giving /giviNG/, v., present participle

I have successfully made it one complete year having this precise Christmas countdown clock as the homepage of my Google Chrome browser. Technically, it’s been a year and almost a month, seeing as I wrote about it in early November last year, but same difference.

The sentiment is still there and it’s still the same (as is the Christmas countdown).

My perception and celebration of Christmas, I’ll own up to it, falls into consumer capitalism. I am that person who will buy every single Christmas-themed cookie because why not, and I will listen to Christmas music in the morning during my commute to work because it’s been cold enough where I live to actually pretend that it’s winter (and not technically autumn).

It was only this year (and a little bit last year, but to a lesser degree) that I realized just how much I also love the spirit of giving to people. In mid-October, I began making a Christmas list with the names of people to whom I would send letters, for whom I’d buy gifts, and for whom I’d bake cookies.

Photo by Courtney Cheng
By mid-November, the list had gotten — even by my standards — out of hand. I think I got a little overzealous because it was the first Christmas I was finally receiving a proper full-time paycheck, and not just the part-time earnings I made working on campus as a student.

It was the first time I felt like I had enough to give and spread around, not just in terms of money, but also in terms of time and mental energy.

Of all the people, acquaintances, and friends I’ve talked to about the immediate post-grad transition, everyone seems to fall into a very similar boat: Friends who were once next door or just a few minutes’ walk away are now several hours (and potentially hundreds of dollars) further.

More than one person has told me that it’s incredibly isolating.

While this change has strained some friendships and made acquaintance-ships virtually nonexistent (barring the idle liking of each others’ posts on Facebook) it’s also made keeping good friends closer much simpler — and yet also, simultaneously, much harder.

Without daily, or at least weekly, proximity to people, regularly checking in does become an active effort to give yourself and your time to others. It’s already difficult with close friends. It becomes a conscious effort to do so with those who already more removed in the first place.

As a whole, in 2016, I have tried my best to constantly give more than I have in the past, particularly as my responsibilities in school diminished and I was naturally given more freedom to allocate my own time how I wished.

It is, frankly, exhausting to give so much — but it is also incredibly rewarding. Hearing from friends both dear and distant, particularly during a year that has been trying on so many levels, has been a wonderful source of comfort.

Photo by Courtney Cheng
In the spirit of Christmas, the other upcoming winter holidays, and the general sentiment of warmth and good cheer that the end of the year brings, I am trying to give as much as I can and more than I take this season. Even though there are less than 20 days until Christmas, there is still more than enough time to give.

You can define and frame the acts of “giving” (and “receiving”) between two people in many different ways — which I cannot properly address in the space of a single blog post to the extent that they deserve.

But because I know how rewarding it feels to be on either side of this giving/receiving street, I don’t think there’s any reason to limit how much you give. If you can’t give financially, then do so with time, and if not with time, then at least with love.

My heart has been in my throat the entire time I have kept up with the news from the Ghost Ship fire in Oakland. I am at least one degree of separation away from any of the victims, but I now know more than a few handfuls of people who are grieving personal losses. If you can, please give this community your love and support.

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