A couple months ago, my aunt was cleaning out a drawer and found a Christmas letter written by her brother/my late uncle who passed away two years ago. The letter dated back to the year 2000 and outlined the happenings of all the Fongers family members. But this Christmas letter wasn’t the average holiday greeting.
Instead of sweet sentiments and proud accomplishments, my uncle had penned a hilariously outrageous letter filled with jokes and sarcastic comments. His intention was to poke fun at the seemingly exaggerated letters my grandparents had received from a friend each year. Those letters always highlighted how wonderful everything was for this friend and her family. The kids? Wonderful. The grandkids? Wonderful. The vacations? Wonderful. The projects around the house? Wonderful. The weather? Wonderful. The mundane, everyday occurrences? Just wonderful. Year after year.
This prompted my uncle’s humorous response, which my dad read aloud at this year’s Thanksgiving gathering. Several of us were wiping tears from laughter by the end of the letter. And while my opinion isn’t quite as strong as my uncle’s was, I still think he might have a point about the traditional content of annual Christmas letters and cards.
Christmas letters, in essence, are highlight reels. Social media habits may receive some scrutiny for the emphasis on accomplishments and happy life events, but I’d like to present Christmas letters as another prime example. Though my family has received some details about hardships from relatives or friends every once in a while, this just isn’t the norm. And even as glossy photo cards from Shutterfly or Walgreens have grown in popularity over the years, handwritten letters with perfectly polished season’s greetings still remain a tradition for some.
I’ve helped my mom write our family’s Christmas letter several times. And while we strive to keep our updates brief and matter-of-fact, they still tend to focus on the positive. So, for the sake of transparency, here’s my own honest Christmas letter.
Season’s greetings to you. I hope you—like me—are attempting to find some moments of sanity during the bustle and chaos of this season. Between shopping and holiday parties and travel arrangements and end-of-year work projects and sudden attempts to be a skilled gift wrapper, it’s a miracle I’m sparing any moments for self reflection. But here we go.
This year was, well, a rollercoaster. I’ve scarcely made time to process any of the countless life changes and/or events that took place in 2022, including but not limited to: my great-grandmother’s passing, a career change, planning a wedding, moving, getting COVID, getting married, traveling out of the country twice within a few weeks, navigating several big changes at work, etc.
To be clear, I’m so thankful to be in a much better stage of life now than I was at the beginning of the year. But the constant busyness and countless changes have been overwhelming. I think stress became my unintentional theme for this year.
If I’m being really honest, I’ve been spending the past couple of months struggling with how to be a good wife, a good employee, a good homemaker, a good writer, a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend, and just a good functioning adult in society. I know it’s not realistic to excel at all these things each and every day, but sometimes I feel like I’m not really excelling at any of them.
And here we are at Christmastime. Despite some sweet new traditions I’m making with my husband, I also haven’t done a great job of appreciating the significance of Advent and the reason for this season. However, I did come across this meaningful quote that reminds me of the nature of this Advent—the grappling, the yearning—and I hope it brings you a little bit of comfort like it has for me:
“Advent is the time you remember something good is on its way, even if it’s not there right now.”
In spite of the challenges this year brought for me, there were some undeniable moments of good. Whatever this year has looked like for you, I hope you know it’s okay. It’s okay to feel those feelings that aren’t pleasant. It’s okay to grieve happy changes in the same way we grieve sad ones. Sometimes life is just…a lot. But, in terms of the quote, I hope you are able to cling to what gives you hope as you navigate the “even ifs” and “not right nows.” Here’s to a fresh start in 2023.
With the most sincerity,
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.