Edward Hopper, Lee Shore, 1941
Now that we are getting deeper into winter, I am left with the same feeling as usual. I always feel like December is the nice part of winter. The season is still new, the first frosts are beautiful, Christmas and New Year are still ahead. By mid-January, things tone down and winter starts to seem long, very long. The novelty gone, the cold just becomes bothersome and the snow although making itself awaited rarely arrives despite what the weather broadcasts announce.
This brings me to my first point, which is that I always loved Christmas. Even more so when I was younger. I would take preparing for Christmas very seriously. I would decorate my room even though it never consisted of much more than a few fairy lights. I would make a special Christmas playlist, think about gifts for weeks in advance. Decorating the Christmas tree was the happiest moment of my day. However, every year, no matter how well I prepared for it, the holidays would always leave me with the same odd feeling. Not because I did not have a nice time, but because the time I had spent getting ready for it seemed so long compared to how quickly it actually went by. I don’t care about Christmas as much anymore but many things still give me the same feeling.
I always tended to get ready for things a bit too much and to see new beginnings in absolutely anything. By new beginnings, I don’t mean disappearing, moving across the country and changing your name kinds of new beginnings, but trivial things such as vacations, the start of a new school year, or just random, out-of-nowhere, outbursts of longing for some sort of new beginning. Every new school year would be an occasion for me to try to be a better version of myself. I would decide during the summer that I would dress better, look better, study harder, keep my room tidy,… I would build myself morning routines that would be careful crafted by the minute and would look something like:
7-7.10: wake up
7.10-7.15: take a shower
7.15-7.20: dress up (with the clothes I had carefully prepared on my chair the night before obviously)
I suppose that it is needless to say that, within one week after the school year started, I would wake up at 7.50 put on whatever clothes I would find in my wardrobe, brush my teeth and then rush to be on time at school.
The same thing happens every summer. I always promise myself that this one will be the best of my entire life. This summer, for example, I had planned to read at least an hour every day, learn Dutch again, go on a walk every morning, do sport and get ahead of my schoolwork for the year. Reading is something that always comes back on my checklists for the summer and one that actually works out. I also always decide before every summer that I will try to tan a bit. I had given up on it this summer because not only does my skin not really tan but I also get warm easily so I barely ever stand in the sun which makes tanning close to impossible. I ended up getting the biggest tan of my life while biking in the Netherlands (don’t ask me how that happened I don’t even know) so maybe giving up on something works better than manifesting. Anyway, the results of all those plans would often be similar: I would stay on my phone a bit more than I would like to and do a bit less than I wanted to. I think this is heavily due to me putting harsh expectations on myself while summer is mostly meant to rest but I still keep on making those plans every year knowing that only a fragment of them will be achieved.
The conclusion I arrived at, which might be wrong, is that there is some fun in expecting, planning and getting ready no matter the outcome. Out of all those plans and ambitions I had, many just fell through but some things stuck and turned into more lasting habits. Although most parts of my crazy morning routines never stuck (because yes, at some point last year, I decided to wake up at 5 just for kicks), I still managed to get used to waking up around 7 every single day without having to even try. I don’t go out for a walk every evening or run 10 kilometres but I do love to take a walk, every now and then, to watch the sunset on the lake next to my apartment. Most importantly, I have very fond memories of it all. It makes me smile, quite sarcastically I must admit, to remember my 14-year-old self religiously listening to Christmas songs while singing the words wrong and putting fairy lights around her room or watching the sunrise when I had just arrived in Amsterdam because I had managed to wake up at 5. In a way, I think that the fun part of Christmas is also thinking about which presents would make people most happy, listening to stupid and lowkey unbearable songs and decorating your Christmas tree just as much as it is about the Christmas dinner. I think that a trip starts when you start planning it and packing your suitcase. I think that living is also about expecting a lot and knowing that half of those expectations will not be met but still making plans because in the end something always comes out of it.
Written by Léa Vandervorst