My freshman year of college, I was a mess over Christmas break. After spending all of high school at home with my brothers, we'd become three peas in a pod. We'd learned to rely on each other in real, tangible ways, each of us bringing something different to the trio.
When I came home in December, it seemed like they had become a twosome and I'd lost my spot. This wasn't the case, of course. But things had changed because they had to - they couldn't just mope around without me. Suddenly, they both had serious girlfriends and social lives I wasn't a part of anymore. Everything felt different.
I was angsty at the start of break until, one day, my sister, Ashley and I were standing in a closet, looking for a board game. I burst into tears, telling her that everything just felt so wrong. Nothing is the same anymore! I cried. The boys don't even need me.
I could blame this story on teenage hormones or tough college transitions, or whatever makes you comfortable. But, the truth is, for a lot of people, this is how Christmas feels every year.
You have high expectations and big dreams of what your relationships will look like. You picture your family laughing over an appropriate glass of wine, singing Christmas carols and giving each other perfect gifts. You won't even talk about politics or religion and no one will make an inappropriate joke, either. You'll reminisce about the holidays when you were younger - remember when all you wanted was a Tamagotchi?
For some of us, it might look that way. But for others, reality will fall short of what we envision. The season stirs up so many memories - the feelings of nostalgia, missing loved ones and loneliness are often exasperated - leaving us tearful and anxious.
This is not because we are broken, or getting things wrong, but, instead, because the world has created unrealistic expectations around what the holiday season should look like. Between social media, holiday advertising and our naturally glorified childhood memories, it can be easy to feel like adult Christmas just doesn't compare.
If you're feeling this way as you approach the next few days, I just wanted to tell you that nothing is wrong with you. You are normal. Remember to give yourself permission to feel sad if you need to, set healthy boundaries and practice self-care.
And, if you're able, let the goodness of the season wash over you, knowing that Christmas joy is a glimpse into the eternal joy that is to come.
I recently found this list of 7 Things Every Kid Needs to Hear and my first thought was that every adult also needs to hear them, too. If it doesn't feel too vulnerable, perhaps these would be perfect things for us to remember to say throughout the holiday season, too:
7 Things Every Kid Needs To Hear
1. I love you
2. I’m proud of you
3. I’m sorry
4. I forgive you
5. I’m listening
6. This is your responsibility
7. You’ve got what it takes
– Josh Shipp
Merry Christmas, dear readers. I believe in the joy, the life and the hope of this season. Hold fast to what you know to be true. Love your loved ones hard. And know that, without a doubt, you've got what it takes.