Traditions…letting go of the old and embracing the new

It’s a long read, but worth it. I think. Especially if you’ve ever moved back from somewhere and are dealing with the adjustment or if you have someone in your life who has moved back and you don’t understand why they may be acting a little different.

My birthday is this week and the other day I mentioned to my mom about some of the traditions I was going to miss this year in celebration of my birthday. I could tell my comments came across wrong by the look on her face and the comment that followed, “I know celebrating with your family isn’t as much fun.” This has happened several times with multiple people about different traditions, so I thought I’d share about traditions from the perspective of someone who’s lived away for a period of time. If you’ve lived, worked, studied, or served abroad or away from home for an extended period of time, I’m sure you’ll understand. If you haven’t, here’s what’s happening in our heads. It’s not that we don’t enjoy being with the people we’re with, we’re actually just trying to process something different to what we’ve been used to the past few years.

See when you first move away, you have to deal with change. Those traditions you had before aren’t going to happen any more. When you move to a new place, not only do you often leave loved ones behind, but you also leave traditions, favorite things you like to do, things you like to eat, place you like to go, etc. That first year can be extremely rough. Especially as you see friends and family posting on social media about all the stuff you enjoyed doing with them. Homesickness creeps up at random times and you find yourself crying about the stupidest stuff. But, if you’re smart, you surround yourself with new people and start making new traditions! You find new places you like to go, things you like to eat, and things you like to do.

What happens then is these new experiences become your new traditions. They become the norms and you look forward to them every year. When you see people posting from back “home,” you stop and remember the good times you had doing those things (and still pine for them at times), but you move on and enjoy the new favorite things. You begin enjoying these new traditions. But what happens if you move back or to a new location? If you move to a new location, you start back over and begin developing new traditions while dealing with missing the old. If you move back to where those old traditions were formed, there becomes a struggle.

The old traditions start battling against the new traditions. And this can take place a couple different ways. The first is when you expect others from the old traditions to automatically include you in these events. You feel like you should be able to jump right back into the group. But, just as you have developed new traditions and friends, so have the people back “home.” And often times this no longer includes you since you’ve been gone. I personally have not felt such a feeling of being alone as I did when I moved back to my birthplace. People you used to hang out with and do things with forgetting to invite or not including you hurts worse than not having anyone to do anything with. It’s usually not on purpose that they do this, but it happens and it hurts.

The second way is when you do jump back into the old traditions and are having a good time, but there’s something still missing. There’s a longing for those new traditions you’ve grown accustomed to over the years. A desire to be with those people. It’s not that you don’t want to be with the loved ones at “home” doing all those old things you loved doing. But, you can’t ignore the ones you also miss. So, if you’re a talker and audible processor like me, you start talking about the new traditions and how you’d do things and the people you’d be with. It’s a way of dealing with yet another change. Some people may become reclusive and not talk to people. All of us deal with this change in a different way.

So if you’re one of these people struggling with adjusting to new and/or old traditions, hang in there. Find someone to talk to who understands what you’re dealing with. And remind those around you who love you that you also love them, you’re just having to deal with this change in your life. So many people, even university students who only went home a few weeks a year, deal with this. You’re not alone.

And if you’re one of those feeling hurt by those of us remembering all those new traditions, understand it’s not that we don’t love you and are excited to be with you. It’s just that we’re processing and dealing with these changes.

For me, it’s going to be difficult because Lord willing I’ll be back in Amsterdam next year. So I’m trying to enjoy these old traditions while back in the States, knowing good and well that I’ll probably miss most of them again next fall.

Christmas Market

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