When you’re 12,000km away for Christmas (By: Paige Camirand)

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The other day I got some surprise mail from my family. I opened it up to find the sweetest little Christmas card and a stuffed snowman. On the front of the card were my Mom, Dad, Brother and his girlfriend. Inside it said, “we miss you and we love you”. My eyes filled with tears at the sight, and in that moment it finally hit me: I won’t be spending Christmas with my family this year.

About 10 months ago (my oh my time flies) I sold all my furniture, got rid of 75% of the contents of my closet and stuffed the rest of my stuff into 2 overweight suitcases. I hopped on a plane and headed to South Korea – why? Well my honest answer is that I have no idea why. I had a gut feeling that this job to teach kindergarten in Gwangju, South Korea was where I needed to be. I trusted the universe, signed that contract and went on my way.

I’ve been having the time of my life. It’s been a combination of weekend trips around this gorgeous country and weekdays spent with some pretty amazing (and seriously adorable) 5-year-old children. What’s not to love?!

But if I’m being honest, every now and then I find myself getting homesick, even if just for a minute. I miss my family. My friends. Brunch, a bunch of the clothes I gave away, and of course the food (I crave a muffin literally every. single. day.)  

This is the first time I’ve spent Christmas away from home, and although I will be spending it surrounded by the amazing friends I’ve met here, I think it’s going to be pretty tough. Thinking about all of the traditions I’m going to miss – baking cookies with my mom, opening presents together, Christmas Eve fondue (which my Dad actually decided we aren’t doing anymore because it’s a fire hazard – Safety first, amiright Dad?) Thinking about these things makes me really wish I could scoot home for the weekend and be a part of it all. But here’s the thing, which admittedly can be so hard to remember in these moments of recognizing how far away you are:

I absolutely wouldn’t give up being here, doing what I’m doing, even if it means being sad on the days when I am usually the happiest.  Missing home sucks. It totally sucks. But it really is worth it in the grand scheme of things. So, this year I’ll be skyping in to Christmas with my family, while I sip on a delicious Starbucks Christmas drink. That’s at least one tradition – and comfort of home – that I can enjoy while thousands of km away.

I remember as I neared the end of my greedy teenage years, when Christmas had previously been all about the gifts, it became these traditions that made the season special. Every year I looked forward to the gifts less and less, and got more excited for the little joys that came along with it. I vividly remember the year when I was most excited for a couple days off work, to bake in my parents’ full kitchen and to get a vacuum as a gift was the year I knew I was officially an adult. And it’s remembering these kind of moments that make being away that much more special – because you’re realizing what you miss. It’s not the ‘extras’ – the parties, the Christmas cocktails, the fire hazard fondue – it’s the people.; the way it all made you feel.  And ultimately, that’s what makes this whole experience of being away so important because it’s a constant reminder that life can be hard. That we get caught up in things and miss things and want things we don’t need. But in the end, when you’re in South Korea for Christmas and your family is not, all you really want is time with the people you love. With the people that make you feel good. And it really makes you realize what’s important in life. So although I can’t bake cookies with my Mom from here, I can still remember to be a good person. To make other people feel good.  And to look forward to hugging my family for a really, really long time this time next year.

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