It’s a strange thing, that first Christmas away from home.
While I realise that not everybody is lucky enough to have a family as close-knit as mine and may not revert to their five-year-old self come December 25th every year, I’m sure anybody who has been abroad for the big day can relate to feelings of loneliness, homesickness, and a substantial diminishing of the magic that makes Christmas one of my favourite times of the year.
But where is home? Ah, the eternal expat dilemma. Perhaps this will actually be my first Christmas at home—the home that I’ve come to see as my own – home that I have made for myself. Perhaps this is the first Christmas that I alone have created for myself, not strung along by the constraints of family or boyfriends or what have you. Perhaps this is the first Christmas for me, for the rest of my life. My first real escapade as an adult. Although in no doubt I would have given anything to go home to my family, I guess a part of me is glad that I didn’t just go to any family to try and recreate what I wanted my Christmas to be like – or what Christmas used to be like for me.
December for me marks over six months abroad; the longest time ever that I have ever spent away from my family. In those six months so much has changed about my perspectives on travel, my life in general and how important it is to have people around you who care about you and how amazing you need to remember that your life is. Increasingly horrendous, recently I had been bombarded with some bad news, the diagnosis of a close relative, plus the passing of an old family friend. Merry freaking Christmas, right? But i digress, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger right?
No matter if you’re travelling abroad or just stuck on the other side of the world, having your first Christmas alone can be filled with homesickness and feelings of FOMO. Simply knowing your friends and family will be celebrating, feasting and getting on the booze without you can be a little disconcerting. I think that this is one of Facebook really takes its toll when you aren’t at home as well.
Experiencing a substantial bout of homesickness this morning it was hard to tear myself out of bed. I planned to skype my family (and did so, taking this fabulous Christmas photo with them too) but it was really hard. It was really hard because for the last 22 years of my life Christmas was all about them. It was all about being woken up by my brother, in my bed, in the same room that I had slept for the past 22 years. This year was different. I was awoken to the chatter of rain against my Oxfordshire window, alone in my bed for what seemed like a million miles away from home.
We always want what we don’t have. For some, living abroad and being able to travel around at Christmas time would be the absolute best thing ever. For me this year, all I wanted was some of my nonna’s soup and my mum’s vege salad. But don’t worry too much. I had an amazing Christmas lunch at the homeless shelter I volunteer at. I think that’s the trick, no matter how rubbish you feel, peeling yourself out of bed in the morning and actually doing something is going to do you a world of good, more than sitting alone, moping by yourself and watching Netflix (oh how tempting that was).
^ rocking my hairnet for the kitchen at the homeless shelter
^ proper english christmas dinner.
Things look different than they used to. Kids are encouraged to dream and when those kids grow up they move across the world to give their biggest ideas and dreams a chance. People are choosing to travel, grow up on their own and spend more time investing in friendships. There are a whole lot of other implications, but the changing times mean family is changing. Home is changing – our definition of what home is looks different to that of 30 years ago.
Change can be scary, but it’s not always bad. If you’re struggling this Christmas season because the holidays aren’t going to look like you hoped they would, choose joy in the place you find yourself. As old tradition meets new norms, you may just make some memories that’ll last a lifetime. This Christmas, I still had so much more than a lot of people had. I got the opportunity to experience Christmas in the northern hemisphere for one, enrich the lives of people who had less for Christmas than I ever did and gained a deeper understanding of not just the importance of my family, but the importance of the effort that I make for them to keep in touch, along with all the other people back home.
Christmas isn’t about what you get, or who you are with, it is a time for reflection, a time for thanks that you have made it through another year. So while i didn’t have all that many presents to unwrap, or my family to hang out with, i have realised how lucky I am to be living the life that I am living. And I’ve grown up. Not that I don’t need the people around me but I know that I can make it on my own, despite all odds and everything that has happened to me this year, i have lived to see another day and that is something that we can all be thankful for.