Year-end ruminations

Summer has rolled in to the southern hemisphere, and the air is somehow different. Unlike those up north, our school and work year operates on a calendar year basis: we start in January, and end in December. Way simpler than a mid-year to mid-year cycle, if you ask me.

Growing up, this was always the best time of year: 5 weeks of freedom from the educational imprisonment that stalked our hearts and minds for most of the year. A time where the sun was ever-present, responsibilities and homework were non-existent, and pleasures were all we lived for: playing sport outside late into the day (and sometimes at night, too), movies, games, and late nights – followed by lazy mornings where catching the sunrise was an unheard of concept.

There’s a different atmosphere once December arrives. A relaxed vibe in the air, where people unwind and enjoy a well-earned rest from the intense months that wore down their spirits after summer last visited.

When I first entered the professional world, I found it horrifying to be working at this time of year – particularly as we inched closer towards Christmas. It felt almost criminal –to be wasting this glorious weather and heightened sense of festivity, stuck in an office for 8 hours a day while kids, teachers (who have the same insanely-long holidays), and a surprising number of adults, enjoyed the freedom that summer brings.

I used to be one of those kids. Then one of those young adults. But at that point – the end of my first year of work – I was devastated to realise that life would never be the same.

My spirit was pounded into submission, and I accepted the fact that this kind of freedom – in this season – wouldn’t come again…at least not until I retire. If I live that long.

In a later job, at my university, I came to appreciate this time of year again because of the emptiness it brought to campus. This campus – which had been home for my final stretch of formal education – was always bustling and noisy, filled with smells of food, lunchtime concerts, and students decorating the plaza stairs – even when they should have been in class.

But once December graduations were completed, it became a sort of ghost town. And that, to me, was the best time to be there – at one of the most beautiful campuses in the world, free to roam and enjoy without human traffic or the energies that inhabit the place every other time. (For reference, you can see some visuals here – taken earlier this year when the sparsity of humans was due to the pandemic.)

Since then, I’ve grown an additional appreciation of December because of the reduced workload that sits on my plate. Projects wind down or are placed on hold for year-end, and high intensity deadlines become few and far between.

It’s best when the work itself is easy – ‘brainless work’, I call it, because it’s mechanical enough that I can listen to stuff while I work, without having to exert my mind much.

But even if there’s a lot of work, or it requires grey matter, it somehow feels far easier. Psychologically, even though I’m still at work, my spirit is free again. And that makes this the best time of year to work.

Up to 24th December, at least.

After that, it just feels wrong to be working in the week between Christmas and New Year.

And then the mood shifts again once January 2nd hits – or whichever day is the first working day of the year. New Year’s Day is not a joyous occasion in my book, because it heralds the start of serious life once more. Even if I’m on leave, January brings this nagging shadow of what’s to come once work resumes and the kids go back to school.

So, these are the golden days and I’ll enjoy them as long as I can.

What about you? What’s your relationship with December work like?

PS: Below is a piece I wrote last summer, capturing the essence of the season:

Nights crunched into hours so short,
as lazy days stretch out,
sun eventually retreating for rest
before another long shift stumbles into its path.

These are the times
for long walks and cool drinks,
sweltering heat and makeshift fans –
adept at both cooling
and swatting away
the buzz of unwelcome visitors
with no regard for personal space.

The mercy of a gentle breeze
kissing your face
as sweat trickles down,
the inevitable release
of a body struggling to operate
under temperatures so extreme.

Holiday vibes fill the air,
as the masses let go of the year’s stress,
a well-earned rest
from days (and nights)
of toil at both work and home.

Beaches are packed,
hiking trails well trodden,
revellers dot lakes and dams,
as malls and restaurants stay open late,
cashing in on the seasonal influx
that will sustain them for months to come.

Families and friends gather,
kids running amok
while adults turn a blind eye,
rules and expectations relaxed
as freedom reigns for all.

Special days
under golden rays,
as weeks crawl by,
eventually giving way
to the new school and work year –
a fresh start for all –
life swings back into seriousness,
and all that’s left are sweet memories,
of summer daze
that left too soon.

Image source: Lejla Sudic @ Flickr 

3 thoughts on “Year-end ruminations

  1. I think this time before Christmas is special. I never used to notice it, caught up in the blur of activity, but now I do. And I appreciate it for what it is, the prelude to holidays that truly will go all too fast. I enjoyed this post Yacoob you truly captured my attention and drew me into your world.

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