Everyday Ethics

Goshdarnnit, Hillary…your oblications and holiday survival tips post puts me in the position of bad angel. Nonetheless, I gladly pick up the horns and pitchfork to make my personal pitch for skipping oblications for…self-gratification vacations? 

A few years ago I had the questionable pleasure of having some very distant relatives visit for Thanksgiving. At first I looked forward to it; I’ve always liked the idea of having family around for the holidays, especially since most of our immediate family lives in India. But the reality of it? Well, it was a stressful mix of polite conversation and pandering, at least until one relative got a little too comfortable and started sharing his racist views on the world. At that point it just became a ticking time bomb before I simply lost it.

After that not-so-pleasant experience, I asked myself why I chose to travel halfway around the country to interact with relatives I may or may not like. I usually take a trip home to see my mom in the late summer or early fall, and then again in the spring around my birthday — so why give in to this so-called “holiday spirit” and spend $400 plus, and spend a headache-inducing week being polite? A stressed-me is not a happy me. And an unhappy me is preeetty unpleasant to be around. And besides, for those of us who don’t necessarily look to the holidays for religious meaning, why should we give into the pressure?  So I simply started skipping said holiday trips home. What did I spend my hard-earned vacation time and money on? Pleasure trips — one year off to New Zealand, another year to Italy, one year to Thailand. 

I joke that I’m the “bad angel” in this case, but I don’t actually believe being selfish in this case is a bad thing. Being selfish those years may have made me a better person today. For one thing, I’m now willing to give it another shot. The self-imposed (really more like self-insisted) exile made me miss that incredibly delicious, intangible feeling of being at home for at Christmas. Absence, in this case, really did make the heart grow fonder.

Thus, I promised myself (and my mom) I’d be home this year for the holidays. Moral of the story: Whether or not to go home for the holidays has been a continous dilemma. My decision to skip family time in favor of the beach is indisputably selfish. But sometimes, selfishness, especially when it comes to the minefield of the holidays, can be done right.

So, a few tips if you chose this road instead — basically, how to do ‘selfish’ right:

1) Make up for your absence during the holidays with trips a-plenty during other times of the year. For myself, shorter but more frequent trips during low-season work best.

2) Acknowledge that you’ll miss your family even when you’re off hiking the Andes. Accept it, and appreciate the fact that you have a family that also misses you. Taking time for yourself doesn’t mean not being grateful for all that you have.

3) Accept that there are going to be people who don’t understand your choice, and don’t approve. For better or worse, however, sometimes we need to put ourselves first. And if you do it with the right attitude, skipping a holiday or two may improve your relationship with your family.

4) Lots and lots of phone calls home.

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