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Simplicity in the Season of Giving

Updated: Feb 24, 2021

So I’ve never been much of a Halloween person. I think it probably has to do something with the Scream mask my older brother insisted on keeping in our garage growing up – the thing absolutely terrified me. I’m generally on board with Thanksgiving, but don’t really care for turkey so I’m really just there for family – and the cranberry sauce.

But Christmas, oh nelly, do I love Christmas.

The cold weather, the movies, the seasonal drinks, the gingerbread houses, Christmas carols, the list is endless. December rolls around and I find myself every year absolutely struck by an all-encompassing Christmas cheer. I want to rush out and cover my house in lights and spend practically a mortgage on gifts for my loved ones. I love Christmas so much I actually own a Santa Suit so that festivities follow wherever my feet take me.

But here’s the thing: for some reason, I’m not great when it comes to Christmas gifts. I’m not bad at picking them out, I definitely put in a lot of effort in. It’s just more often than not my gifts are completely and thoroughly alright. Nothing special, largely unmemorable, and a source of persistent annual anxiety. So as the holiday season has creeped-slash-sprinted toward us in a timeless way only a pandemic can offer, I became practically ill at the thought of slinking through the holidays season on our simple means.

You see, living in Manhattan with a budget like ours is a bit of an exercise of calculated chaos. I get groceries on the first of the month and do what I can to find out just how many different ways a chicken breast can be reimagined (so far I got about six options here). As a community, the simplicity tenant we abide by impacts our lives very differently than the cohorts that have lived here before us. The temptation of living in the entertainment capital of the world is admittedly far less formidable when practically everything other than a stray McDonalds is closed to the public. My community members and I work remotely, meaning we presently don’t have to worry about stretching our stipend on monthly subway passes or citi-bike memberships. In a lot of ways, we have it pretty sweet as far as simplicity goes.

However, even though we may have fewer monthly expenses than the typical GSV would, living simply remains a challenge. Working remotely, alongside my two community members as well as an apartment building filled with medical students and working families all trying to get zoom to cooperate, often feels like a relentless lesson in humility. Don’t get me wrong, I actually quite enjoy working in my pajamas and find something of a luxury in avoiding the infamous daily subway commute. That being said, remote working is still pretty tough. I have tons of wants – a dual screen computer, a jet printer, a standing desk with a exercise bike attachment so you can wheel and work - but what I’ve learned thus far in my journey as a Public Policy fellow is all I really need is a semi-stable zoom connection, a pen and paper, and a lot of stretch breaks.

I think this year has opened my eyes to the fact that living simply is something so much more fundamental than merely living on a budget. It’s less about sacrificing the things you want and more so about being intentional about what you need.

So even though part of me still wants to break out into a cold sweat as I think about Christmas gifts for my exponentially increasing Irish family, I know it’s going to be alright. Sure, I may want to shower my family members in just-right gifts to at least try to make up for the absolute disaster that has 2020 turned out to be, and on future holidays, I very well may do that. But for now, I’m going to settle in with a blank canvas and bit of paint and make some gifts from scratch and be thankful for my health, my family, my friends, my amazing community, and the people I serve. Because at the end of the day, a little bit of love is really all we need.


Written by,

Brooke McPherson

NYC Community, ‘20-‘21


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