Trying to trace back to the last time I was able to sit down and write a reflective blog is a rather degrading feeling. Exams, and exams results, passed, deadlines scraped and multiple commutes back to the family home later, time has been very much lost in essence. I have been admittedly burning the candle at both ends, attending numerous conferences down in the big city to present posters on exciting research, cramming in the last of the Christmas gift shopping, and more so cramming in the leftover vegetables from our mammoth (not-so-cheap) student Christmas dinners.
Aside from the obvious festivities of this time of year, there is something so homely and uplifting about being able to just stop, slow down, and draft out new resolutions, plans and goals for the fast-approaching New Year ahead. I am sat here, third pyjama day in a row, with a hot mulled drink in hand, buried beneath blankets of Mum’s fur and fluff loungewear, our Christmas tree oozing scents of pine-needles and attic. Ahhh, home. But there is also something about this time of year that I wholeheartedly dread, and drag through with an underwhelming scouse of lonely bitterness – that is, the curse of social media.
For those of you that know me well will appreciate that I am definitely not one to be sat down doing nothing. I have an addictive, almost obsessive urge to constantly be somewhere, doing something – galavanting the untouched corners of our wintry world, mooching the cliché Christmas markets and then of course, displaying all these adventures in all forms of photographs for my little loyal world to see. Reality is, however, I cannot travel. I cannot venture. And I most certainly cannot be doing what I’d normally endeavour to do on a term break from study. A rather long bill of unhealthy health, and a recent diagnosis of a progressive muscle condition, has slowed me down ever further, meaning I am no longer cut out to do what I always used to be. I have had to adopt some serious lifestyle changes this past year, and with the festive season upon us, it is proving harder than ever before. Even my neighbours are telling me to stay put and “take it easy” – I grimace at every comment – truth be told, I am sick of staying indoors and watching the world loom by, of which I have no control over.
Having not had the comforts of a TV for the rest of year whilst up at university, it’s in fact the last form of entertainment I intend to resort to when I’m back at home. With all my friends scattered beyond the social circle and very much living their lives further afield, coffee and catch-ups are also off the list. So it calls for other forms of self-entertainment of which I’m very much at a loss with. Instead, I have been polishing off the crumbs of the Christmas biscuit tin and mindlessly humming to the hundredth Christmas tune on the Spotify playlist – I numbingly turn to the Facebook and Instagram newsfeeds for the twentieth time this hour – of which, may I add, I only set up a mere month ago and am already subconsciously hooked to it. A new Twitter account is next on the list.
If you were to ask me what I’d be doing this time two years ago, for instance, I’d be telling you that I’d be up in the glittering white mountains, training slalom ski-runs, or trawling through the quirks of a hidden market in the touristy wilderness of some off-beaten European town. This time, however, it’s my turn to look on at my friends and colleagues skiing those perfectly powdered mountains, acquiring to the taste of some hot Czech pint, or fluttering their plane ticket and passport for another pose behind the ‘Departures’ desk. It feels miserable to be the stay-at-home potato of the group, especially when it’s not even out of choice. The most obvious answer would then be to avoid longingly flicking through these passive adventures of others, altogether.
But when it came to seriously considering a digital detox, right before the Christmas holidays, I only had second thoughts. To dismiss social media altogether would only be a self-inflicted form of emotional injustice – I figured that I’d be even more distant from those closest to me, yet so far on their termly travels. I’d become separated from the world of knowledge and happenings, and my refusal to participate in the sharing of festive blessings would only reveal me as rude and ignorant – therefore not doing myself any favours here.
The secret then? To embrace what you already have and to appreciate the more obvious things around you – that is, your family and your home. Yes, the days can be slow, especially when you clearly feel like the burden in the house – a walking disaster and catastrophic health-scare at the smallest spark. But, to think back four months ago, it was doubtful that we’d all be here as a four in the first place. A plague of ravaging sepsis and two weeks on a ventilator, all whilst in a foreign country, and a close-call for the family frantically trying to reach me, only to drive over a bridge that deadly collapsed, killing forty-three innocent people just a few hours later – the tale could’ve played out so, so differently.
We are fortunate to still have that family, to have that roof, and to have that love and protection more than ever before. I personally know so many that have been far less fortunate this year – and it only puts into perspective how far, far important these things are than the materialistic, ‘travelistic’ experiences others are having this cold Christmas period. This may all seem so obvious, but it’s perhaps not until you have a stark reason to revaluate the other tenses around you in life that you saviour the real moments before you this Christmas, rather than the virtual happenings of your social media world. So do yourselves a favour – put down your phone, shut your laptop screen (after you’ve read this blogpost of course), and smile at your loved ones waiting before you – for they are the most treasured adventure of time you’ll have this Christmas. Enjoy and cherish your Christmas breaks everyone x