Thoughts I had while Christmas Shopping

Going home for Christmas means getting everyone at least one gift. In my case, having been gone for so long, it meant shopping for 18 people. 18. People.

I thought I’d be very strategic about it and so I blocked a whole entire weekend off of my schedule for what came to be known as Mission Christmas amongst my housemates. Here are thoughts that will inevitably cross your mind while out on Mission Christmas:

1.” Yay, I’m gonna put my Christmas playlist on shuffle while riding downtown. Nothing better than Christmas music to get you into the right mood.”
2. “Iiiit’s a holly jolly Christmaaas…and now everybody!”
3. “Might as well grab a Starbucks Christmas special! Peppermint Mocha, eeeeeek!!!”
4. “Hmmm…okay, let me look at the list of ideas I carefully crafted out last night. Because, remember, this is not about me, this is about the 18 people trusting in my shopping ability!”
5. “Holy shit, I look hot in that leather jacket! Urban Outfitters, why you so expensive?!”
6. “I mean, getting yourself a Christmas present is totally allowed, right? And the new phone I got myself last week was basically a delayed birthday present anyways, that doesn’t even count into my Christmas pile at all!”
7. “Okay, fine. Let’s do this: if I manage to stay under (insert $ amount here) for all of the Christmas presents, I’m gonna buy myself that jacket!”
8. “I am such an excellent prioritizer. Might as well get myself another Starbucks drink, seeing that I saved myself money by not buying that leather jacket.”
9. “Seriously?! How can it be that I have walked through two malls and a billion stores and still only have two gifts?”
10. “Man, it’s so hard to buy something for brothers. Why can’t I have sisters?! One trip to Sephora and I would have been done!”
11. “Next time you tell me that you don’t have any wishes, Dad, I’m gonna stop talking to you! Nothing worse than getting gifts for someone who doesn’t want anything!”
12. “Okay, this bookshelf is adorable. But, realistically, I’m not gonna fit that into a suitcase. Sorry mom!”
13. “Fine! It’s time for the big guns. I’m gonna go to Macy’s!”
14. “Why are there so many people in the stores this early? I mean, I guess 2pm isn’t that early. Dammit, why did I have to snooze my alarm five times this morning?”
15. “I want food. Like, Cheesecake Factory kinda food. Maybe I’m gonna get a cheesecake to go later.”
16. “And by maybe, I mean definitely. And by later, I mean now.”
17. “Freaking Christmas songs playing everywhere. I could not work at Macy’s right now.”
18. “Man, I’m gonna be broke after this weekend. And what could have been spend on an awesome leather jacket, will now probably go to paying for a second checked piece of luggage.”
19. “I.Hate.Shopping! It’s so hard. I’m tired. My feet hurt.”
20. “I mean, I don’t even know why I gotta get all my presents today. There is always next weekend. And I just signed up for that free trial month of Amazon Prime.”
21. “…screw this, I’m doing Amazon!”

Maybe some of you can relate. In the end, I did get all 18 people a present. I did not get that leather jacket, even though I am still dreaming about it sometimes. I will pay for a second piece of luggage at the airport tomorrow. But, most of all, I’m gonna go home for Christmas and that kinda makes it all worthwhile.

Cheers and happy holidays!

Ari

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10 Reasons to Welcome December

1. Starbucks Christmas Specials
Personally, I have come to like the Pumpkin Spice Latte but my heart beats for lé Peppermint Mocha, an Eggnog Latte or (on sunnier December days here in Cali) a Cremé Brulee Frap! And, as if taste wasn’t enough of a reason to wait in line, you’ll get to have a pretty Christmas-y cup on your desk for the rest of your day, reminding you of the holly jolly days that are yet to come. Yay!

2. Christmas Candy
Hershey’s Peppermint kisses. Gingerbread M&Ms. Candy Cane Ice-cream. Christmas cookies. Speculoos. Peppernuts. The list could go on and on and on. Any of these options would go great with #1, too. Just saying!

3. Winter clothes and accessories
How about a cute scarf that matches the new tights you scooped up on Black Friday? Possibly a matching glove-hat combo, too? There is so much cuteness in fall and winter clothing. Not to mention that those woolen sweaters and fury jackets are every girl’s friend after the annual Christmas feast.

4. Lights
Lights, lights everywhere! Dark and grey November…ain’t nobody got time for you anymore! Every store is decorated, the buildings are framed with holiday lights, the streets accessorized with lit-up stars and bells… Definitely helps getting over the sun setting at 5pm!

5. Fireplaces
Not everyone is lucky enough to have one of those but if you do, go get yourself some of that delicious fiery warmth! Nothing better than being all cuddled up, drinking tea, reading a book and listening to a good Pandora Station while sitting home by the fire. If you don’t have a fireplace, you better make the right type of friends next year!

