making the holidays bright

It’s that time of year again. Time to deck the halls, sing Fa-la-la-la-la, and rush to the stores for those oh-so-amazing deals on Black Friday.

I don’t go shopping on Black Friday, but, if I did, it would remind me of shopping in Hong Kong. Hong Kong malls are crashing-into-strangers crowded all the time. In fact, almost everywhere in Hong Kong is crowded all the time. When I moved home, and the streets emptied out by 9 p.m., I felt like I was living in a ghost town. Where were all the people?

I still feel that way.

People talk about reverse culture shock. It’s real, they say. But, unless you’ve experienced it, no one really believes it. This is your home! they think. How can ‘home’ be something you have to get used to?

Trust me, it can.

This is especially true if, since you’ve been gone, everything at home has changed. I don’t usually talk about personal things on this blog, but, two months after I arrived in Taiwan, I found out my parents were getting divorced. Over the course of the next few months, everything I’d ever known was turned upside down. My parents sold the house I grew up in, my stuff was boxed up and placed in my dad’s small apartment, and our family dynamics were changed for forever. Nothing would ever be the same.

For an idealist raised on the idea that divorce is (almost) never okay, this was a tough pill to swallow. I recognized many of the reasons behind the divorce, but I still fought back tears every time I thought about my family. And now, with new people coming into my parents’ lives, there’s a whole new prospect of becoming a stepdaughter and stepsister. It’s enough to inspire an identity crisis.

But, oh yes, I got off track. It’s “that time of year” again, and suddenly I can relate to articles about holiday depression I wrote for work a few years ago. Here in the States, we build up Thanksgiving and Christmas to be such a joyous time of year. But what if your holidays don’t live up to their name?

Sometimes the holidays are something to survive, not enjoy. But, no matter what, they are always a time to be looking outside of yourself. I may be having a rough holiday season, but who isn’t? Maybe money is tight for you this year. Maybe Grandpa just died. Whatever it is that is holding you down, I’d encourage you to look for ways to make the holiday season bright by doing something for someone else. Maybe it’s a shoebox filled with toys or a donation to the Salvation Army. Maybe it’s a letter to Grandma or a surprise dinner for Dad. Whatever it is, if it is heartfelt and has nothing to do with you, I guarantee it will leave with more joy than any gift Santa is going to bring you this year.

This is my challenge to myself, too. ;)

(For another post about happiness, click here.)

Image credit: coconnections.wonecks.net.

5 thoughts

  1. I braved the IFC mall on Sunday… scary indeed. The Apple store and Starbucks were both absolutely heaving. My weekends will be spent far, far away from Hong Kong malls until mid-January…

    I can also relate to holidays spent it new mixed families. Extremely tiresome at a time of year that is supposed to be “festive” and “all about family.”

    Hang in there with the reverse culture shock; how long have you been back?

    • Thanks so much for the comment! Yes, Hong Kong’s crowds can be shocking at times. I was always reminded of ants bustling around an ant hill . . .

      I’ve been back for almost four months. My time away was not nearly as long as yours, but, still, long enough. You will *definitely* face culture shock when you come back. It seems to me many expats choose never to face this challenge. We become more comfortable in a our new surroundings than our old, and it is hard to relate to people at “home” who have not shared in our adventures.

      I plan to move abroad again someday. Just not sure when yet. And, yes, sometimes the holidays can be hard. It was weird in Taiwan when kids went to school on Christmas. It’s weird here because nothing is the same. But that’s life, eh?

      Thanks again for stopping by!

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