Around Thanksgiving, I start working on Christmas lists. It cuts both ways: what things do I need to watch for in Europe for family and friends, how do I respond when they ask what I want and need. I joke that a father should change hobbies every few years just so that their children have things to get them at Christmas and birthdays.
This year’s list was heavy on replacement items though: a couple of years of hard entrepreneurial work and diminished startup salary had left threadbare gaps. The battle-suit was frayed from many pitches, trains, and cleaners; my watch had gone missing after a quick dash through Schiphol security last summer. My shoulder bag was scuffed, my shoes lopsided. My camera has shadows on the LCD, my music player is scratched, my netbook cracked. Like field ribbons, each tells a story, but together they feel tired when I’m not.
So, rather than making resolutions, I think this New Year’s should be a renewal, maybe even start a jubilee year (the biblical seventh-year tradition of canceling debts, applied to my seventh expat year).
I started at the Nordstrom Half Yearly sale, suits and accessories half-off after Christmas. I need a suit that looks successful, but like I still need the money I’m raising, I told my sales assistant, Reece, probably not quite 25. “Modern, but not flashy; European and tasteful,” he mused, opting for subtle stripes and a bit of lapel trim. I sucked in my cookie-inflated waist for the measure; my daughter came over from handbags to offer advice (I made sure to introduce her to Reece – no harm in her getting to know young men who know how to dress). She chipped in a very nice tie; I resisted the upsell to a new shirt.
The new me was, of course, fabulous.
I took it for a spin last week, it got good initial reviews and we closed a couple of deals. I sent my daughter thanks.
I picked up a watch, swapped the player, loaded up with new podcasts. The camera will have to wait (Costco ran out of the HX9V I’ve had my eye on). Inspired, I swept through a series of lingering jobs in the home and apartment, crossing off repairs and replacements. A cracked chambord coffee press, a flaking saucepan, a peeping smoke alarm, a broken refrigerator magnet: large and small, they came and were healed.
I confess that the progress does wonders for my mental attitude as well as my environment. No longer surrounded by visible reminders of wear and tear and things to be done, now there’s ‘change for the better’.
‘beats making resolutions.