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Holiday Opt Out

Happy Thanksgiving! Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Holidays!

Prepare yourself, this is what you’re going to hear out of the mouth of every family member, friend, sales clerk and stranger for the next few months.

But it’s not a happy time for everyone. A friend on Facebook recently posted this,

It’s important to remember that not everyone is surrounded by large wonderful families. Some of us have problems during the holidays and sometimes are overcome with great sadness when we remember the loved ones who are not with us.
Many people have no one to spend these times with and are besieged by loneliness. We all need caring thoughts and loving prayer right now.

The holidays are not happy for everyone. Especially for those who have lost family and friends during this time of year, the incessant holiday cheer can be grating.

So today, I am going to share with you a secret. It’s one I’ve used successfully and without remorse.

via Unsplash.com /  By Ilham Rahmansyah

via Unsplash.com / By Ilham Rahmansyah

It’s ok to opt out of the holidays.

The time I played Saints Row for Thanksgiving

I did that a few years ago and it was the best Thanksgiving I ever had.

I tend to get really down over the holidays. I get depressed. Christmas time is usually the worst, but that year it was hitting me really hard over Thanksgiving.

I didn’t want to spend hours in the car, through some of the worst traffic in the country to be with family. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family and both sets of parents. I love seeing them and spending time with them.

But the idea of driving to see them was too much for me to take that year. So I didn’t. This was shortly after I had graduated college and was working on an IT Support contract. I didn’t have any paid time off, so I had to work if I wanted to get paid.

I didn’t want to spend my few precious days off sitting in traffic and dealing with the stress of travel. I would have no relaxing Thanksgiving holiday. It would be spent sitting in traffic, battling other drivers and the weather on I-95.

So I hatched my plan. I told both sets of parents I was going to spend Thanksgiving with a friend who lived out-of-state. I didn’t get to see him much and I said he and his family had invited me for Thanksgiving and that’s what I was going to do. ((I was too nervous to tell either of them I just needed a year off. I just needed some time to myself. It would have taken more energy to explain this than to just say I had made plans elsewhere.))

But instead, I never left the house. I went to the store to get some food for the next few days. I think I ordered a pizza or two. And I spent the next three days on the couch.

I slept in patches throughout the days. I played late into the nights and early morning. Then crashes for a few hours, awoke refreshed anda did it all over again. I played Saints Row with a group of online friends. There were enough people who I regularly gamed with in enough time zones there were always a few people online and ready to play.

Instant Gang!

Instant Gang!

So I’d fire up my Xbox, put on my headset, crack open a fresh Mountain Dew and lose myself for hours in the world of Saints Row.

I laughed so hard. I was in bliss. I wasn’t sitting in hours of traffic. I wasn’t in the bad weather which I knew would only make my travels more stressful. I was warm, inside my apartment, all alone, talking and laughing with friends. And when I was done, I turned the Xbox off and I was alone, in quiet and solace.

It was the alone time I craved. I needed to recharge my batteries and unwind. I needed less stress, not more of it. And after my gaming binge holiday was complete and I returned to work, I felt like a new person. I was repaired.

The depression had lifted. The clouds over my head had cleared and I felt good. It was the Introverted Holiday I had craved and made for myself.

My Saints Row character at the time.

My Saints Row character at the time.

The holidays can be hard. There is an expectation to always spend it surrounded by family, not matter what it takes to get there. It’s meant to be a joyous time.

I needed to be strong enough to say no and opt out. I needed time for myself that year. I needed to be alone. I needed to repair. I needed to take some time off work for myself. I needed that time to heal and be a healthier, happier person.

By the time Christmas came that year, I was in better spirits and I enjoyed the time I spent with my family. And it was all because of my Thanksgiving alone.

I am not alone

The most important gift the internet ever gave me was I am not alone.

I grew up in a small town of 2,000 people with only 12,000 in the entire county. I went to high school with about 160 people in my class and around 550 in the entire school.

It was a small, rural place. I grew up on a farm and I’ve herded cows, collected hay bails and pitched them onto trailers and into barns. I’ve lived around animals most of my life and I’ve always had a vast fantasy life.

When the internet came around, my curiosity overwhelmed me. I wanted to connect with people like me. I knew there must be people like me.

There must be sensitive, kind, caring poets in the world who wanted to make the world better. There must be people out there who worked for the common good. There must be others who wore their heart on their sleeve, didn’t like to drink, do drugs or go to parties. There were the quiet ones who loved to talk and think and do interesting things with their time and lives.

There must be people I could look to for advice and help. There must be people out there who thought like I did and lived inside their heads, thinking great thoughts and had exciting ideas.

There was a future out there and it was through a 26,400bps modem.

And it was my job to find it.

The internet taught me there are people out there like me. There are people out there like all of us.

No matter how alone or weird or freakish I felt, there were people out there like me. There were people out there I could connect with and people out there who understood.

I was understood. They knew what I was going through and why I was who I was and how I was. They got me and I got them.

We are not alone.

The greatest gift the internet could have ever given me was this knowledge. It allowed me to find my people, my freaks, my tribe. It allowed me to find and befriend those people I needed in my life to realize I was not alone.

I cannot say this enough. You are not alone.
There are people out there who understand.
There are people out there who want to help you.
They want to help you for not other reason than they were you at earlier times in their lives.

There are amazing people out there in the world.
And they’re waiting to be found.

You are not alone.
We are not alone.
I am not alone.

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