Can you Thrive through the Holidays?

I wanted to write a holiday “survival”-esque blog post  based on the mental health check-in I did with my virtual wellness community. I saw a dramatic response that most people are struggling this time of year and not necessarily feeling merry and bright. So I took to the internet to see what others have done. Every article that I read for inspiration and research said how to “survive” the holidays. I understand that it is supposed to be a joyous time but also is a difficult time for a lot of people. But is that really the standard we want to set for ourselves? Merely surviving?

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There is often a battle happening inside of me. The darkness vs. the light. Usually the LIGHT wins. I’m not sure exactly what has programmed me to be this way but I know that my life and my holiday season is about much more than just surviving. Sometimes, some days, some seasons,  that is really all you can do. I completely understand that especially looking back to the days in my past I was full of grief and heartbreak. But I think to stay fixed in a mentality that surviving is what you are consistently doing is a serious disservice to yourself, others and our world as a whole.

I do want to give you some tips and reminders to take care of yourself just a little bit more this holiday season. If that means survival for your circumstance then that is what you can call it. But as I was watching another episode of Red Table Talk (if you haven’t watched head to Facebook right now and get on it) with Kid Cudi on mental health and a few things stuck out to me. Jada Pinkett Smith shared that sometimes all you can do is lean on something that “keeps your head above water.” I totally agree. But you can’t live there. You can’t stay there. She also said in the episode, “testimony is so much more powerful than advice.” I agree. So here is my testimony.

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Joking. Kinda. Here’s more of what helps me thrive…

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Bah, Humbug: How to Cope with Holidays Abroad

This is the part they don’t talk about. Quit your job, travel the world, you will have the best adventures, change your life and find yourself. But what about the hard stuff? Moving across the world can’t always be easy… Missing weddings, holidays, birthdays, and all of the silly days in between is not easy. Sure, you are the one who chose to leave but that doesn’t mean you don’t miss the people who you left behind. It doesn’t mean that half the stories out of your mouth aren’t about your family, this one time in college or the adorable photos you just got of your niece in the Nutcracker. The travel blogs and instagrams you idolize may not show photos of them tearing up in the middle of the street because they just want to go home. Or the feeling when all of your family is together and you are sick in bed. As usual, I am committed to being raw and sharing all parts of my adventures with you, so here is the truth behind never being home for the holidays.

Moving abroad to Thailand and Australia and being able to teach and adventure in both places have been the most rewarding experiences of my life but that is not to say they haven’t had their fair share of lonely moments as well. Yes, you will feel homesick. Yes, you will get sick of being the face on the Facetime screen, so close and yet so far from being involved in all the memories happening at home without you. The holidays make it especially difficult so I wanted to send some encouragement to my fellow expats, travelers, or anyone who can’t make it where they consider “home” this holiday season. This is the most wonderful time of the year, but like all good things, that puts a hell of a lot of pressure on you to feel merry and bright. Here is how I survive the holidays:

Bring traditions with you– If you are far away from home, find a way to decorate and spread a little Christmas or Hanukkah cheer. Watch your favorite Christmas movies, bake your Grandma’s famous recipe and make sure to share it with the people you’ve met or love abroad. Sharing our traditions with others makes them special for a whole new set of people. Luckily, I am a teacher so I always get free reign to teach my students all about American culture and holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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I’m dreaming of a Thai Christmas

Thinking of the holidays brought about melancholy feelings. Paired with the loss of a good friend from college, I have been battling some serious sadness the past week or so. I honestly feel guilty when I feel sad in Thailand because I am so appreciative of my life here. I love my job, I love my students, I love my new friends who already feel like family, but I can’t help but think of my family and friends back at home especially during Christmas time. I think of those who have lost their loved ones, like my friend Steve’s family and all of our WVU friends and my friend Corey, her parents and our whole Bishop Ludden community. I feel blessed to be healthy and happy, even if I am on the other side of the world. I am happy to be alive, young, and too naïve or too wise to be jaded. I am also happy because I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the food, the cheer, the giving, the family time, the music, etc. I could keep going. I’m basically Buddy the Elf Junior!

Two years ago, I couldn’t imagine not sharing such a special day in the “traditional” way. But last year I got some practice in spending Christmas in a “non-traditional” way. I spent Christmas in Hawaii with my boyfriend and his family. It definitely was not traditional but it was still incredible. I will remember Christmas night at the Royal Hawaiian for the rest of my life. I sat with Yale, Izaak, Zach and Krista all dressed up and in awe of my surroundings. The scenery was breathtaking with palm trees and warmly lit lanterns everywhere. We went around sharing what we were thankful for this Christmas. Yale went first and I was blown away by his comments. He isn’t exactly the mushy, sentimental type but his words were so honest and heart felt he set the bar high. We each took a turn sharing and I realized in that moment that Christmas isn’t about where you are or how you celebrate. Christmas is different for every family. Some Christmas’ are fancy and over the top, some are spent working, some are spent overseas in the war, and sadly, some are spent alone. Christmas in the end is just one day. The real message and meaning behind Christmas is one that we should carry with us and remember all throughout the year.

