I always looked forward to holiday breaks during my tenure as a college athlete. I enjoyed the time away from the classroom, obviously. I enjoyed jumping back into my old gym to workout with buddies again. I enjoyed sleeping in and meeting up with high school friends for breakfast at 1pm. I enjoyed going to the annual cross-town rivalry Thanksgiving Football Game, hugging, shaking hands and giving positive updates to people I hadn’t seen in awhile about my life. It feels good. It feels like you have done right by where you came from when you are in that space and people seem genuinely proud of you. The nostalgia is real but it also reflects a sense of gratitude for people who helped get you to where you are. It always left me with a sense of “don’t forget where you came from” as a personal mantra. It makes me think of people that invested in me. Old coaches, some of my friend’s fathers whose volunteer work in town was so time consuming I honestly have no clue how it was possible to spend so much time coaching and training us. Not only in the realm of sports but just people that are good to you. Everyone who has cooked meals for you, driven you to and from every place you needed to go, people who let you crash on their couch, in their basement. So many factors go into you becoming who you are and who you’ve become and every time I am back in my hometown I see a new piece of that, that I may have overlooked before.
It’s not only people either that build the pieces of you becoming who you are. Places, experiences and moments have a way of resurfacing when you get back home. It’s almost like your car is in automatic drive as it traces back to some of those old spots that shaped you. It offers a time for reflection and a time to say thank you, not necessarily to anyone but just to the experience, for having it and learning from it. So many times life is in fast forward and we are constantly training and looking for the next step, the next thing, the promotion, the big move, the "you" that you have to become. I mean shit, my friends and I started an entire project here called "What’s Next" because sitting in the unknown is so uncomfortable. But contrary to that, this holiday season I urge you to slow it down, to look at the you that you are right now in this very moment and be thankful. For all its worth, don’t look forward, just look around. It’s especially prompted by looking around while you’re back home with good friends, family and food.
I want to leave you with an exercise that I was tasked to do as part of a research project in one of my positive psychology classes. It is relatively simple in its directions but it can become challenging. So, for 5 straight days you will at the end of each day journal about 3 different “good” things that happened to you that day. Seems simple, but those 3 things must include yourself as the main contributor to the good thing that happened. This makes the task a bit harder because it puts the onus back on us to be in control of what happens in our lives. So for example you cannot say, “one good thing that happened to me was that I found a $20 bill on the subway today.” A good thing cannot be chalked up to something that happened by luck. You can say “one good thing that happened today was that I found $20 on the subway because I am always observant and aware of my surroundings.” Exercises in reflection and gratitude can actually rewire the pleasure receptors in you brain and contribute to more positive emotions and life satisfaction. So, this holiday season be proud of who you are right now, be grateful for where you came from and those that took the time to believe in you. Happy Holiday!
halk Talk is a weekly What's Next column by Anthony Cinelli, one of our founders. It will be published every Monday morning. Anthony is currently a mental health counselor and baseball coach in New Jersey.