The Only Black Guy in the Office

I Love Time Off, But This Holiday Break Hit Different

Being reunited with work has never felt so good

In normal times, my outgoing text messages would be full of optimistic and excited notes to loved ones about the new year. I’d think “2021 is mine,” jotting down the goals and resolutions I had for the next 365. After taking some time to unplug (and maybe even piece together a vision board), I’d return to work recharged. But as much as I want to beam this positivity, I didn’t expect it to be so tough shaking off the bad vibes of last year — and that reality has only become more palpable during the holiday break.

Dont get me wrong: I consider myself lucky to work for a company with a generous policy for paid time off that includes the final two weeks of the year. But this go-round was rough. “Home for the holidays” kinda loses its magic when you’ve been WFH for the majority of the year. Plus, I hadn’t realized how much the demands of the job had been shielding me from an existential crisis; with nothing keeping me busy, I wound up sleeping through the days and playing video games all night. I can’t believe I’m typing this, but I actually couldn’t wait for work to start again.

But 2020 acted such a damn fool that I didn’t even get a Christmas tree this year. Things haven’t been normal for so long that acting like they were felt like an act of self-deception. Why bother?

I’m generally a festive guy around Christmas. I get into the spirit of benevolence, the soul fixins, the soul music. (You best believe that Donny Hathaway’s version of “This Christmas” stays on rotation.) But 2020 acted such a damn fool that I didn’t even get a Christmas tree. Things haven’t been normal for so long that acting like they were felt like an act of self-deception. Why bother?

The main issue is that when you’re used to being around family and friends, self-generating the holiday spirit feels damn near impossible. I’d usually visit my folks — but with ’rona rates high and the vaccine reserved for frontline health care workers, I couldn’t risk their health in good conscience. Instead, I kept my Black ass home all through the extended time off, mostly relying on Facetime or Zoom for connection with the fam. Bah humbug.

I managed to kill time by reading comics, perpetually scrolling through Netflix’s viewing options, and rearranging my kicks by color… and then by brand. When New Year’s Eve finally rolled around, it was an exclamation point to cap off the weirdness of the break. In the past, I’ve done all types of celebrations to ring in the new year — house parties, game nights, black-tie galas, warehouse sweatfests, you name it. I cherish the memories of them all, even the ones that ended with me praying to the porcelain gods, swearing I’d never drink again. But by comparison, this year’s festivities were tame. Instead of chancing it with the homies, who threw a small party for the big night, I ended 2020 and started 2021 like Macaulay Culkin: home alone.

Playing the hermit wasn’t just about safety and social distancing. I wanted to use the occasion to reflect on surviving a wild-ass year. Even though I was lucky to have made it through 2020 without losing any close family members or friends, I know people who did, and because of those experiences, I know a part of them is gone forever, too. Death changes those who witness it; I saw that in the people I know who’ve experienced loss due to Covid-19.

So I’m not beginning this year with any resolutions that I’ll inevitably abandon somewhere along the way. It may be a fresh calendar, but it’s not a new beginning — just a continuation. After going through a year in which life as we knew it changed drastically, I’m just grateful to be alive so I can keep it going. Grateful, even, to be back to work.

Now let’s see how long it takes for one of my co-workers to make me feel differently.

Do you know him? Is it you? The trials and tribulations of a Black man navigating corporate life.

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