Serendipity (2001)

Serendipity (2001)

Before moving to the city, I imagined Christmas in New York to be exactly how it is depicted in films: perfect. I seamlessly blended together the scenes in movies with my understanding of reality. I was so sure that my first Christmas in New York City would see me living in a winter wonderland reminiscent of the ones seen in Serendipity and Home Alone. I imagined every street in the city would be transformed into a tunnel of twinkling lights with garlands strung from lamppost to lamppost, candles flickering in windows. I imagined I would have been first in line to see the Rockefeller tree lighting and then I’d spend ample evenings skating at the rink bellow, arm and arm with my boyfriend.

I supposed that I would wear a peacoat every day and that I would replace coffee with hot chocolate. I could just about hear the carols that would fill the streets. I envisioned the overstuffed shopping bags from Bergdorf’s and Barneys that I would tote along Fifth Avenue. The snow would fall just right, dusting everything with a glistening veil of white. I saw this world so clearly that when December fourteenth–just ten days before Christmas–came and passed and I still hadn’t skated, drank a sip of hot chocolate or even heard the chorus of a Christmas choir, I was shocked at my own naiveté. How had I been so wrong?

In reality, very few streets are actually strung with lights and none of them are anywhere near my apartment. The weather is absolutely freezing and being outside for more than five minutes feels like a special brand of torture. The snow doesn’t fall in delicate flakes but rather is heavy and wet. I have long since retired my peacoat in lieu of my oversized parka that is much less festive but much more practical.

In my attempt to go ice-skating I found that the cost to skate at Rockefeller was quite hefty and with my growing gift list just wasn’t doable. Barney and Bergdorf’s much like the rink became luxuries that just weren’t in the cards for this struggling writer. And on top of it all I still couldn’t bring myself to order a hot chocolate instead of a coffee because without the caffeine I am sure I would cease to exist and thus not finish all the impending work that didn’t cease to exist even though it’s Christmas time.

So now, I’m sitting in my room, the furnace humming beside me, contemplating turning my air-conditioning on for a moment to combat the sweltering heat while watching the snow fall out my window and wallowing in my own disappointment. The red light of the building that I was once convinced was the Empire State Building keeps pulsing in the night sky.

When I first moved into this apartment I was sure that I had found a gem. No one could convince me that this was somehow not the perfect place for me. It may not have a living room and my bathroom may be connected to my kitchen, but since I had almost no expectation of what an apartment in Manhattan at my budget would look like, this place was perfect. I had a big room with a big window featuring a view of the top of the “Empire State Building” (it is, for the record, just a random building with red lights on top). It was everything and it was mine and I was in the city I had dreamed of being for as long as I can remember (probably since that first fateful time I watched Home Alone), looking at the building that in many ways had come to epitomize my dreams (and that “Empire State of mind”).

And in contemplating this, I realized that it was my own elaborate expectations for Christmas that had ruined the experience for me. Rather than being open and excited for whatever happened, I compared everything to the glossy model I had conceived in my head. Had I approached the holidays in the same way I approached finding an apartment, I would be thrilled to even be in the city at all during such a special time of year. My apartment isn’t perfect but it’s perfect for me, which is often the case with anything worth loving in life. And New York isn’t perfect but it can be perfect for me if I stop trying to fit it into this perfect snow globe that I created and just enjoy it for what it is. The snow may be wet but it does look gorgeous piled on the trees in Central Park. And walking up and down Fifth Avenue without shopping bags in hand is still pretty wonderful. And, hello–there are gingerbread and creme brulee flavored espresso drinks for a reason: festive and functional.

It’s funny how we can get in our own way of being happy. I am in New York City and it’s snowing and I have a perfectly imperfect apartment, a job I enjoy, a wonderful boyfriend who puts up with me and an abundance of good friends and family members. And I can’t stop complaining about the lack of hot chocolate in my life and my inability to shop at two of the most expensive stores in the world? So, maybe I’ve not only created unrealistic expectations, but also completely blacked out and forgot the actual point of the holiday season.

So, here’s to reflection and late night revelations and going out and playing the snow even if that means getting soaked dong it! But that’s just me. What are you all doing to make the holidays special?