This holiday season was the first one I've spent abroad by myself. I spent it in the city that I currently and wholeheartedly call home: Manchester. It may seem like an odd choice. I could have booked a flight back to my hometown of Ashland, Kentucky and spent the holiday season with my family, but something about this year made me want to stay in Manchester.
I think part of deciding to study abroad and to pursue a career in academia comes with the acknowledgement that some holiday seasons will be lonely. You may be far from home, and some years will be lonelier than others when friends come and go and you bounce all over the place due to the precarious nature of jobs in academia. I accepted this fact a long time ago. Whether it's the work load that just doesn't afford time away from the resources I need or lack of energy due to general stress and looming deadlines, there are things that are both in and out of my control that are impacting my life right now. I saw a few months ago that time away from Manchester for the holidays just wasn't in the cards.
So, what did I do instead?
First, I took a job cat-sitting. To call it a 'job' is a bit of a stretch. I love cats and the apartment I stayed in was fabulous, so it was almost a mini-vacation. Spending time playing with the cat and giving him pets when I was stressed or he was feeling cuddly really helped calm my mind when life inevitably became overwhelming. Now, I want a cat. No, I will not be getting one.
I also had the pleasure of spending Christmas Day on my own. That may sound odd, and it was, but I let myself feel down about being alone when I needed to and allowed myself to indulge in Netflix and wine and a hot bath. I saved my Christmas Day celebrations for Boxing Day, when I wouldn't be alone (because friends are wonderful and I have the best one).
On Boxing Day, I had my Christmas. I opened the stockings my grandparents brought over when they visited me for graduation earlier in month. I went and had some of my favourite food in the world at one of my favourite Manchester gems: Mei Dim (highly recommend). I engorged myself on dim sum and enjoyed a few drinks with my closest friend. I got to be a bit selfish and indulgent. It was MY Christmas Day.
The rest of the holiday season wasn't from my typical routine, though I did get to experience some wonderful and new things, such as a piano concert in the Manchester Cathedral (shoutout to London Concertante). I enjoyed delicious food stuffs (Korean food is now one of my favourite types of cuisine) and learned how to make some new dishes, too. Being able to make my own dim sum at home is dangerous.
New Year's Eve is rarely a social event for me, but I did spend it with a friend this year, so I wasn't alone and I got to enjoy the sights and sounds of the city, alive and excited to ring in 2020, a new year and a new decade, with fireworks and kisses and hooting and hollering. I felt, as I stood on the balcony of the apartment I was staying in downtown, watching the fireworks across the city, that I was part of something. I was at home in the city of my choosing, with people I chose to share my life with.
So, some might say I was not so 'Home for the Holidays', but I think I just found a new Home.