Fuzzy, gray clouds hang heavy above the hibernating earth, releasing soft, white flakes of snow that gently knock on windows of homes, seemingly begging to be let into the warm houses that line the roads across the country. As I walk through the throngs of people desperately searching for the perfect gift, the ideal recipe, the picture-perfect Christmas Eve outfit, I still feel oddly invisible. Even in a sea of familiar faces, constant greetings from peers on the street, and the sheer number of people surrounding me, I am alone.

This year isn’t like every other year. In fact, the last couple of Christmases have been different. Lights seem to shine a little less brightly, traditions get lost in the midst of classes, travels, and work, Christmas music no longer brings the same amount of joy it used to, and the rush of societally-proclaimed obligations fill the schedules of everyone. For a while, I thought that something was wrong with me and my life at the time. What I’ve discovered, however, is that this sobering of the spirit of Christmas is not limited to myself. I’ve heard it from friends and seen it in other people, and it is not an exclusive feeling.

There’s a heaviness that comes with growing up. It results from the honest pain of life and the exposure to the darkness the world can harbor and force on people, and Christmas is no exception to this plague. Lights covering trees no longer seem to radiate with Christmas spirit, and it’s a bit harder to hear the clear ringing of bells.

What is interesting about the season of Christmas is that it evokes two radical emotions.

The first sensation is one of desperation. Christmas has the potential to wreak havoc on emotions, partially because of the materialistic nature of society, and in large part due to the insecurity of imperfection that comes with having a Christmas that isn’t as pretty, prosperous, or picture-perfect as someone else’s. While there seems to be a heightened sense of enlightening joy during the Christmas season, this can illuminate problems and self-pity that we manage to drum up in ourselves during the holidays.

The second is an emotion of something great, beautiful, and true. This is a sensation of understanding that while pain can be highlighted during the holidays, it’s nothing compared to the overwhelming beauty of what Christmas is. The comforting glow of love that comes from the gathering of people, the vulnerability of honest conversation, the warmth of coffee and cake and the chill of eggnog and sugar cookies, and the atmosphere of selfless, Divine Love and joy that comes with the exchanging of gifts and foods and stories are what define Christmas.

This Christmas, do not drown in the sorrows of this world, but instead, be overcome by joy and love, truth and beauty. Times are heavy, but thankfully dreams and wishes and hopes are able to drift and be heard. You will be okay. Christmas may be hard, but luckily for us, hard is not the opposite of lovely. This season, unload your burdens for a bit and rejoice in the present, the little moments, and the spirit of the season. Allow yourself to be filled with truth and beauty, and take the time to rejoice in the season.Hold on loosely to the pain, the problems, and the difficulties in your life. Instead, cling to the masked beauties of Christmas.