With Thanksgiving out of the way, and the long slow descent into Christmas and the New Year well underway, there seems to be a certain obligatory amount of chaos that accompanies this part of the year. Between all the Christmas shopping, the other assorted pomp and circumstance that accompanies the season, and the general darkening of things that accompanies the early sunsets around this time of the year, there just seems to be a certain hushed sense of urgency to it all. Even if there isn’t a lot of Christmas shopping to do (I come from a family of people who largely prefer that I not do any Christmas shopping for them) there’s still the sense that there are things that need to be done. Even though it’s still weeks away at this point, the preparations required for Christmas Eve and Christmas dinner loom large (especially since I don’t have a clue what I’m going to make for either of these.)
In reality, these are all fairly minor things, and it would be easy enough to just put them on the back burner until around a week or so before the actual holiday, but it seems like there are constant reminders in the background. In particular, the now virtually omnipresent holiday music in the background seems to constantly remind you that there’s only 13 more shopping days until Christmas, even if you don’t happen to have any shopping you need to do for it. And by now, you’ve been exposed to the same songs for so many years now that whether you ever intended to or not, you probably know all the words to all the songs by now. This would probably be a bigger deal than it is, except for the fact that there only seems to be around 10 Christmas songs out there these days, and each of those has around 20 different versions that get played over and over to make it sound like something new and novel.
Of course, even a fancy new set of background music can’t hide the fact that you’re listening to the same songs that the Burl Iveses and Bing Crosbys of the world already did to death back in the Fifties and Sixties, and instead it usually happens to make it immediately apparent that you’re listening to a thoroughly butchered version of a song that you’re probably going to get a much better (relatively speaking) version of stuck in your head just by hearing it. And although I do recognize the fact that occasionally they manage to sneak in a newer song or two to the mix, the fact is that hardly anybody seems to be able to make any new Christmas songs anymore. There needs to be some sort of “award” handed out each year recognizing the worst butcherings of classic Christmas songs. Just for the sake of preventing people from deliberately writing terrible new Christmas songs they need to include some sort of requirement that the tune and lyrics need to be at least vaguely recognizable. Unfortunately, these days it seems that “vaguely recognizable” is about the best a lot of people can seem to manage.
Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but there seems to be some sort of unwritten law that you have to fill the air (or deck the halls, as the case may be) with this type of stuff endlessly from the day after Thanksgiving right through the 24th of December, and it doesn’t take long to run out of the “good” stuff, so before long the stores have to start padding the music roster with all the second-rate crud, and before you know it, you find yourself shopping right in the middle of what sounds like some sort of a highly festive train wreck. Spend enough time listening to the stuff, and you start to see the appeal of shopping online, preferably somewhere nice and quiet.
Of course, in the grand scheme of things, this is all a pretty minor thing anyway, and it’s certainly not the type of thing I would let ruin the Holiday season for me. One of the things I’ve noted over the years is that my general attitude toward the Holiday season seems to be a pretty direct reflection of my attitude toward life in general at that particular time. In particular, I can remember a time around three years ago where I just felt really cynical about the whole entire thing. At the time, I was in what turned out to be the last contract I worked at Microsoft (at least for the foreseeable future) and it was, in retrospect, not a very good experience. I had involuntarily spent six months off work prior to taking this particular contract, and the work and the pay were both a significant step down from where I had been previously. Although the people I had been working with at the time seemed reasonably nice, I couldn’t help but sense that the team as a whole was somewhat dysfunctional, and I seemed to be spending a lot 0f time trying to babysit test automation that just plain didn’t seem to work the way it was supposed to in the first place. Nonetheless, given my overall circumstances at that point in time I was still grateful to be doing something, even if it was far from an ideal situation.
It was just before the end of that year that I was terminated from that job for some vague reason (not to say that I hadn’t considered quitting on my own,) and although I couldn’t have had any sense of it when it happened, getting out of that particular situation was probably the best thing that could have happened to me at that time. From that point on, it just seems to me that in one way or another, things have worked out for me in ways I couldn’t have possibly imagined. And even though I do still have long-term goals that I have yet to accomplish (although I do feel that I am at least heading in the right direction on these), I have been incredibly blessed with some of the opportunities I have had over the past several years. I will avoid going into too much details on these (this post is probably a good summary of a lot of what’s happened during that time) but at times, even I have been shocked by the way things have worked out in my favor. As I prepare to move on to a new job starting today, it amazes me not only how things have happened over the past few years, but also just how quickly things happened in this particular case. It took less than a week after my recent Amazon contract ended before I interviewed for and received an offer on another position (at a different company) that was far too good to pass up. Even though I feel that I’m past the point in my career development where I’ve “paid my dues” and accumulated the experience that has now qualified me for some of the higher-level positions in my field that I’m working in now, it’s still amazing to me just how much different things are for me now than they were three years ago. And it’s not just in my career either. It seems that across the board I’m far closer to a lot of my long-term goals now than I was three years ago, and even though I’m a lot later on some of these than I would have liked to have been back when I was in my Twenties, even some of the big ones now seem to be in sight.
Sure, we may be only a couple of weeks away from Christmas now, but given the circumstances, perhaps I would be forgiven this year if I happened to think Thanksgiving came a little too early for my liking this year. Even if I didn’t actually know it at the time.