This year, we didn’t have a Christmas tree. We had a pineapple that sat on top of our mini fridge with a necklace of lights and a pair of sunglasses. This year, I did not wake up at my parents’ house on Christmas day.
It’s somewhat bittersweet, celebrating the first holiday season after moving in with my boyfriend. I absolutely love living with him and creating new memories, but it still feels weird to be separated from the family I spent the first twenty years of my life with. Even while away at college, I came home to them over school breaks. It doesn’t help the situation that I work odd hours at my job that conflict with their schedules. I did see my parents and siblings on Christmas, but I was a visitor. I feel so at home in my new home that it’s strange to visit my parents’ house. My Christmas morning no longer starts with my little sister beating me over the head with a pillow because I overslept; it starts with a kiss from the man I love and a cup of hot chocolate in a quiet house.
I have entered the era of grown-up Christmases. Becoming an adult woman is such a strange process. Every year there are new firsts and substantial changes to my life. These are good changes, but growth is always a little uncomfortable. I’m becoming more assertive, more independent, and growing stronger in my first deep relationship. It’s exciting, and I feel more mature and confident, but that also means I move on from other parts of my life.
Nostalgia hits at strange times. It doesn’t help that I graduated college two years early, so my friends I made during our freshman and sophomore years are now halfway through their junior years while I’m off doing other things. I miss them. I’m happy to have left that school and be on a more fulfilling path than I was, but it’s still easy to text them and wish I was still a five minute walk from anyone living on campus. It’s not that I want to go back to my college experience; I want to bring the people I miss with me into the next stage of my life. Of course, it doesn’t work that way and many of them would not be content with a life parallel to mine.
I understand why people get so connected to their pasts. “I would give anything to go back to high school,” one says. “College was the best years of my life,” another sighs.
While I appreciate the nostalgia and the sense of missing the good things you left behind, I don’t agree with either of those statements when applied to my own life. Sure, I’ve lost some things, but I’ve gained so much more. My mental health is better than it’s ever been, my boyfriend is an incredible life partner who I can’t imagine my life without, and I’m currently pursuing higher education that will bring me much closer to my dreams than anything I’ve been able to do so far.
When we discuss bittersweet, we tend to focus on the word “bitter.” What we forget is the word “sweet.” Growing and changing can be very sweet if you’re moving in a positive and healthy direction. Every major life decision you will make will have pros and cons. The key is to embrace the pros and look for ways to amplify their effect. While there will always be things in life that you can’t control, don’t be a passive bystander when you encounter what you can control.