6. Christmas Songs
Okay fine, I admit that I am one of those people. One of those people that sometimes, very secretly, listens to one or two Christmas songs in…say…March or July. Just for the fun and to get a smile on my face. So, come December, I am the happiest camper alive because now it is legit to whistle “All I want for Christmas” or hum “Frosty the Snowman”. It just gives me flashbacks to all the past Christmases and reminds me of how magical Santa seemed to me when I was young. Christmas songs bring some of that magical feeling back into my daily life and get me excited for the holidays.

7. The smells
Pine Needles. Chocolate. New Clothes. Shopping bags. Even wrapping paper has a smell, a very characteristic mix of excitement, stress and secretiveness. All in all, come December, it starts smelling delicious everywhere! If you reside in Germany during that month, you will probably have dozens of Christmas markets around you to choose from! Hot spiced wine, toasted almonds, crepes with Nutella, fruits dunked in chocolate, candied apples, all those are smells Americans miss out on.

8. The people
Yes, December is very stressful for many. All this Christmas shopping, all these expectations. I personally have a list of 15 people I am shopping for and it keeps me up at night. But it is also that time of year during which, thanks to commercialization I admit, we are being reminded of love and family and spending time with those that matter. You forgive faster, carry a smile around more often and are a little more considerate and willing to share.

9. Christmas Movies
I have watched “Love Actually” three times in the past two weeks and am not ashamed to admit that. Whether it’s an all-time favorite, such as “It’s A Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” or more modern picks like “Elf”, Christmas movies spread pure joy. They are so over the top with everything, and there is singing and piano music and families all cheesy-peasy. It sets the stage for Christmas and totally gets you into the mood to eat, sing and celebrate. And eat some more.

10. The loved ones
Many of you might go home for Christmas or have family come visit you. That electrifying feeling of flying/driving/riding/walking home for the holidays is truly one of a kind, so embrace it! Count the days, mark you calenders, and use this month to appreciate the people you love in your life. Hug your mom extra often, call your grandparents more frequently, give your significant other an extra kiss. You know, all these things you should be doing anyways but are being reminded off by the jolly Christmas atmosphere.

So yeah, let’s embrace December, it’s not like you could escape it anyways!

Cheers,
Ari

Going home from another home

They say when you move abroad you are either running from or running to something. In my case, moving to San Francisco meant I was sprinting towards the life that I thought I should have had all along and I couldn’t wait to prove myself in this new world that I had chosen for myself. And life has been treating me well, better than I had hoped it would and better than I sometimes felt I deserved.  Now, I will be going home for Christmas. By the time my plane touches down in Hamburg, Germany, by the time I grab my luggage and fall into the arms of my (probably bawling) mother, I will have been gone an accumulated total of 483 days. And my God, am I ridiculously excited to go back. I have been watching Love Actually on repeat because both the first and the final scene remind me of how I will feel at the airport. I have been humming Christmas songs in my head since my boss approved my vacation request two months ago. I have moments of jumping up and down in my room when I’m alone, because that’s just how excited I am to see my parents, my brothers and my closest friends, to sleep in my old room, to eat my parents’ home-cooked meals, to wander across Christmas Markets and tour the cities I love.

CHRISTMAS EXODUS GETS UNDERWAY AT HEATHROW HEATHROW READIES FOR

And then there is a growing worry. Because, by going back, it might just hit me how long exactly I had been gone. I mean, of course there are the obvious measurements of time. I was 21 when I left and 23 when I come home. I missed my brother’s High School graduation and my other brother’s Confirmation. They missed my grad school commencement. I missed my brother moving out and I couldn’t visit him in the hospital on any of the multiple occasions he was brought in with an epileptic attack. They couldn’t help me when I lost my wallet with all my cards in it or when I hurt my foot so badly in the Grand Canyon that I couldn’t walk for two weeks. And while we were there for each other through phone and Internet, I’ve come to learn that distance is a good buffer. It is a hella good painkiller, too. And you grow comfortable being away.

Because, eventually, the distance gets easier to manage. No, I take that back. The distance is something we start to accept as the inevitable, as something we opted in on when we chose to live the life we want. The time zones and phone calls and missing one another are things to which we can adjust and be okay with, which we sometimes complain about but, at the end of the day, look past it.

So, I have become comfortable with being that one family member living at the other end of the world. Because, without this level of detachment, I would constantly feel bad for choosing here over there. For deciding that my hometown is simply too small for all the dreams I have in my head. For not following in my parents footsteps. At. All. Being the “gone one” has started to feel like not such a bad price to pay. But now that my flights are booked, it keeps hitting me exactly how much I’ve been missing all these people that have known me for more than just 483 days and I want to go back to what I’m used to and give them what they expect to get. Pre-San Francisco Me.

But how do we come home to a place that must inevitably have changed while we were gone? Going home from another home is a weird feeling, because people expect you to be the person you were when you left, and that’s impossible. And, vice versa, you expect things to be exactly the same as when you left, and that’s impossible, too.

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be” (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). Most of all though, I just really want Christmas to come!

Cheers,

Ari