her life to paint me and asked if she could post it on her design Instagram. She said that she usually posts the photo with a quote said by that person and asked for my favorite. Because I haven't written in so long, the only quote I could think of was the one from the graduation party, so that is the one I provided her with. It reads “When you’re happy with what you’re doing and where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how many bad days or how many rough moments you have, because the good always outweighs the bad”.
She said it took her awhile to finish the paintings of me because she hasn’t been home a lot. But the point of it all is that she still started them and finished them because she made time to do it. She said she didn't mind that it took her awhile because she had fun doing it and she loves to draw and create. Despite being busy with whatever life would throw at her, she still took the time to do the thing that she enjoys doing.
She inspired me to take at least some time out of my life to write. Because even though it is so easy to fall into the routine that is almost robotic of going to work, coming home, working out, doing things around the house, running errands, etc., I still need to do something for me, something that makes me happy. Even if I can't have a full hour out of every day, I'm still taking the time.
You can check out the drawings below and check out more from @designsbycaitb by clicking the link!
I’m really happy, it’s not because of a man and it’s not because I won the lottery, and I just want to brag about it a little.
In the past month I’ve saved so much money on Starbucks because I don’t feel the need to “treat myself” every other day of the week just for surviving one day. I used to literally bribe myself with coffee.
In the past month I’ve spent so little time scrolling through social media. In fact, I hardly have time to touch my phone throughout the day. Sometimes I’ll hop on Instagram just to see what my favorite celebrity is up to or to see if there’s a new giveaway I want to enter or I’ll get on Twitter just for a quick laugh. But over this past month I haven’t sat and scrolled through social media longing to have someone else’s life because I have been so caught up and so busy with my own life.
In late February, about a month ago, I started a new job and the next chapter of my career. It has been a major adjustment. The hours are different and the job is demanding. Every day is a challenge, every day I struggle and I make mistakes, and every day I get stronger personally and professionally. I don’t find myself bitching and moaning constantly, I don’t find myself complaining. I literally find myself laughing and smiling and thinking to myself “I love my team and I love this place”.
Never in my life have I thought I would be that person who says “I love my team” and I certainly never thought I would be that person that wants to purchase for myself a company sweatshirt, and yet, here I am. I think it’s because for the first time in a while I’m genuinely happy and proud of where I’m at.
This is not to say that I wasn’t happy before the job change. But I do think before I was just going through the motions of life. Waking up, going to work, coming home from work, going to sleep and doing it again the next day. I was spending a lot of time with my head down either just getting the day’s tasks done or looking at my phone and not enough time enjoying my life and being present in the moment, even if in that moment I am in an office working.
In the past month I’ve had a lot of good days and a few bad, and a lot of rough moments and a few great ones. But what I’ve realized is when you’re happy with what you’re doing and where you’re going, it doesn’t matter how many bad days or how many rough moments you have because the good always outweighs the bad.
SO- I’m sorry if I don’t snapchat you back, if I don’t like your Instagram post, if I take 3-5 business days to text you back. I’m just really busy focusing on my clients, my career, and probably making snarky comments and laughing with my coworkers. And most importantly I’m just really busy being happy.
I have literally been trapped in my house for 2 days because of this snow storm that I was convinced would not come. I have done a lot of moving from my bed to my couch and from my couch to my bed. I've scrolled through social media, cooked, cleaned, and did laundry out of boredom. I decorated my room and rearranged my closet more than once. I finished a series on Netflix and I've watched a few too many romantic movies to the point where my personality is now a little bit Rachel Chu (Crazy Rich Asians) and Tami Oldham (Adrift).
If you've seen either movie you'd know that these characters are opposites, and in the most extreme ways. Rachel is from New York City and is dating the Prince Harry of Singapore while Tami Odham's wanderlust leaves here trapped on a sail boat and forced to survive for 41 straight days. While these two leading ladies are living out opposite situations, they have a few things in common and these similarities are just a few of the most unrealistic ways women are portrayed in movies.
1. Women are confident 100% of the time.
Love stories always seem to portray women as confident and having it together all of the time. They move so gracefully, they never stumble over what to say, and they always know what they want to eat, where they want to go and how to dance.
When in reality, women [and being in love] are not always that graceful. We stumble over our words and say they wrong things, or write the wrong things. And sometimes we don't know what we want to eat!! And sometimes we don't know how to dance. Sometimes we need a little help from our friends or vodka in order to get us out on that dance floor.
