It’s the Christmas season. And, it wouldn’t be a Christmas season without the Christmas carols. By the way, can we slow down a bit with the carols? Do we really need to start them the first day of November? I mean, it’s cool to hear Idina Menzel and Michael Buble sing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, but after you’ve heard it 50 times, it gets a little old.

In spite of the repetition of carols, I love hearing them.

Except for the First Noel. I get all Grinch-like upon hearing the First Noel.

Let me take you back to my freshman year in high school. I was a trumpet player for my high school band, and I was given the First Noel solo for the Christmas concert. Unfortunately, a few weeks prior to the concert I got braces. In addition to greatly hindering my appearance, my braces also affected my trumpet playing. With some trepidation, I gave the First Noel solo everything I could muster. And it was…

Terrible. Awful. I turned the “First Noel” into the “Worst Noel.” Here’s how my friends tried to console me afterwards: “well it’s a good thing you’re not in the best band. Not many people were here to hear it.” You know it’s bad when even your friends can’t lie to you and tell you it sounded ok.

And from that moment on, the First Noel and I have had a turbulent relationship.

Every time I hear the song, it reminds me of that botched solo. When I meet people named “Noelle,” I think of that darn solo.

There’s an important lesson to be learned from my First Noel disaster: the mind works by addition, not by subtraction. The fact is, I’ll never forget how poorly I played the First Noel. It will always be with me. This might sound discouraging, but it’s actually quite liberating: we can stop fighting with our memories, with our thoughts, with our feelings! We don’t have to get rid of them to live and enjoy our lives.

I told some of my coworkers this story, and they “generously” gave me a snowman ornament with Noel written on his stomach. They also played the First Noel for me and gave me a picture frame that says Noel!

Both the snowman and the frame sit in my office where I can see them. They now make me laugh, and they remind me that I don’t have to be perfect to live a meaningful life. I don’t have to eliminate my past to live a great life. No matter what my past is, today is the opportunity to live my life in a way that I value.

When you stop fighting with your memories and with your past, you give yourself the opportunity to experience joy again.

I’ve even grown to like that darned “First Noel!”

Hopeful Hint: You don’t have to change your past to change your future.