An Open Letter
When I accepted my job in San Francisco, all I could do was dance in excitement. “I’m getting out!” I thought to myself, “I can go see the world.” What I didn’t realize was the pure, stomach-dropping feeling I’d get when I left everyone I cared about behind.
I was empty. I looked down out of fear of making eye contact with judgmental or aggravated strangers. I bought headphones in my first week here so that I could shut out the world, ignoring the unfamiliarity and people trying to get my attention. At work, I looped the same song ad nauseam until the office was empty, staying late so that I could open the blinds people had shut during the day and stare out at the beautifully daunting towers of light from the safety of my desk chair.
But one night, on the train home, I looked up as we pulled into the small right-of-way.
This letter is to the people who leave their Christmas lights up on their balcony.
When I first saw those white lights, I stared at them with a bright wonder. For a second, I forgot my misery and self-pity. I remembered what it was like to appreciate something beautiful without worrying about where I was.
The next day, those lights were still on. I wondered who left them out, and if their owners sat outside with a beer looking up at the sky and not saying anything.
And the next day, they shone again in the corner of my vision. Every day, when I went home, I knew that those lights would be there. I would search for them in the darkness, craning my neck over disgruntled neighbours to make sure I glimpsed them that day, reassuring myself in that sight that all was well.
To the people who leave their Christmas lights up on their balcony: you gave me comfort in the absence of hugs. With the simple act of lighting your sky, you lit my world for a brief moment. You gave me a gentle reminder that there was still small, beautiful things to be seen, and that I had to do whatever it took to go and find them.
To the people who leave their Christmas lights up on their balcony: you reminded me of the humanity of the strangers I tried so hard to ignore. I wondered if I ran into you before on transit, or while waiting in line to get coffee. You helped me remember that the people I met made a conscious choice to wear what they wore that day, just as I did. They stood at the mirror, impatiently put on their shoes, and turned off the lights when they left. Or, in your case, left them on.
To the people who leave their Christmas lights up on their balcony: you gave me hope that I’m not alone, at a time when I couldn’t feel more so. You gave me something to look forward to, and stability in my drowning anxiety. I started to feel like you left that light out just for me, and no matter how implausible, I certainly hoped you did.
To the people who leave their Christmas lights up on their balcony.
Thank you, so very much. You’ll never know what you did for me.
Originally published at justclary.tumblr.com.