I was away from my family this Thanksgiving…and the last one too.
Then last Christmas was spent at an airport, watching people with large wrapped gifts excitedly take the cheapest flight to see their families, while I headed away from mine. And last Valentines Day night consisted of 2000 miles between me and my boyfriend at the time- he spent the night with cocktails in New York, I spent it with a rather large plate of Mexican food in Spokane, Washington. New Years Eve went down working a tradeshow in Indianapolis.
My brother’s birthday, my dad’s birthday, my own birthday, my best friend’s birthday- I was away for them all. I had to turn down work a year in advance in order to make it to a friend’s wedding.
My job takes me all over the United States, and I love it. But more and more, the work falls on holidays. It can be isolating to be away from family during Thanksgiving or Christmas or both….these are holidays all about family and it’s sad to shake the tradition. Holidays break up the year into familiar pieces… Christmas spent at grandma’s, Thanksgiving spent with parents, New Years Eve with friends. It’s jarring to realize that I can’t rely on that anymore.
Last year, I cried when I realized I’d be working away from home on Christmas and Thanksgiving. My family was really upset. My friends and boyfriend at the time were disappointed. I felt like I’d let all my favorite people down.
But I couldn’t let myself down. I needed to work. So I got through the holidays as best I could. I had a mock Thanksgiving with friends days before I left for Phoenix, Arizona. I took the latest flight out on Christmas day in order to have Christmas ‘brunch’ at my parents house before having to run. I celebrated New Years Eve back in New York weeks after the actual day. There was a lot of rescheduling, shifting of holiday dates, and apologies…a lot of celebrations with coworkers in cities far away from home.
Does it get easier to be away from home for the holidays? Yes and no. I feel more comfortable with it this year, but it’s still trying. If you end up being away from family for the holidays due to work, financial obligations, scheduling, or otherwise, here are some strategies I’ve used to help get through it:
- Reschedule the holiday for when you can be with your family, don’t skip it if you can- you’d be surprised how Thanksgiving can still be fun in December.
- Celebrate the holiday twice- if you’re away from home with friends, roommates, or coworkers, celebrate with them as best you can the day of. Try not to be alone on the holiday- it can be depressing. Ask around- there are lots of other people who can’t make it home and celebrate the holidays with friends and/or coworkers
- Know you’re not alone- even though it seems like everyone’s with family for the holidays, lots of people can’t make it home.
The holidays can become even more important to you when you don’t take them for granted. Being away from home for the holidays really makes me appreciate the time I have with my family, and makes me love the holiday season even more.