Away from Home for the Holidays: Self Care and Identity

Woman laying on the bed looking at the ceiling

While Thanksgiving may not have been a holiday you grew up with, it’s definitely one you have to deal with now.

We came to this country alone in a lot of ways. It has been hard to build a community here for some of us, especially, as we have tried to build our careers. We are not able to see our families that live so far away on the holidays that are important to us and now, we have to deal with the questions about what we are going to do on this day. It’s hard to say that you will be eating alone and watching Netflix because it takes between 12 and 24 hours to catch a flight home to have a meal with those you love. It’s hard to explain this reality to someone who has never had to travel so far and live this long away from home.

All the talk of family may be bringing up feelings of what it was like to be with your family around this time of year or during the holidays that matter to you the most. For many of us that celebrate the Christian holidays, this is the beginning of planning for those times. It’s hard to talk about how you feel so lonely and how much you miss your family and friends when everyone is talking about the blessings and joy of the holiday season.

The Truth

What you may not realize is the truth for a lot of people who identify as American, the holidays, in general, are a time of anxiety and uncomfortableness. While we are happy to reconnect with relatives that we haven’t seen in a while, there are always subjects we hope aren’t brung up at Thanksgiving dinner.

While you may be alone physically, some of us feel alone while at a busy table of passing the mash.

Reach Out

Take control of how you want this holiday to go for you. If you want to be around people during thanksgiving, search for those who may be in a similar boat then you no matter which country they came from.

Friendsgiving is just as much of a part of Thanksgiving as a family dinner would be. It may even be better because they are the people we choose to share with during the holiday with zero obligation to do so. Share who you are during this meal. This means that you don’t need to eat the traditional Thanksgiving food because you think this is how its suppose to go.

Make the foods that make you feel at home in a place that has never really felt that way. Call up your family and try to get those coveted secret recipes so you can finally ingest those memories of love with your adopted family here.

Not Just about Gratitude

Yes, a lot of folks discuss gratitude during this holiday. It’s not just about that. Its also about sharing. The story goes (whether based on historical fact or not is a different conversation) was that the Pilgrims and Native Americans came together and shared a meal. Both groups cooked what foods were good to them and shared them with the other. Just because this holiday is an American one, doesn’t mean that you have to lose yourself and all the beautiful things that make you who you are so that you can take part in it. More people are open to hearing about your experience in the world than you may think.

Gratefulness is great and honestly, should be a daily practice instead of once a year. Do what you need to do to take care of you. Don’t worry about what others think. They don’t have to be in your head all the time. They are not going to be the ones to walk in your shoes.

Create Your Own Traditions

Part of moving to a new place to start over is that you can create traditions that you would like to have instead of what you had to do. Think about all the things you love to do that you are never given the time to do and try to do a few of those things on this day. Read books all day if that is what your heart desires. Or take a long walk in the park.

The Story of Your Family

For those that have family in the US, use this time to reconnect and form stronger bonds. Take the time to pass down the stories of your family to your children and grandchildren. These stories your children will value more than any monetary or materialistic item that you can pass down to them. These stories also help form their identity and when they are going through hard times or are feeling small, they will remember these stories and will find strength in them

I can attest to this. As a child, my grandfather told me in passing that we were the descendants of Ghenghis Khan. I have no idea if this is true but when I was a young adult and felt like things were following apart, I sought strength from that story because it showed me the stock from which my family came. Even though I may not have felt it at the moment, I would tell myself that I was from warrior blood. It’s the stories that we tell ourselves that can make us or break us. Take time this holiday season to give your families the stories that can mean the difference in who they become. I did not have much time with my grandfather in this world but he was the one who has had the most enduring impact on my life.

Remember, your legacy and how you would want future generations to remember you.

Turkey is Not For Everyone

Again, take this time to care for yourself in the way you deem best. You don’t need to force-feed yourself on traditions that are not yours and you don’t need to feel like you are betraying your identity if you meet some friends for a big dinner. This time is just as much for you as it is for anyone else.

I hope no matter where you are or what you are doing, you have a safe and loving Turkey Day!

And By the Way!

My name is Tara. I am a therapist who provides online counseling services in the state of Illinois. This blog post is not therapy and it should not be used as a substitute for therapy. If you would like to talk more, you can schedule a free 15 consultation, click here!

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