Whenever your Spring Break is, I hope you get to spend it in as beautiful a place as this. I spent this afternoon sittin’ on the dock of Donner Lake, reminiscing about how things used to be.
Growing up, this week was always our Spring Break. A week off from school that started at Church on Palm Sunday and ended at Church on Easter Sunday. Only we never called it Spring Break. We knew it as Easter Vacation.
And we didn’t go anywhere. No trips to Cancun, Daytona or South Padre Island. No Girls Gone Wild, wet t-shirt or chugging contests. We just played outside until the streetlights came on and we had to go inside for dinner. Daylight Savings Time was reason enough to celebrate.
Raised On Religious Traditions
On Palm Sunday we got little crosses made from palm leaves. Not much fun to play with, but we could always count on a big haul on Easter morning. We’d wake up to baskets with plastic grass, plastic eggs filled with jelly beans and football-shaped chocolates wrapped in foil, with a hollow chocolate Easter Bunny centerpiece.
After Church, being Armenian Orthodox, there was the cracking of eggs to look forward to. We would dye eggs during the week with our Paas coloring kits, then smash them against each other in an ancient competitive ritual.
Then off to a great meal with family and friends, often, for some reason, featuring a giant ham. We ate pig like pigs, then gorged on jelly beans and chocolate.
Not For Everyone
In the white suburbs of the ’60’s and 70’s where I grew up, everyone obeyed the Christian calendar. The only weeklong breaks we had during the school year were for Christmas and Easter. Jewish kids were an anomaly with their Hanukkah and Passover. And since there were no Hindus, Muslims or Atheists to consider, we all marched to the beat of the same drummer.
So we went on Christmas vacation at the end of the year and wished everyone a Merry Christmas. We took our Easter Vacation in March or April and wished everyone Happy Easter.
But looking back, it was pretty exclusive. As long as you were a Christian, you were part of the club and invited to the party. But if you were of a different faith, you were simply ignored. No one cared about your traditions. You were different. You were the Other.
Manic Impressive As Other
Being the kid who couldn’t stop blurting things out, who saw things quite differently than other kids, whose name they would never pronounce correctly, I often felt different. I often felt the way the Jewish kids must have felt during our public school’s Christmas pageant. Or how Hindus, Muslims or Atheists would feel in a town where everyone celebrated Christian holidays publicly without regard to other traditions.
My “otherness” often caused me to feel out-of-place and out of step. Perhaps a bit the way a celebrant of Rosh Hashanah or Ramadan would have felt in my hometown back in the ’60’s and ’70’s.
Being Manic Impressive can make you feel like an outsider at times. It can cause you to stifle your natural tendencies in order to fit in. You can be punished by the status quo, or left out when everyone else is playing their reindeer games.
Being Manic Impressive can be very lonely.
Tradition vs. Diversity
Though American society talks a good game when it comes to diversity, it still favors the traditional over the diverse. White people still have a huge advantage over people of color. And people who conform to the norm get hired and promoted far more easily than those who don’t.
H.R. departments use personality tests and interview questions designed to screen you out if you’re different. They purposefully look for people who are compliant instead of creative. They say they want innovators with strong leadership skills, but they really don’t.
Companies don’t want Manic Impressives. They want polite, obedient, Passive Aggressives, that will put up with anything for a paycheck. People who will defend the status quo and not step out of line. They don’t want you messy, non-conforming, original thinkers.
So it’s important for us to look out for each other. We need to help each other find places where we can leverage our strengths and not be excluded because we’re different.
And like my Jewish friends who celebrate Christmas by eating Chinese and going to the movies, we Manics need our own traditions. We need to be okay with zagging when everyone else is zigging.
So Enjoy Your Spring Break…
Like I’m enjoying mine. I’ll be skiing tomorrow, then eating ham at Easter dinner after stealing jelly beans from my kid’s Easter basket.
Though I reminisce about the traditions of the good ‘ol days, I’m glad we celebrate more inclusively these days. I’m glad we say Happy Holidays so as not to exclude those who don’t celebrate Christmas. I’m glad to go on Spring Break instead of Easter Vacation.
And I’m very glad we value diversity by being aware that there are other religions in our society, and people who don’t believe in any religion, and they all deserve our respect.
That’s why I’m especially glad for Festivus. While the majority may enjoy their traditions, there should always be something good for the rest of us.