I live on the complete opposite coast of the US than all my family (with the exception of one Aunt, who I don’t know how to contact, and I’m not sure if she’d even want to hear from me). This is not the first time I’ve been an extreme distance from my loved ones, from July 2010-June 2011 I lived in South Korea. During that time frame I left Korea exactly once: To spend New Years in Japan with some friends from college. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Halloween, my birthday, all spent at an extreme cost and distance from my immediate family.
Last year was only slightly different. I was a grad student then, and I only got 2 days (plus the weekend) off for Thanksgiving, so I spent it with some amazing people celebrating “friendsgiving”. I also had my first vegan Thanksgiving meal, and with no disrespect to the vegans out there, it’s not an experience I’m looking to repeat. I spent Christmas proper on the right coast, but with my partner and his family, and didn’t see mine until after the true holiday.
I don’t remember the last time I was “home” for my birthday, but then again, “home” hasn’t felt like home since I moved to a different state for college when I was 18.
So now we’re up to date, and my partner and I find us going nowhere near the “right” coast this holiday season. He’s a poor graduate student, and I’ve dropped out of grad school and am a full-time employee at a grocery store… so I’m still poor, and I don’t get any time off for holidays. Therein is the crux of why there will be no holiday travel: time and money.
Therein also lies my current annoyance. Customers who think they have any reason to know about and editorialize your life are one of my number one pet peeves. There’s also a heavy dosing of coworkers included in this.
The state I’m in is heavy on the friendly and the small talk, which I’m not used, and while making lattes before Thanksgiving I was consistently asked about my plans and if I was going to see family (by people I don’t know. I loved it. Not.) I simply replied with no, I was spending it with friends, my family didn’t live in the area. The pity that was heaped on me by strangers! It got to the point that I just responded with “yup.”
There question was not ok in several ways. First of all, it’s no ones business but mine and my family’s if I spend the holiday with them or not. And if I were horribly broken up about not being able to see them on Thanksgiving? Well thanks for rubbing it in!
Truth is, I had an amazing Thanksgiving with my partner, a friend, her partner, and her family who came to town for the holiday. The food was delicious, the company was excellent, and it was so relaxing because there were none of those awkward family pressures or judgements. No on insulted my weight or appearance. No one brought up the face that I had dropped out of grad school as a positive or negative. No one interrogated me about my life choices or decisions. And I loved it.
The holidays with my family usually involve my mom being stressed out and grumpy about obligations she puts on herself, such as making everything perfect. In reality, my family would rather have a flawed, imperfect holiday with a mother who was a pleasure to be around, instead of one where she is yelling about dinner, or complaining that she is the only one addressing Christmas cards. The last few years I was home, I ended up taking on the bulk of holiday preparation simply to keep the attitudes in the house pleasant. Yet even with me doing the bulk of the cooking and shopping, there were still things that did not go according to my mother’s plan, and that always left me resentful of her and the holidays.
Spending the holidays alone, or with small groups, sounds lonely, but I’ve come to prefer it. This low-stakes version of Christmas and Thanksgiving can focus on the delicious food and a quiet holiday atmosphere. I love my family and I miss them, it’s hard being so far away. I look forward to having the time and money to go visit, but I’ll plan that visit for a time of the year when there is less going on. I’ll be able to enjoy their company that way.