The Holiday Season

Maybe its because I spent the last six holiday seasons working in retail, or maybe its because I am Jewish and celebrate Hanukkah, but I am not a huge fan of Christmas.

I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah because I had a Jewish dad and a Baptist raised mother. I loved having both holidays because each one was unique. My mother and father would celebrate Hanukkah at home with my brother and me and then we’d go to my grandmother’s house for a big Christmas dinner with lots of family.

My childhood love of the holidays stuck with me until I was 16 and got my first job at Target. I had never realized before then how crazy the holiday season could be. The month of December was full of massive crowds and grumpy customers desperate to get that year’s “hot” toy item. I got yelled at by people who looked so nice and sweet until I told them that the toy their daughter/son/grandchild wanted was sold out and sorry but I don’t know when we are going to get more.

Every holiday season I worked after my first seemed to get worse with more yelling and angrier customers. Each holiday season left me feeling more disappointed in the general public than the last. People seemed like they were completely out for themselves and had no problem with physically fighting with someone to get the best deal. By the time Christmas actually came around I feel tired and stressed, not joyful and excited.

This holiday season is the first season in six years I have not worked retail and yet the ill feelings I have of the holidays are still lingering. I still cringe at holiday songs being played in stores and the crowds of people have deterred me from wanting to get my gift shopping done.

However, this is also the first holiday season I am spending with my boyfriend’s family, who are big fans of Christmas. I really want to shake my Grinch-like feelings in order to have a Merry Christmas. I need to brush of all the old stressful retail memories and make new ones. I hate how much the retail world has tainted this time of year. So hopefully this year my boyfriend’s love of Christmas will transfer to me and this year I can learn to love holiday songs and embrace Christmas decorations once again.

Curls

I have been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with curly hair. I am somewhat of an anomaly in my family, no one else really has curls. The closest genetic link to my curly hair comes from my father, who had the craziest hippie/”jewfro” hair you’d ever see before he went bald. My mother however has naturally straight hair which does not have an ounce of curl in it. I must have gotten the short end of the genetic stick, winding up with dark Russian hair that is difficult to manage.

I have spent so many years fighting my curls; using chemical treatments, flat irons and every conceivable “straighting” cream on the market. While all these weapons I’ve used against my curly hair have been mostly effective, I feel like its a huge war to wage against nature. But I still battle to the death with my hair, and for what reason? Mostly because of society’s ideas of what is beautiful. I always claim I was born in the right decade for my hair, but grew up in the wrong one. I was a child of the 1980’s and at that time, voluminous, curly hair was a hot look. Unfortunately, being born in the late eighties meant I had to grow up in the 1990’s and become a teenager in the new millennium. When I hit my teens straight hair was the look to have. So I fought my hair until it became straight.

Lately I am starting to feel like the war I wage is useless. I had already resolved that one day I’d throw in the towel and stop fighting nature. However I figured that time would come when I had a family to take care of and no time to bother with my hair. While that is certainly not the case now, I still feel like straightening my curly hair away is not the most worth while thing to do. I long for the convenience of wash and go hair. I hate spending hours upon hours blow drying and flat ironing my hair only to walk outside on a foggy San Francisco day (there sure are a lot of them) and have my hair balloon up with frizz. Honestly I want to embrace the curly beauty that I know is there under all the frizz.

I recently picked up a book from the library that has been around for several years (an updated version will be released in Jan 2011) called “Curly Girl” by Lorraine Massey and Michele Bender. The passion for curls in the book has gotten me thinking a lot about my hair and how if I treated my curls with more love, they’d look amazing. So I’ve decided that once I am officially on winter break I am going to try out the program in the book. I am going to follow the techniques which include changing my shampoo routine and styling techniques. Hopefully I can learn to embrace and love my curly hair. Maybe, just maybe 2011 will be a year of curls.

First Impressions

We are constantly told that first impressions are so important because they can heavily influence our opinions about people. However, this year I have learned that first impressions can be so incredibly wrong.

