One of the best things about being away from work and daily life is that I have ample time and energy to think, to mull over ideas and conversations, to remember the small details of surroundings and interactions. Yesterday evening, as the events of Christmas were winding down, my family and I sat in the living room talking, drinking wine and playing board games while the movie Elf played on the TV in the background. You all remember the part towards the end when Santa’s sleigh crash-lands into Central Park and can’t take off again because not enough people believe in him, right? Then the kid reads the list on TV, people start singing; before you know it Santa’s flying high, on his merry way into the night. As I watched this from the corner of my eye, I started thinking about a common theme of the holidays: belief. Belief in the goodness of mankind, in the birth of a baby boy, in the fresh start of a new year, and for kids, certainty that a man from the North Pole with flying reindeer exists. Do you remember when you stopped believing in Santa? I don’t, really. I do remember when I started to become skeptical, but the exact moment when the faith faded into oblivion is a memory I didn’t hold on to.
There was another childhood story that your parents told you as you grew up: you can be anything you want to be. Do you remember that one? Do you remember the moment that you became skeptical, or perhaps stopped believing in it altogether? Over the past few days, I’ve been discussing my trip a lot with my parents. They are (understandably) a little apprehensive, and want to comprehend why I am choosing to leave a perfectly good job in a decidedly bad economy. The other day, my mom asked me if I was scared. What if I failed? What if something horrible happened to me and I had to come back early, defeated and without a job, a car, a place to live? What if the outcome of this trip wasn’t what I hoped? The world could take a look at my accomplishments and my experiences, pause in temporary interest, and then move on without a second glance. Wasn’t I afraid? What I’m genuinely scared of, I told her, is waking up one morning five, ten, twenty years from now, looking at myself in the mirror, and realizing that I never lived the life I was meant to live because I didn’t believe I could make it. That frightens me much more than the possibilities that the unknown possesses. If I fail, I will pick myself up and move on, acknowledging the fact that life has other plans in store. I believe in myself, in my aspirations and the verity that things will work out the way they are meant to. Maybe this is naive and blindly optimistic of me- I don’t know. What I’m sure of is that you have to boldly hold on to your belief in yourself; there will be times when you will be the only one who does. Sing, dance, write, pray, run…do whatever you need to do to make sure your sleigh never ends up permanently on the ground. Allow your dreams, hopes and aspirations to take off joyously into the night-uninhibited, fueled by the fire of conviction that burns within you. That’s a gift that no North Pole (or angry South Pole) elf could ever give, and that no amount of time, “real-world” mentality, or man will ever be able to take away.