2. Women know exactly who they are.
Sometimes we just don't, okay? Sometimes we are still figuring our shit out. And I'd love to see a movie about this. A realistic movie, not a comedy. Most story lines involving figuring your shit out turn into comedies, when in reality it isn't always funny.
3. Women don't have neck rolls when they're laying down.
Out of all three points I have and will mention, the way women are shown laying down or sleeping, is by far the most unrealistic. I've never seen a person lay their head down on a pillow in real life and not have their cheeks get all squishy or their neck get all rolly. Come on Hollywood, do better. We are all laying down and looking like egg-heads or potatoes. Show it on the big screen.
aaannnd that's really all I have to say about that. Try not to think about this too hard because it's really meant in a lighthearted way.
The job wasn’t perfect, management wasn’t perfect, and I wasn’t perfect either. I was reaching my breaking point, but I had never quit a job, or really anything in my life so I didn’t want to give this up either. But I was pushed to my limits for so long, I was exhausted, and I made a mistake. I will fully admit to making a mistake regarding a guest’s experience. I know this was my fault.
The guest was visibly upset and raising their voice at me, but I had not yet realized the mistake I made. All I could see in the moment was this guest leaning over the counter to get closer to my face and yelling at me. Instead of remaining calm and trying to understand what he was trying to tell me, I raised my voice back. Strike 4.
I raised my voice at a guest. I raise my voice at a guest at the Happiest Place on Earth. This is coming from a girl who worked at a Call Center. Yeah, I was the person who calls people at dinner time and begs them for money. People would yell at me and tell me I’m worthless and won’t go anywhere in life and I would just hang up the phone and laugh at them unbothered. Because I knew my worth.
But at Disney it was different. I had been talked down to for so long and looked down upon that I put myself on that same level and yelled back at a guest. Because at that point I didn’t know who I was, let alone know my worth.
After that shift I was terrified the guest would go to management and I would get a reprimand. But nothing happened, no one ever found out and I never got in trouble. So, I started breaking more rules because I knew that nothing was going to happen to me. I snuck into resort pools and stayed there all day, I called in and went to the parks, I took days off just because. I could see these changes in myself and I knew something wasn’t right, because I never break rules over fear of getting in trouble.
I continued work as usual just because I didn’t want to be weak and quit. Then, I came in for a 2p.m. – 11:45 p.m. shift as greeter. Greeter is essentially hostess, you’re the person who greets the guests, takes their orders, and then report them back to the kitchen. Greeter will stand there for their entire shift because it is the one position that does not have someone who can be their back up, unless a manager or supervisor is free and can take over for a short minute.
[This is a warning: if you get grossed out by that thing that happens to a woman once a month, stop reading]. Greeter was my favorite position because it was outside of the kitchen and I actually got to talk and interact with the guests. However, I was not feeling well that day, even before I had arrived at work, I had a headache that just wouldn’t go away. I kid you not, not even a half hour into this shift, I could feel it; I got my period. While standing in a position with no back up person, a line out the door, and wearing Khaki pants. Yep, khaki.
So, I’m standing there trying to take orders without moving or even breathing really, silently panicking because you just don’t know what could happen to those khaki pants. I finally got a break between guest orders but there was still nothing I could do because maybe I’m not taking orders but the kitchen is still filling orders and of course management was nowhere to be found. There’s a shock.
Finally, one of my female coworkers came in for her kitchen shift and I leaned over the counter to explain what happened, she generously took over for me for a minute or two. This was not enough time to run down all the way to the end of the building to get what I actually needed to deal with the problem in my pants, but it was enough time to do a band aid fix.
My shift continues. It is now 10 p.m. and I am still taking orders and trying not to move too much and only stand certain ways because I haven’t been sent to break yet even though I’ve been there since 2p.m. Not going on break would not have been an issue for me since my shift was short and I didn’t have to close, but I was still concerned about the problem in my pants. So, at 10:45p.m. when my shift ended at 11:45p.m., I finally got my break. Strike 5.
Even after this, I continued to go to work. Until one day, I called my mom like I had done many times before, but this time was different. She said “I’m sending you plane ticket options, you can pick the time, but you’re packing your things and you’re coming home”. I of course, tried to argue with her, but I even talked myself out of my own argument. This place had destroyed me and she was right, it was time to leave it behind.
