Greetings and Salutations,
Welcome to the Fifteenth Annual Christmas Mass Email. I hope this finds each and every one of you well.
I have been okay this year, but our current year seems to have been a struggle in some way for just about everyone else I know. Whether your job stinks, you’ve lost someone close to you, or if the daily grind just seems to be more abrasive lately, this year has been long. Perhaps your personal setbacks this year have been mild, or perhaps 2016 was unbelievably positive for you. That is genuinely terrific, but I think a lot of us can sympathize with the observation that this has been a tough year for many people. I am unsure how much longer our collective malaise will last, but here is what I do know: each of us will continue to have good years and bad years, each with their own ups and downs. The important part is to persevere through the bad and appreciate the good.
Despite sounding a bit sour, I am confident that each of us will come out of this downturn better for it. The reason I have this confidence is that there is one positive that emerges out of struggle, and that is the impetus for introspection. This is what I invite each of us to do at the close of this year regardless of whether this year has been difficult or fantastically wonderful for you. Release yourself from the obvious platitudes, and instead really pause and consider what about this year could be improved. Then respond to what you can change. Do not accept that next year will be just as hard, or if this year was good, do not accept that next year cannot be better. The usual cliché is that struggle is character building. That’s certainly true to a point, but there is a tenuous line between the construction of character and pointless hardship. I cannot speak to each of you individually in one letter, but what I do offer is a modicum of advice for everyone. For those of you that had a difficult year, the pain and worry and fight will not last forever. We will get through this, but do not let this confluence of misfortune slip by without learning from it. Experience is how we cope with difficult years and how we appreciate the positive years. For everyone else, I simply say look out for the people around you that are having a tougher time in life than you. You’ll probably need to lean on them someday in return.
Finally, I want to reiterate something I said a few years ago. Lately, our society has accentuated discord to an unsettling degree. Antagonism seems to be the first response to any sort of disagreement instead of conversation. I am of the opinion that people (in general) are not malicious. Some may manifest evil traits, but no one is intrinsically malicious. However, the prevailing assumption seems to be that because someone doesn’t agree with us, they must not only be wrong but also morally repugnant. This does not mean I believe there is no objective truth. I assuredly do, but we will never develop consensus on anything if we attack one another instead of trying to understand opposing viewpoints and logically and calmly arguing our own cherished attitudes. Foremost, I am advocating tolerance and reflection as we are all more alike than we are different. We are all a part of humanity – ideology, creed, and tribe cannot divide us unless we allow it. Let’s just listen to one another. I know we are all capable of patience and understanding, and those should be the highest goals we seek.
And there you go. I putter along — only a few months of graduate school left. Congratulations to those who have really done something amazing this year, whether it’s finishing a degree, getting married, starting a family, finding a new passion in life, or any other accomplishment. But never be satisfied; always strive for more. Always question, learn, grow; otherwise, what’s the point?
Enjoy the season, and give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have. Reply to let me know how you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished. Wanting to hear from each of you is half the reason I send this every year.
The requisite joke:
A high school senior was taking his girlfriend to prom. In preparation, he first went to rent a tuxedo. Upon arriving at the shop, there was an enormously long line. However, after a multi-hour wait, he did manage to get a beautifully tailored tuxedo.
Afterwards, he traveled to a nearby florist to pick up a corsage. Once again, there was a line, but after a long wait, he was successful in selecting a magnificent cattleya orchid.
For his last task, he proceeded to rent a limousine, as this was his senior prom, and his date was a very special girl. Though as his luck would have it, there was another extended line again, but his patience paid off, and he procured a luxurious car.
Several hours later, he and his date arrived to the prom hand-in-hand in style. They talked and danced for a little bit, and then his girlfriend asked for some punch. He went to get it, but there was no punch line.
Best wishes and happy holidays,