Driving toward Durham, I stopped at Starbucks to get coffee. Rarely buying coffee because it's expensive, I made the intentional choice to treat myself: pumpkin spice latte it was. Albeit much sweeter than I remembered it, the smooth taste of flavored milk was relaxing and enjoyable. As I sipped by drink in the car, I realized I was now listening to the radio instead of using my aux cord. In fact, I was listening to weird, tacky, Black Friday commercials. With no hand to spare, the radio sustained itself until I arrived at the car dealership. In the small, quaint waiting room, a woman wore a cute sweater depicting a cat dressed like Santa Claus. My favorite holiday candle, Yankee Candle's Autumn Wreath, burned steadily on a decorated coffee table.
Waiting for the airbag of my passenger seat to be fixed, I felt an unexpected bliss. I had been dreading this task for months (sorry to any friends reading this who drove in my car recently). It was nothing but a time waster for me. But my journey to this car dealership delivered the best present of the season: a warm feeling in my soul and clarity of mind that can only be gifted in such sudden fashion by the holiday spirit.
Getting my car fixed, a detour from my usual routine, provided a collection of stimuli reminiscent of when I am home during the holiday season. In catalyzing such a joyful mood, this journey offered me reminders of what constitutes the warm feeling of holidays: familiarity and tradition — two things that can feel completely strange to students during this season. Christmas tree in my college dorm? A weird, artificial remake of my real tree at “home home.” Hot cocoa on my back porch in my current house? A new tradition that would need to be repeated and processed by my brain for a few years before it could be woven into my mental schema of what the holiday season is.
Taking a long drive to run an errand with the radio on? Similar to driving with my parents to run errands around Christmas, when running an errand isn’t a nuisance, but a “family outing.” Waiting to get my car fixed with people who are not all 20-somethings and looking festive? A nice reminder of how everyone else is starting to get into the holiday spirit even if am I toiling away on a group project. The pumpkin spice latte? I’m embarrassed to admit that my dad is a huge fan, so I have had my fair share during the holidays at home.
In college, I believe it is important to take the time to break out of your routine, especially as stress builds in the semester, to enjoy the simple things that remind you of the magic of being at home with your family during winter break — or whatever you deeply look forward to during the last few weeks of the fall semester. I enjoyed the effects of such a respite by accident, and I hope you can find time to enjoy such a break on purpose.