How the Grinch Stole My Christmas Spirit

December has always been one of my most favorite months. Long-awaited at the end of a year, it manages to bring out the festive feeling even in the most humdrum things: I wanted to buy one apple-pie and one berries danishes but the waiter got me the apple-pie one and two butter croissants insteada forgivable blunder that made Christmas even more memorable; I cut my hair with short layers after years of always cutting them straighta fresh new look for 'tis the damn season; I had already had my picks even before the annual Secret Santa event was announcedtrying to find out what book would I brought home this year got me very excited.

Sadly, the joyous feeling didn't last very long. I might have tried my best to hype up the Christmas spirit so that everyone around me got excited about the festive season as much as I did. "Christmas is near, Christmas is near," I might have repeated the mantra over and over again every time I felt the need for reassurance. But work had been crazy and even Santa couldn't make all the tasks go away. Even if I had too much on my plate that I could juggle, the pressure to present the best outcome possible still resided. I had gotten super tired and stressed until I finally... collapsed. That's when the Grinch came to the scene and stole my Christmas spirit.

Please do not take the last sentence literally, though what I mean is pretty much the same. Instead of an early gift from Santa, the Grinch took the lead and bestowed me with its unpleasant surprise: I got infected by Herpes Zoster, a condition that covered my chin, lower left jaw, and ear with swollen lymph nodes. It surely didn't look pretty and hurt so bad that there was a night when I could only sleep for less than an hour.

My Christmas spirit evaporated as quickly as the disease came. While my team in the office was preparing our year-end celebration lunch in a hotel restaurant, I was lying in my bed, hoping for a dose of anesthesia to mute the troubling buzz in my left ear. I skipped the fun of the Secret Santa event, and could only hope that mine wouldn't forget to bring back my present from the venue and accidentally lose it. And I called off the plan to buy a Christmas choux towermedicines cost more than I had imagined.

Despite the distressing step back, hard work eventually paid off, just like what I had always held on to. Along with some of my colleagues, I was rewarded with a promotion, the first present I got this Christmas that made me truly happy albeit intangible. But as I was reapplying the Acyclovir cream on the swollen areas while gritting my teeth because the inside of my left ear hurt like hell, I wondered to myself: was it really worth it?

I genuinely think it isn't.

It may come out as a surprise, but I'm actually amongst the few who like what I do for a living (minus the stress and pressure) and so I'm extremely grateful for it. Dealing with tax working papers and regulations was challenging enough to keep me on my toes. But listen, I never consider myself ambitiousmost of the time I feel like I could never be clever enough to achieve too high of a position, and I barely even think about what my next step would be. I work the way I do because sometimes I'm... curious, and people perceive it as 'working very hard' or 'working all the time'.

It's weird, but as I'm recovering, I take my time to think about work in a quite different manner. I may have been enjoying what I do from paycheck to paycheck, but I have also been too focused on it that I heedlessly abandon the other interests of mine. Where is this person who secretly wants to learn a new language? I remember wanting to take a Mandarin class to refresh my childhood memory. Have I also forgotten my idea of an ideal grown-up lifestyle: wake up, exercise, work, dinner with friends, read a chapter or two, and sleep? I used to want to nurture my interest in writing and drawing. And I certainly miss having the time to run a bookstagram account and gush over a fictional character with book geeks like me.

It's bizarre how realization kicks in the most stressful situation. I have other interests also, and making myself sick just because I've been doing the work stuff too much is really not worth it. Life is more than just working. Life is about doing enough of something and enough of other things. Life is about exploring a few things altogether while you're young. Life is about being hopeful that you're on the right track, and changing your path when it is not. Being sick certainly brings its own awareness.

This Christmas, I get my priorities sorted out, and that is more miracle than I myself could have asked for.