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All I Want(ed) for Christmas
It had been some time, maybe a year or two, since I last looked at "The Secret Santa," an essay that I wrote in the fall of 2006. This week, just a few days before Christmas, I pulled it out and read it again.
Not having seen the work in such a long time, it was great to read it again with fresh eyes and fresh perspective. I honestly think that it's one of the finest pieces that I've ever written.
Considering the subject matter, too, it's also one of the most important things that I've ever written.
There are a number of reasons why I hadn't looked at the essay in a long while. By the time it was done, the essay had come to symbolize many things, not the least of which was a significant sense of creative accomplishment ... and a mind-numbing sense of frustration.
I actually went through a depression when I finished the work.
For about two months, most of my nights and weekends -- basically the time that wasn't spent at my soul sucking day job -- had been devoted to the text. Lots of web searches, lots of reading, and lots of translating text from Spanish, Italian, even Russian websites.
And I loved it.
Before long, though, it felt as if I was splitting myself in two, constantly moving between the mental highs of a creative state at night time, and the mental lows of robotic repetition performed while at the day job.
And each night, while walking home from work I would find myself muttering variations of: "This is no fucking way to live," and "I can't keep living like this," and "Why do I have to live this way?"
I wanted to end it all, that ceaseless pattern of repetition; the peeling myself out of the desk chair in the wee hours of the morning, the going to bed and waking up just a few hours later, the getting in the shower, the getting dressed, the figuring out what to take to eat for lunch, the walking into work, the sitting at the desk, the logging into the computer and phone, and the answering calls with the scripted line:
"Thank you for calling ______. This is ______. How can I help you?"
I won't go into any of the dark details. But suffice it to say that due to the kinds of thoughts that I started having each night while walking home, I made an appointment to see a psychiatrist. I knew that it wasn't healthy to be thinking the way I was ... as often as I was.
It only took a one hour session, though, for me to realize that psychotherapy was going to be a waste of my time, and the insurance company's money. Talking to a shrink wasn't going to help me with what I was feeling every night -- not as quickly as I needed anyway.
What I really needed was a reality check. And so -- just as I have done for so many other people -- I gave myself one.
"Sure," I thought. "I had written something special, something extraordinary. Something groundbreaking." But I also had to acknowledge that the work created in my private time represented only a portion of my existence.
The other significant portion consisted of the work done sitting in a pod at a computer in a call center. That too was my reality -- a significant part of my reality. As mundane as it was, that's what was keeping the rent paid, the lights on, and food in the refrigerator.
Sure, my fortunes could all change one day. But those were the cards I was holding at the time. The cards that I'm still holding.
Anyway, after coming to grips with my ever more humbling situation, I decided that I needed to distance myself from "The Secret Santa," and anything else I was working on that caused me to think so far outside the box, and set me up with expectations that didn't come to fruition.
I should probably mention now that after sending out a few inquiry letters to magazines and a few websites, the essay was fairly close to being printed in a magazine called Trumpet, a nationally distributed religious publication out of Chicago, my hometown.
Coincidentally, it was a magazine that was published by the church that my mother, father, sister and an aunt back in Chicago all attended. At the time, then Senator Barack Obama and his wife Michelle were also members.
Yes, that church.
Unfortunately, though, like several magazines since, the Trumpet fell on financial hard times and suspended publication. Since then I haven't sent out any more inquiry letters regarding the essay.
Each year, though, around the month of September, I find myself thinking about sending out a few more inquiry letters. But then I don't.
Maybe the work is still just a little ahead of it's time. Maybe I'm still waiting for the rest of the world to catch up. Or maybe it's just not as groundbreaking as I think. (Yeah, right.)
Whatever the case, I'm proud of the work that went into crafting this essay. Of all the things I've produced, it's still the one that I would most like to see presented to a larger audience. I still think that it will happen one day.
In the meantime, I have formatted the text into a nice 20-page zine. One with a color cover and three pages of color illustrations inside.
Unlike my other zines, though, I don't think that I'm going to be making The Secret Santa available for purchase. Instead, maybe next year I'll just mail 'em out to family and friends as a 20-page Christmas card.