“It’s only one Christmas,” I told myself in shaky, unconvinced voice when I looked up flights back home and saw the outrageous price glaring at me from my computer screen. “I’ve had twenty-two Christmases at home…one in Europe won’t kill me.”
I thought about how much I loved Christmas and how I never (NEVER) imagined I would ever miss Christmas at home. I thought about our tradition of spending Christmas day watching movies in our pyjamas and eating leftovers. Then I thought about spending Christmas in Europe and how if I had to spend it alone in a hostel, I’d book a ticket home in a heartbeat regardless of the price…but if I had another alternative? Christmas in Europe would be pretty magical.
To make sense of all the conflict in my head, I spoke to some people about my dilemma. They tried to ease my conscience. They told me my family would survive, and I would survive, and they gave me examples of the Christmases they spent apart from their families. They reasoned that it was too expensive to fly back and forth from Europe to Canada, explained that I’d be able to skype my family, argued that I had the rest of my life to be home for Christmas.
I struggled to come to terms with it, to grow accustomed to the idea of being away…but the other thing holding me back is my family’s reaction. I know it will break my dad’s heart. I know my mom will be sad too, even if she doesn’t say it. It makes me feel unsettled and guilty.
When I think about all the places I still want to go, all the things I still want to see, all the things I still want to do, I can’t help but wonder…do you think it’s worth it? Do you think I will be happy when I return home or will I have ruined everything for myself? Everyone keeps telling me that I need to do what makes me happy…but what if both things make me happy? Then everyone says to travel while I’m young, while I don’t have a mortgage, or kids, or a career…is it really selfish of me though? Is this one of those dreams I’m supposed to put on the back burner and return to when I’m older?
It’s funny how very much alike humans sometimes are. My home-stay mom in Berlin told me how her mom reacted when she first told her she was moving to Berlin. How her mom said, “Fine, just go now!” when she told her the news. She told me how she had to leave behind her cat and her car, and how hard the decision was to move away from home. But it was her life, wasn’t it? At the end of the day, it was her life and her decision, just like it is my life and my decision. That concept is still a bit hard for me to grasp. My life, my choice? Can I really do what I want with it? I think the answer (for me, anyway) is yes and no. I love my family too much to be completely selfish about it. So I can only hope that they will understand and accept my decision. What if I go back home, after more than a year, and too much has changed? Or what if not enough has changed? What if I can’t talk to my sisters the way I used to? What if we forget the things we swore we’d never forget?
Maybe this is why growing up is so hard – because it forces you to make decisions that might end up hurting the people you love. Sometimes it forces you to choose (temporarily or permanently) between the people you love, and the life you want. Maybe when you’re an adult, you can’t buy the same dress in two colors just because you love both: you have to choose. Maybe decision making as an adult is a lot like picking an ice cream flavor – and I’m not good at that. I spend at least ten minutes staring at all the different flavors of ice cream available – and sometimes tasting them – before I tell the person behind the counter which one I want. And if that’s what being an adult is all about, I don’t want to be an adult. Because when everything looks good, how do you decide? In my head, I think I’m still living in this childlike reality where McDonalds serves “twist” ice-cream so I could have chocolate and vanilla. Why do I have to choose between two good things? How do I choose? I feel like Bilbo standing at the edge of his gate leading to his beloved hobbit hole, wondering if he should stay at home or go on an adventure.
“Home is behind, the world ahead. And there are many paths to tread.”
I hope that whatever I choose, I don’t have regrets, but I think that’s impossible. I think that’s the price of being an adult. You have the freedom and the independence to make your own choice, and then you have to deal with the consequences.