Christmas is one of my favourite times of year! Yes… I am one of those annoying Christmas enthusiasts who loves to spread Christmas cheer and goodwill to others. I love the decorations, the giving, the silly Christmas songs… EVERYTHING about Christmas! However, Christmas hasn’t always been a great time for me. I’ve had a few Christmases that have been ‘pretty awful’, to say the least.
I’ve been thinking about what to post and share with you this week with Christmas soon upon us, and I decided I want to share with you one of my “worst” Christmases… It’s not THE worst, and I’m sure other people probably have worse stories too but nevertheless, I want to share with you this story from my past as it’s been on my mind lately.
A wee while ago now, I was working in retail as a Store Manager. Being the manager, I had to work right up till Christmas Eve. After finishing for the day on Christmas Eve, I had to tidy the store & have it ready for boxing day. I left work by about 8pm that night and prepared for the next day… Christmas! YAY! 😀
On Christmas morning I jumped in the car and drove from Auckland to Hamilton at 6am, which back then the journey took about 2 hours. I started with the first Christmas party of the day with my Mother’s side of the family. After hours of socialising, eating and, of course, present unwrapping, I geared up to head to the next Christmas party. I then spent the afternoon with my Father’s side of the family. After more hours of socialising, eating & unwrapping presents, I was starting to feel pretty exhausted. I said my goodbyes and headed back to Auckland. Alone.
When I finally got home, late in the evening on Christmas day, the then boyfriend’s family had been waiting up for me as they wanted to celebrate some of the day with me and had gifts waiting under the tree. So, I propped myself up and caught up with them for a bit. Trying to hide all signs of exhaustion. When I finally had a moment to stop, I collapsed and tried my best to unwind from the day before heading to bed.
The next morning, Boxing Day, I was up bright and early. No rest for the wicked, as they say. Boxing day for retail workers is hell. But, as Store Manager, I needed to be there to open up. I was there at 7am to prepare for the day ahead. There were queues outside the mall before the doors had even opened. (Picture something similar to Black Friday in the US). Throughout the day, there was a constant stream of women, girls and some men looking for bargains, arguing for the best price and carelessly throwing garments everywhere.
Being the manager and fastest on till, I grabbed a bottle of water and stood at the till for nearly 8 hours straight. Answering questions, arguing with customers who wouldn’t accept a price as it was, scanning items and trying to get through the queue as quickly as possible as it seemed to never end. I never knew you could work up a sweat standing at a till, but trust me, it’s very possible.
Finally, 5pm came and I was practically pushing customers out the door. It took nearly 2 hours to tidy up the store that day and even then, it was only to an ‘ok’ standard. As my staff and I grabbed our stuff and were finally leaving for the day, I went to shut the large garage door to the store. The garage door came down, but it wouldn’t stop! I tried jumping under it to stop it but, feeling the weight of it, I had to let go. Then, suddenly, it came completely off its tracks! There we were, standing in front of a buckled garage door staring at our moderately-tidy store.
After countless days of non-stop work, travelling, running around, talking, cleaning, etc. I was beyond exhausted. The door coming off its tracks was now the icing on the cake. I turned to my staff who were behind me, looking at me with expressions of, “what do we do now!?”. So, I told them to go home. That I’d wait for the repair man. They should go and spend what’s left of the evening with their family. I wasn’t about to let them see me break down. Which I was very close to doing.
Expecting them to simply agree and leave me, I was surprised by their response. Not only did they refuse to leave me alone, but they stayed with me until the repair man had come and gone. I worked up the nerve to phone my superior to break the news to her as well. Hearing the exhaustion in my voice and hearing the girls were still there so late with me, I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of my employer when she then shouted us dinner.
While we waited for the repair man, we sat in the mall walkway with our food and shared in laughter. Most of which was at my expense for thinking I could stop the door with my bare hands.
The reason I thought I’d share this story was to explain that, in my opinion, even though Christmas can be stressful and full on. Especially for retail workers. There are moments like this that remind you of the good in other people. And that laughing, eating, and spending time with good people is what Christmas is all about.
Sometimes I feel like we get caught up in the commotion and the expectations that we forget to stop and enjoy the little moments. We forget what Christmas is about and set unrealistic expectations on each other to be perfect and be everywhere at once. It doesn’t need to be like that. I am grateful to the girls I worked with then for being real with me and keeping me in check. They were my Christmas heroes that year. They made, what could have been the worst Christmas ever, one of my lasting Christmas memories of what good there is in the world.
It also helps me now appreciate my current job and the ability to have time off over the Christmas period. I don’t think I would ever return to retail work but I certainly feel for those working through this time of year. Please be kind to them.
On further reflection while writing this, despite what sounds like an intense day of running around, I am truly grateful that I was able to spend that Christmas day with my family. It was in fact one of the last Christmases when I had all my family here in New Zealand. That is a fact which no amount of stress can take away from me.
Whether you like Christmas or not, there is certainly no denying that anything that brings people together is a good thing. As mentioned at the start, this isn’t my worst Christmas but that’s a story for another time.
To all my readers, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy, and safe, New Years! Thank you for being so awesome!