If only we could live in a Hallmark Movie, maybe we’d find going home something to look forward to, but my experience in planning hallmark moments is it always turns out more like the “Home for the Holidays” movie.
With some families all you can do is hunker down for a long winter’s nap and hope to wake up when the holidays are over. If this is how you’re feeling, I want to say you are NOT alone. There are thousands of people who are feeling it too. Here is a story of one of the darkest times in my life.
Red and gold leaves were swirling around my feet, but I felt anything but festive. I was walking on the railroad tracks, balancing on one rail and feeling desperate and alone. There was less hope in my heart than there were leaves on the trees and that wasn’t saying much. I carried my Walkman in my hand wearing my one earphone playing Peter Cetera and Chicago in one ear, while I strained to listen for a train with the other. I didn’t really want to get hit, but I took the chance because well, my life was crap anyway.
My family had moved to Alaska without telling me. I happened to find out through mutual friends. My grandparents lived 250 miles away and I knew there was no hope of seeing family for the holidays, but that was the least of my problems. I’d been struggling with my grades in college. I needed more work to pay my bills and it felt like it would ever be enough.
My five roommates each had somewhere to go. Most of them had already left for winter break, so I was walking back to my apt alone—more alone than I’d ever felt in my life after a day of temporary work at the rehab center. Even if I worked throughout the entire break, I still might not have enough money to pay my rent. I not only didn’t have a boyfriend, but I’d never dated anyone seriously and wasn’t sure what a good relationship could look like. My young adulthood seemed to be getting off to a miserable start and I saw zero hope for improvement.
It was dusk and I saw Christmas lights twinkling on in the distance, but even their bright colors depressed me. What good are lights when you have no one to share them with? What good is a job if it only lasts until next week? What kind of family moves away without telling you? Was my life worth it even if no one cared what happened to me?
As I walked along an old Dodge Dart alarmed me as it stopped a little way up the road in front of me. It was puke green in color and nothing about it struck me as safe or kind or hopeful, but when I got close, the door flew open and I recognized the guy driving as one of the janitors at the rehab center. My fingers were freezing to my Walkman so I decided to chance it and take the ride.
He was a high school senior and I saw no romantic potential in him, but since I didn’t have a car and I didn’t know how to drive but he did, I was grateful for the ride and even the scintillating conversation.
As soon he dropped me off, I went inside and turned the answering machine on. After wading through various men sending messages to all my roommates and a teacher warning me about failing my class if I didn’t get my paper turned in, I finally heard a warm voice. It was the older woman who was my temporary boss. She thanked me for my hard work and said she was willing to hire me full time. This was the little glimmer of hope I needed. A boss who believed in me, better pay, benefits, consistency and for the first time in weeks, I realized I was going to make it through to the next year.
I had no idea how that job, that place, that boss and that guy would all grow inside my heart. I couldn’t see any potential for me or him that night, but three years later I would wear white and pledge myself to him for better or worse. Thirty years later I can say it’s been much better than worse.