The “Joys” of Family

When this post is published, it will be just one day before I head back home for a month before leaving for a semester. I’m already planning for the few weeks to whirl by and I’ll be backing for Canadian travels in an instant. But before I go, I am much looking forward to a few weeks of true break. No actual responsibilities beyond keeping up on here. I can’t wait.

Now of course, Christmas is usually associated with family time, and mine is no exception. But I don’t really know what to expect this year. My Thanksgiving, my first as a vegan, went very well. I enjoyed some awesome veggies, scalloped potatoes and meatless meat loaf. And pumpkin pie that was divine. Food-wise, I know I will be fine, just having to find some new baked Christmas goodies I can enjoy.

My Thanksgiving this year was quite small, with almost double the people coming to Christmas festivities. Now when I say it’s almost doubling, I mean it’s going from 5 people to 8. That doesn’t mean I still get anxious about it and the opinions I might encounter.

Every college student dreads coming back to questions about their life plans, and I’m no exception. People don’t really get that after college I want to go into the Peace Corps and eventually want to be paid to just write from home on my own time. That isn’t exactly a typical career path to stand behind and guarantee that you’ll find immediate success. People usually don’t get that I can’t stand sitting in a cubicle for over than an hour either.

How about those “fun” conversations about politics and social issues? If you didn’t know I was liberal, feminist, tree-hugging hippie by now, well, surprise. Especially with the last election cycle, talk could become…interesting.

To top that all off, I’m vegan, the only one in my family. They’ve never necessarily called me out on it while I was around, but there has been discussion away from my earshot, which I don’t necessarily appreciate. I have no way to speak up for myself if I hear things happen afterwards. My immediate family has been so amazing and supportive about my lifestyle choices, which I’m grateful for every day, but people who aren’t always around me to ask questions or keep an open mind in general aren’t as accommodating. I don’t mind bringing my own food to places, but unless your questions come from wanting to learn more, please don’t ask.

I know I am very fortunate to have just those minor worries about the holiday season when others have it much worse, where they have zero support from their family. The holidays can become much harder. Maybe they aren’t even welcomed home. If you have the choice, choose to surround yourself with those who truly care about you, blood relatives or not. Everyone belongs somewhere and nobody deserves to feel alone in this world. Maybe it’s not the traditional setting for Christmas, but a loving, welcoming atmosphere is the most important aspect.

Now if you don’t have a choice, all you can really do is be kind and respectful and hope for the best. Even if that turns out to be not-so great. It’s the effort you put in that matters. Just because other people choose to be ignorant or close-minded doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate that. Show others how you would like to be treated. Don’t feel like you have to start a big debate if you don’t have to. Chances are, even the relatives that aren’t too keen on your life choices still love you. That is what truly matters. In that love, I hope you can find common ground.

It breaks my heart knowing that the place that should be home feels like the exact opposite. If that’s the case, make your own home. For more fortunate people, let’s help out our neighbors during this time of good will and kindness but reaching out and supporting each other. It can be as simple as sending a quick message to somebody wishing them well, somebody who you might not even be very close to, the thought counts. Encourage these people to find safety and support, and worst case scenario, if that means dropping some people from their lives who they’re related to, then that’s okay.

When the holidays bring out anxiety, rely back on any means that can help you calm down. Find a quiet place and just breathe because just like any other day, it will pass. Especially if the day involves seeing people you only see occasionally. The simple fact of everyone coming together to celebrate Christmas traditions already speaks volumes to how much we care about each other. Speak kindness and love, and spread peace wherever you go. You can’t force others to do the same, but it’s the hope that perhaps they will at least consider their words and actions more carefully.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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