 Not only should we be grateful for what we have, but also we must remember that giving is truly the best manifestation of humanity that we possess. In the words of my good friend Dave Matthews,  “When you give, you begin to live, you get the world, you get the world…” And giving doesn’t have to mean material objects and gifts. Giving your heart, your love, your laughter, your time, or your understanding is more meaningful than anything you can buy or wrap or make.  As cheesy and cliché as it is, “the best things in life are free”, couldn’t be more true.

This year was probably the best Christmas of my life and oddly enough I was absolutely dreading it. I woke up at about 5:30am and opened three packages from my parents, my boyfriend and his family. I began to cry when I read my boyfriend’s Christmas card. I loved every single gift but the card was by far my favorite. He captured the meaning of our love and Christmas so well and I felt so proud because he does not enjoy expressing his emotions through words. He says that’s my job! Once I opened everything I went on a Facetime rampage talking to my parents, Yale & his family, and my brother & niece. I was so happy to talk to them and it made me feel like they were right there in my room with me. Since I know you are reading this right now, I love you all to the moon and back. Thanks for making me feel so loved.

When I got to school I was happy to see a huge Christmas assembly being set up! All the teachers from the Foreign language department were decked out in head to toe Christmas outfits from Santa Clause to reindeers, elves and everything in between. We belted out “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” even if it was terribly off key. Jackie and I spread Christmas cheer through our office and to our students by passing out Christmas cookies, candy and pencils! Then our friends who teach on the other side of our school (non-english program) invited us to come see the Christmas festivities they were putting on.

We jumped on the opportunity and stepped out of Thailand and straight into Santa’s workshop! There were decorations everywhere and even a whole classroom transformed into a pseudo photo booth with costumes and festive backgrounds to take pictures. Jackie & I spent a good thirty minutes in there with all the students taking hilarious pictures. As if the day couldn’t get any better we got to watch part of the talent show/Christmas singing competition put on by the students. It was so cute to see the Thai students singing and dancing to our traditional Christmas tunes. I initially was upset that we had to come to work on Christmas but I truly wouldn’t have had half as wonderful a day if it wasn’t for my school! After school we decided to keep up with our Insanity regime and burn off a few of those Christmas cookies we had for breakfast. Finally we ended our Christmas day by going out to dinner with our American crew of teachers. We had a little Chinese gift exchange, a bottle of wine (each haha) and tons of Thai food. It was delicious and hilarious and even though I was thousands of miles of miles away from my family, my home, and snow, I felt so merry, bright and Christmasy. We definitely celebrated in a non-traditional manner, but it reminded me that Christmas is a lot like life. You can’t try to confine and define it, you must accept it as it is and be grateful for what you have. Comparing your life or Christmas to a status quo is poisonous to their true meaning.  

I can honestly say, I had one, if not THE best Christmas of my life even if it was 85 degrees, I had to work, I wasn’t with my family and I was in a predominately Buddhist country 14,000 miles from home. Thanks to technology I even got to see and speak to the most important people in my life. As much as our society depends and relies on technology and as much as I bitch and complain about technology taking over, today I am truly indebted to technology. I am so happy and blessed to have seen the smiling faces of my loved ones on Christmas. I am so happy to see their facial expressions, their Christmas trees, their eggnog, and their furry friends. I am so happy to hear them say “I love you”, hear their laughs and look into their eyes. If I could write a love letter to whoever created video communication I totally would. Thank you for making my Christmas complete!!

After a pep talk from one my best friends Krohl, I feel very inspired to write. His enthusiasm about reading my blog made my heart smile. I love to hear that you enjoy sharing my experience because it connects us even if we are worlds away. I hope that every one enjoyed their Christmas as much as I did. I hope you remember how lucky you are. I hope I never forget how happy I feel in this moment. Tomorrow I am leaving for a 3 week backpacking trip all over Thailand and I couldn’t ask for a better Christmas present to myself. I am going to write in good ol’ fashion journal for the extent of the trip and then update my blog when I return! Don’t forget about me while I take a break from the digital world 😉 I promise to have tons of adventure tales when I return! I hope we all carry the Christmas spirit with us today and always and remember giving, laughing and loving is the best medicine in the universe! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! Cheers! ❤ xoxo

 

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