Take for example a professor I met at the beginning of this year. I wasn’t able to formally register for his class so I showed up on the first day of the spring semester to try “crash” the class. When I went up to speak with him after the first class was over, I was taken aback by his lack of sympathy for students who were desperate to get into his classes. I saw people who were on the verge of tears over the fear of not being able to graduate because his class was the last requirement they needed. He seemed to be apathetic towards the students and offered no assistance to them. What bothered me the most was that almost every other professor I’d encountered at San Francisco State University had been helpful and caring towards students; trying to make every accommodation to allow them into their classes when they really needed it. I left the class feeling upset and helpless because eventually had to have a class with this professor, as his class was required for my major. The spring semester went by and I registered again for the fall semester, signing up for his class. The first day of the fall semester I was nervous and reluctant as I walked in to the class with a firm (and negative) opinion of my teacher in my mind.

I can safely say that my first impression of my teacher was shattered over the course of the fall semester and I left my class feeling bittersweet that it was over. He was much more helpful, warm, and sympathetic than I made him out to be. All of my snap opinions about him from roughly eight months before turned out to be wrong. I wound up liking my professor so much that I am choosing to spend the final part of my Liberal Studies program with him, taking the capstone class he is teaching.

This experience has made me regret all the first impressions I have made about people, mostly because they have almost always turned out to be wrong. People I’ve formed negative snap decisions about have become some of my closest friends and people that I’ve thought were nice and friendly have turned out to be rude and back stabbing. If I were to live my life according to first impressions, I would have missed out on having so many great people in my life.

Unfortunately, in life we often only get the chance to make a first impression, not a second or third. I hope our world can learn that not everyone presents themselves well the first time they meet someone, I know I certainly have. We must also remind ourselves that lying beneath that first impression can be a great person worth getting to know.

Rain and fog

Its a rainy day in San Francisco and I have to say I am loving it. Although rain can be depressing, occasionally I enjoy the rain because it can be cleansing. San Francisco always seems cleaner when its raining, as if all the grime of the city gets washed away. The fog surrounding the city also makes it seem a bit more mysterious. I love seeing the hills of the city peeking out from the top of the fog and clouds.

The rain also forces me to stay inside, something I need to do if I am ever going to get all my studying done for my finals. There is something so nice about being cozy inside, watching the rain fall while drinking a cup of hot cocoa.

I used to love to play in the rain as a kid, especially when I lived in Arizona. It hardly rained in Phoenix, so when it did, it was somewhat of a treat. I’d love to walk around in my rain gear, exploring my desert landscaped neighborhood. Walking around in the rain and splashing in the in water, I felt very connected to nature. I loved the feeling that nature was so much grander than I was, it felt almost spiritual. Today that spiritual feeling stays with me, and whenever I see the rain I am brought back to my childhood.

Resolutions

Its only the 6th of December and already I am thinking about my New Years resolution. Every year I make a well-meaning resolution and every year it is forgotten by February. By August I am looking back at my resolution wondering where I went wrong and start to feel disappointed in myself that I couldn’t keep it. But maybe its not necessarily my fault, maybe I am creating resolutions from what society expects of women in their 20’s.

Think about it, women are constantly bombarded by magazines, TV shows and ads, telling them which celebrity they should idolize, what career they should be aspiring to, who they should be dating and what they should be spending their money on. I feel constantly attacked by the world around me, everyone telling me in order to be happier I should exercise more, eat healthier, wear my eyeshadow a particular way and try an amazing new product that promises to clear up my face. While all that advice can be helpful and some of the time well-meaning, it usually leaves me feeling guilty that I am not doing everything they say. This leads me to make a claim that “I will exercise/eat right/try a smoky eye/save my money/spend more time outside/go for the job I’ve always wanted”. Typically I make such claims at a time in my life when its not exactly feasible or convenient to follow through with the action and I end up feeling defeated. It can be such a vicious cycle  and frankly does not make me anywhere near as happy as I “should be”.

But who says I can’t be happy by ignoring what “society” tells me to do? I am beginning to think that  ignoring some of the “advice” from society is precisely what I need to be truly happy. Maybe 2011’s resolution will be to figure out what makes me happy, without having to be told what “should” make me happy. I need to listen to my body more; if I feel like exercising then I will. However if I feel like relaxing in bed while watching a movie, I should go for it and not feel guilty about it. The other part of my resolution should be to stop trying to plan out what I will be doing after I graduate from college, something that has dominated my thoughts for the past year. I really need to come to terms with the idea that I don’t have all that much control over that particular part of my life and the less I stress about it, the easier it will fall into place. Overall, I need to remind myself that I am the key to my own happiness. Society’s expectations can suck the happiness out of someone else’s New Years resolution, but not mine.