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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Just Decide to Do It

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Over the long holiday weekend I spent a LOT of time in the car by myself driving all over the east coast to spend Memorial Day weekend with friends and family. Whenever I am in the car alone for hours upon hours, my mind darts in 100,000 different directions. Usually I call my whole phone book for my overdue catch up conversations, and no one answers but my mom (who I see everyday). So I go back to chugging ice coffee, blasting beats and mull over my next blog post in my head. I realized this weekend that I haven’t actually written those well-calculated road trip posts in far too long. I apologize for drifting away from my blog and I realize now as I write what clarity and satisfaction I glean from condensing my thoughts into words.

The mind is an incredible instrument and machine, but the mind of a woman who is a teacher, writer, Gemini, and suffers from extreme ADHD; it is almost unfathomable for most. I have hundreds of “tabs open” every waking second of the day. My release is when I can verbalize those into a medium I dearly love and understand: words. When I was traveling I was so excited to share about my adventures and so disconnected from my once known world that it was easy to stay inspired and motivated to consistently post. I was going through so much change and writing was the best way to reflect and understand how I truly felt about those eye-opening experiences. The pace of life and my career in Thailand also allowed me the most precious gift of all: time. I had time to write and read, rewrite, reflect, recharge, and release. Now I am lucky if I have time to charge my phone. But without the release of writing my mind hasn’t fully been synthesizing my life and my experiences.Despite the lesson plans, special ed paperwork, work for my coaching business, certification online workshop, laundry, and the 85 other things on my to do list, I am pressing pause and spending time to remember, reflect and release.

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Returning to My American Dream

Things that I will miss desperately about teaching in Thailand 

  1. Respect
  2. Adequate planning time
  3. Free delish lunch
  4. Valuing extra curricular
  5. A “family like” community of teachers and a group office
  6. Personal Teacher-student relationships
  7. Compliments
  8. Freedom of choice for curriculum (minimal standardized tests)
  9. Gratitude
  10. Laughter

Things I actually miss desperately about Thailand

  1. Friendly Strangers & Smiles
  2. A deep sense of value and gratitude
  3. SUNSHINE
  4. The food- especially Som Tam and Tom Kha Gai
  5. MY STUDENTS & MY JOB
  6. Simplicity
  7. Surprises
  8. All of my friends/coworkers
  9. Adventure around every corner
  10. Mai Pen Rai attitudes

Things I appreciate about America

  1. Familiar faces
  2. Quality time with family & friends
  3. My doggie/other doggies I can actually PET!
  4. The emphasis of HEALTH, NUTRITION & EXERCISE
  5. Having a car and a kitchen
  6. Good wine & coffee
  7. CLEANLINESS
  8. Customer Service
  9. Good music
  10. Comfortable beds

A few months before I left Thailand I jotted down a list of things that I believed I would miss the most about teaching there. After being home in America for nearly two months I wrote a list of what I actually miss, not just about teaching there but about living there in general. I miss it every single day.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t thoroughly enjoyed my time home in America. I am grateful for the luxuries of home and I am astonished by how much our country truly has at its fingertips. I am beyond grateful for the quality time I have spent with people who I love sharing stories, meals, dance parties, copious amounts of wine and more than a few laughs. I love sharing about my journey, my life, and the magical slice of South East Asia that captivated my soul and stretched me to my limits both in positive and negative respects. Many people I talk to have preconceived notions about what it would be like to live there and I never hesitate to prove them wrong.

I came home at by far my favorite time of year, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years. Now the rose colored holiday glasses are rapidly being clouded with SNOW. It’s -8 degrees right now. That just sounds like a sick joke. The temporary high of being back in America is wearing off and reality is setting in. Just like moving to Thailand, there is definitely a “vacation” period filled with adrenaline, reunions, and FUN and then you come to terms with the fact that you actually need to adjust to life here.

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Share your Lollipops

Inspiration is a perplexing concept. We draw inspiration from others and the world around us but ultimately inspiration is a highly personal experience. You can read the same book or watch the same film as your friend, lover, or mother and draw totally different inspiration from the same source. Some people are extremely difficult to inspire and others are inspired by minute daily beauty. As a writer, inspiration is something that is not only necessary but is truly like kryptonite. When I feel the words forming in my head, I can see the sentences budding like flowers in the springtime. When I feel the inspiration and the drive to condense my vast imagination into compartmentalized fuel…I must fulfill that need. Often I am inspired by other writers, reading their books and getting so lost in their created world I just can’t wait to create a world of my own. Often I am inspired by writers’ quotes or interviews about writing. I feed off their immense satisfaction with written words and begin to muse over what I can construct myself. As an educator, I am writing SOMETHING every single day. I have recently started a gratitude journal and it is remarkable way to write at least one (usually about 7 or 8) bullet points of little things I am grateful for that particular day. Here is a quick recap of what I have been extremely grateful for in the past few weeks.

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  • My health– Celebrating my 24th birthday on June 2nd was a wonderful reminder of how lucky I am to continue to grow older. Not to mention my IMMENSE infatuation with birthdays. I love making people feel special and birthdays are a great excuse to celebrate something (YOU). Seems like a common Gemini trait!;)  I also have made a commitment to myself to put my physical health- exercise and diet back at the top of my priority list. Endorphins are my drug of choice and they have been neglected a bit in my adjustment to my new world/ traveling the world. Sixty days of Insanity began this week and I am excited to challenge myself physically and mentally! I’m even dragging Jackie & Maggie along with me! 😉
  • My students- These little loves challenge me every single day and especially test my patience. But they are incredibly thoughtful, creative and kind. I got not one or two but FIVE birthday cakes on my birthday and countless presents. I was treated like a queen and it was totally unexpected but greatly appreciated. Once again Thailand surprised me with its ability to make me feel right at home on special days, holidays and random ordinary days.
  • Good food– You may laugh at this one. BUT IT’S TRUE! After a weekend in Bangkok with incredible western food including brunch at Roast BKK(Thonglor district, GO if you are visiting Bangkok), juicy burgers, gourmet salads, sushi, daily fresh pineapple sold on the street outside my apartment, you name it, I have been eating like a queen and nothing feeds my foodie soul quite like a GREAT meal with GREAT friends! J
  • Good shows– Current Obsessions: Games of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, Modern Family. Laughing, drinking wine, and covering my eyes & gasping (A LOT) with my gal pals is a favorite past time lately.
  • My innumerable “lollipop moments” (I’ll explain later) and all of the incredible people who are attached to them. I am definitely what you call a “people person” Besides food; people are probably my favorite thing about life. I try to be as proactive as possible as I can about thanking those people who have helped me throughout my life. I try to do this as often as possible. I can’t leave my thanks unspoken. Currently I am thinking of wonderful teachers who have helped me along my journey; my parents, Chapman, Mr. & Mrs. P, Barrett, Kiesha Kiebler, Stephanie Lorenze, John Stallings and many teachers I never formerly had in a classroom, my big brothers, Lisa & Dave Craig, Punkie& Dickie Lighton, Krista & Zach Mendelson and many more whose influence cannot be forgotten. My friends, the very old and new; you are my shining stars. I can’t think you enough for your love, laughter, guidance, empathy and companionship. Thanks for your lollipop moments; you have touched my heart and life in ways that will never be forgotten.

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