Some places seem to zap histories out of us. For some, that place might be home for the holidays. Getting placed back into the context of cousins, or within a few right turns to old memories, can land us in a time-warp back to itchy adolescent insecurity or complicated family expectations.
Maybe you grew up with certain standards you’ve only begun to realize you hope to live up to, and maybe there are family quirks you hope to keep from passing down. But as an adult, you’re not just a bud on the family tree anymore.
Whether you’re trekking over land and sea to a family doorstep, or you’re awaiting guests who will remind you about everything you did when you were fifteen, the best way to keep yourself from getting knocked over by expectations (real or imagined) is to remember who it is you want to be now.
There’s a way to establish your individuality without breaking away from the truly special context from which you came.
Does the thought of one million layered opinions crowd out your excitement of a home filled with laughter and understanding? It’s okay, let’s walk through this together. Here are a few ways to keep from reverting back to your teenage self this holiday season:
Resist the Urge to Opt Out or Lay Low
In every family there are always one, or a few, arbiters of tradition. Your grandma whose fingers have every recipe memorized. Your uncle whose eidetic memory you’ve only scratched the surface of for how your family came to your home country.
As we go home or old friends come back into town, there are many people to catch up with. Resist the urge to participate in family events passively.
It may have been easy for the bulk of your life to let your elders carry the responsibility of family tradition maestro, but let’s say this is jazz. What can you add? Do you know how to share the story of how your family came to be, and came to do this or that each holiday?
How can you stay engaged and discover your relatives’ history anew?
Remix Old Traditions
So perhaps writing recipes down is an affront to grandma’s entire being. I’m first-generation Chinese on my mom’s side, and when we cook together, we’ve just begun getting to an excited point of using recipes! Otherwise, most everything is done with a few staple ingredients and improvisation. What’s something you love to make that would go so well next to your dad’s carving job on the turkey?
My family tends to unite the most around food, and I’d bet yours does too. What’s a new activity you can do together to break a sweat, or do something kind for your neighbors? I’m already thinking back to food. Maybe there’s one special cookie recipe your aunt only breaks out during the holidays. Make an especially enormous batch and pack up some holiday cheer to share your traditions with your neighbors!
Lead New Traditions
What’s something you’ve always wished your family would do during the holidays? I know, I hear you saying, “Understand what I do for work.” This time steeped in family is exactly the perfect time to refresh the bounds on your perspective of what makes you you.
As an adult, who do you decide you are today?
What stories will you keep to pass on? What traditions will you want to share with your quickly extending family and the surprise guests they might bring to dinner?
Say there’s an issue that’s really heavy on your heart that some family members just don’t understand. Rather than arguing a new case, is there a way you can give back to your community together that might spur some new compassion? Don’t let these opportunities pass you by. You too can be a keeper and creator of family tradition and togetherness. I hear at every life stage that it’s still hard to believe someone let you be a grown up. But somebody did!
So let’s take ownership of the privilege to have all of our yesterdays as well as this very bright today. In this season of joy, be warm and merry, and be free to decide and act on who you will be now.