Telling my roommates was the hardest thing I had to do, but they were more than supportive. I called into work for the next few days so I could spend as much time with them as possible. They even went out of their way to schedule character breakfasts with me, time to play at the parks, and we even did our first and last beach trip together. Those last few July days were the first time I had felt like myself and purely, genuinely happy, since moving there in March.
SOMETIMES, at my new job, I’m still dealing with the impact that Disney had on me. I struggle with my confidence. I can’t even send an email without reading it 13 times to make sure everything is correct. When I do finally complete the task, or send the email, I sit there anxiously waiting for someone to tell me that I did it wrong because that is how it was for so long.
Disney made me believe that I wasn’t good enough, I was worthless. No one should ever have to go through that by an employer and if you do, know that you have to put yourself first and get out. Working for Disney was truly an experience that I will never forget, no matter how much I want to. So, there you have it. I came clean and gave you the truth about Disney.
***To my friends who are currently working there and loving it, I am so happy for you. Please try to remember that this is my truth and no one else’s.
You asked, multiple times, so I figured it’s time to answer. I’m coming clean: the truth about Disney.
Note: I worked for Disney two times. This piece is written based on ONLY the second time I worked there, summer of 2017.
I didn’t debate writing this but I did debate posting it out of fear for what people will think or say. Or maybe no one will even read it. But, as a writer I have to write my truth and live my truth. So here it is, the unedited (there will be things in here that may be, as they say, TMI) truth about what happened to me in Disney:
The other day a friend texted me out of the blue and said “Are you a lot happier now that you don’t work for Disney?” She is currently working for the company so I thought for a while about how to respond because I would never want to ruin something that someone else loves based on my own bad experience.
That being said, I finally decided on “Not to sound like a jackass, but yeah. Leaving the company was the best decision I’ve ever made, I’m thriving without it.”
This lit some sort of fire under my ass and inspired me to write my story.
I do mean to sound like a jackass, actually. I do mean to flaunt how much better I’m doing since leaving that toxic environment. That place did things that destroyed parts of me and I’m still affected by it today.
When I got to Florida, I knew things weren’t right. I was constantly anxious, irritated, and had no appetite. I knew in my heart and in the back of my mind that I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. I refused to admit it though, to my mom who traveled with me to move me down, and even to myself.
Then, I went through Traditions, which is a training class that all employees have to go through, and I stepped into Magic Kingdom for the first time after so long. The place that my parents dragged me out of kicking and screaming at the end of my first program two years ago. I had longed to be back there and I finally was. I finally felt a sense of relief that maybe I am in the right place.
Then I got my work schedule, six a.m. shifts all across the board. But I had no car, and the buses don’t start running until 6:36 a.m. So, I made a phone call to the bus station. They have a bus that picks up all Cast who have to work the early shift at any location, as long as I am at the bus stop by 4 a.m. This was obviously not the ideal situation, but I was determined to make it work.
Okay, so, strap yourselves in because this is where the fun begins.
There was an entire 2 paragraphs in here about my boyfriend at the time. I decided to remove it for the privacy of the person and the fact that it is not entirely relevant in order for you to understand and feel the full story. Basically there was a phone call after I had a 14 hour shift that started with “Mel, I’m breaking up with you”, I can still hear the words ringing in my head, and ended with me on the floor crying in my room.
At this point in time, a girl needs her friends. But, because my hours were so unbelievably awful, I never really saw my roommates. They weren’t even sure if I lived there most of the time. So, alone, on the floor in my gross, lived-in apartment, I struggled to hold myself together because one of the things that was consistent in my life for a while was just taken away from me. Strike 1.
I struggled to get out of bed, I struggled to keep myself distracted. I was actually thankful for my shitty job at this point because it was something to do that would keep me busy and wouldn’t allow me to check my phone.
Days were always hectic working in Quick Service Food and Beverage at a resort. You do at least a million different jobs in one day. I was on fryers this particular day, and anyone who knows me knows that I hate fryers. I’m already weak in the arms, and the fryer baskets get pretty heavy when you are lifting them out of the grease. Not to mention the arm motion to dump out the contents into the transport bin is extremely awkward. So, sometimes I drop things, or contents fall out of the basket onto the floor. Or, in this case, one fell back into the grease and the grease splashed right up into my eye. Which resulted in me standing there in the hot kitchen with a line of angry, hungry guests, trying to blink the hot grease out of my contact and my burning eye. This would be a great time to use the eye wash station about a hundred feet to my left, but I was “needed” and had to deal with it. Strike 2.
