A few years ago, I was facing a dilemma: Stay with my steady paycheque and a career that spanned two decades even though it wasn’t really serving me anymore, or quit and start a new adventure and the next chapter in my life as a business owner. I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Golden Handcuffs”: financial incentives often given to senior employees to entice them to say with the company longer than they may have otherwise done so, sometimes well into typical retirement years. My situation wasn’t quite golden, but maybe bronze handcuffs. Did you know that at this time of year, your house can also start to feel like emotional handcuffs – maybe red and white fuzzy ones – holding you back from new adventures in your next chapter? When we heard Sarah’s story, so typical of the boomer generation, we had to share it. So here it is…
“Every December, as the holiday season approaches, I experience the usual feelings of excitement and joy that come along with preparing for Christmas. However, as the big day approaches, my mind always shifts into a spin cycle of trepidation and angst thinking about the big family gathering on the horizon.My baby boomer parents still live in the suburban, four-bedroom home where I grew up, about an hour and a half outside of Toronto. The house is way too big for them, with closets and closets and fruit cellars of belongings that wither and collect dust as the years go. They are not hoarders, but 40 years of dance costumes, musical instruments, records, camping gear, miscellaneous furniture, bridesmaid dresses, and holiday decorations keep them company.
During the holidays it becomes a shrine to every memory and every Christmas decoration that has ever crossed its threshold. Ribbons, bows, lights, doorbell songs, trains, tinkling bells, toys, nutcrackers, and other holiday paraphernalia cover every surface. My own children and my young nieces and nephews adore it – they run around, touching everything, and trying to ‘play’ with the heirloom music box shaped like The Night Before Christmas.
Every year, the same drama unfolds. My mother vehemently denies that hosting Christmas dinner for 15 is any trouble at all, but yet when the day arrives she can be seen stomping around the kitchen, banging pots and grumbling that nobody ever helps her with the turkey. My poor father tries to ‘help’ without getting trampled or yelled at, while my sisters and I attempt to make gravy (and get it wrong for the 20th time). There is an uncomfortable tension in the air that doesn’t dissipate until we are all on our way out the door.
No-one ever challenges the paradigm that “Mom and Dad’s house is the only place we can gather”. I once asked them about downsizing and they were horrified. Where would we hold Christmas? Whose oven could make a turkey the right way? What about the basement playroom for the little kids? And…what about the pool??? (my father doesn’t even swim!).”
Many families feel undue pressure to keep Christmas the same way it’s always been, but the magic of the season is truly not about where you are, but about who you’re with.
Not to mention, there are at least another 360 days of the year to live! Take a moment to envision what every other day for the rest of the year could look like in a different space or different place, geared towards what you want and not what your children want.
Transitions are hard! We Get It! My co-founder Keisha and I both have our own transition experiences, so we know first-hand how difficult a big change such as downsizing your home can be. But you don’t have to have these emotional handcuffs hold you back from your next adventure. Now it’s your time.
So, if you’re a baby boomer, maybe this should be the last Christmas in a house that isn’t fully serving you. You won’t regret it next December 26. And we bet you, will be pleasantly surprised that suddenly someone else’s house is just the right size for your family’s next gathering.
– Vincent Cote, CEO Transitions