2014 was the first time I ever spent Christmas away from home. At the time I was in Beijing and celebrated with a home cooked multi-ethnic meal and present swapping with my friends. It was actually a really lovely day and the perfect alternative to being with family — but once is enough.
From that year on, I told myself that wherever I ended up in the world, I would try my hardest to make it back home in time to celebrate with my family.
Being able to celebrate Christmas with our families is a privilege not everyone is afforded and some definitely don’t cherish enough, but for me it is something deeply important. It became a measure of whether I was living a life I wanted to live, whether I was free in my choices and whether I was being true to what I knew was valuable.
Christmas in Australia happens over Summer and for many people from the Northern Hemisphere, that’s a really weird concept. There is no snow, fireplaces or thick clothing; our Santa Claus is actually on a surfboard wearing a t-shirt and shorts.
Summer in Australia (specifically Melbourne) is all about being outside, enjoying the nice weather and taking it pretty easy. Perfect beer-drinking weather makes for some very lazy afternoons and as the sky stays light until after 8pm, there’s no need to turn in early.
In my current life as an expat, however, Christmas is the one time per year I get to go home, see my family, walk my dog and listen to the sound of nothing but birds in the garden.
But life is about contrast
I currently live in Shanghai, a city of 25million people that is truly 24/7/365. Although there are a few nice parks dotted around and the outskirts of the city do have a more suburban feel, there’s still thousands upon thousands of people within 1km of you at all times. This, coupled with an “always online” lifestyle mean people get worn down, especially in Winter.
Shanghai is a city of opportunity. From being able to bump into people from every corner of the earth, having 25 things happening on the same evening and constantly hearing about 200 places you’ve never been but NEED to go to, the opportunities are literally too many for any one person to hold on to. It is ‘FOMO in city form’ and takes a special kind of person to balance properly.
Back home though, there’s not too much to do outside of eating, drinking and walking the dog. Perfect.
It’s also the perfect time to think about and reflect on the year that was:
– What happened that I am grateful for?
– What lessons have I learnt?
– What was I able to accomplish that would have challenged me before?
– Why did I make certain decisions and how did they turn out?
– Who is in my life that wasn’t this time last year?
– How close am I to achieving my goals
– What will I do differently next year so that I can be happier?
In a sense, home is also an opportunity. Different set of opportunities to Shanghai, but perhaps a more important one. It’s an opportunity to focus on what really matters and put everything else into perspective.
Thing about opportunities? They come and go; so gotta make the most of them whilst they’re here! 🍻