I tried to find happiness in the Happiest Place on Earth. I went to the parks every time I could. But, I remember texting my roommate, one of my closest friends, “Magic Kingdom just isn’t fun anymore and I don’t know why”.
Not long after I texted her I was headed towards the exit and spotted Chip and Dale at the front of Magic Kingdom. I had not met Chip and Dale since probably the first time that I was ever in Disney World so, I got in line. I was greeted with hugs and the munks fighting over who would get to hold my hand. They made sure to get a picture with me in the middle, it was nice to smile.
This is where I found some strength. I never realized the power of hugs, mostly because I really just don’t like to be touched. Disney characters are actually trained on how to hug guests. They are trained not to let go until the guest does, because you never know how much a person needs one. And I needed all of the hugs I could get.
Every chance I got I was going to the parks by myself just to meet the characters. [I really enjoyed going alone. Everyone calls you princess, waves, smiles, and I got a ton of free stuff and experienced so many magical moments.] I was using Fast Passes on meet and greets when most people just used them on rides. I loved talking to the characters and getting hugs because I never really had anyone else to talk to based on my work schedule.
I tried and hoped for things to get better, in my personal life and at work, I tried to stay positive, but things didn’t get better and I couldn’t stay positive any longer. I wasn’t the only one having issues at work, a lot of people were and a lot of people were also making bets on how long most of us would last. A few went to HR, but we were literally told that the head manager at our location had a ton of connections and if we went to HR she would find out and we would be screwed. Threatened to keep our mouths shut? Strike 3.
I have personally never been the type of person who wanted to go to therapy. But at this point, I had nowhere else to turn. I looked up the number for help and called and made myself an appointment. This was a company who had a contract with Disney but were not Disney employees, so nothing I said could go back to the company. It was a safe place to talk.
Not even five minutes into the first session I already started to feel better. My counselor was able to identify my struggles right away and gave me insight on things that I would have never even thought about. She gave me a perspective on things that no one had been able to give me. We continued our sessions focusing on healthy relationships, which I apparently have never been in, and work related issues.
Things did not exactly get better. I was still working shitty hours and constantly being force extended without being told. I would work 12 days in a row with no day off, sleep was limited, and the work was exhausting. There were multiple shifts with a manager who did not like me, would move me from my assigned position and leave me to restock the coolers ALL. DAMN. DAY. The coolers are quite literally of freezing temperature and the boxes of beer, bottles of wine, bottles of drinks, which needed to be constantly stocked were way too heavy for my weak arms to handle. This is a job that had to be done and it just sucked that I’m the one who had to do it.
I think that the older we get the harder the holidays get. Or the more meaningful they become, in turn making them harder, especially when it comes to gifts. For me, it’s twice as difficult because my birthday is exactly a week before Christmas. So I have people asking me “what do you want for your birthday? What do you want for Christmas?” And year after year it gets harder and harder for me to answer that question. Because what I really want is not something you can buy in a store and wrap in a bow.
My birthday falls in this really awkward time period. Back in grade school, while most students got to celebrate their birthday at school with their friends and hand out treats to their classmates and teachers, I never got to do that because my birthday always fell during Christmas break. The same thing happened when I went to college, I never really celebrated my birthday with my friends because we were all on break and in different places.
So finally, not in school, when someone asks me what I want for my birthday I always think to myself “people to spend it with”. Of course my family. And I do have some amazing friends who will go out of their way to make that happen for me. It is hard not to be around the people I love who love me back but I have my best friends who live hours and states away who may not be around but will think about me and do whatever they can to make that day special to me.
Sure, unwrapping presents is fun. I think that parents, no matter how old their kids are, still get a thrill watching them walk down the stairs Christmas morning, or walk in the house, towards the tree and unwrap a gift. But all I really want for Christmas is to not be afraid to walk outside after dark, I want the wars to be over, I want there to be a cure for cancer, I want friends to stop dying young, and to stop seeing people I care about heartbroken, I want unconditional love and commitment, I want people to stop tearing each other apart and see them come together again, I want women to stop hating men and to somehow stop feeling victimized, I want more experiences, and I want to find that place in my life where I can be truly happy.
So if you’re like me, on Christmas [or your birthday] you’ll probably unwrap the material gift that you wanted the most and you’ll feel so grateful for it and you’ll be happy. But part of you will still feel empty inside because that material thing can’t take the place of some of the things that you want the most.