The Other Side of the Holidays

The holiday season is pretty synonymous with family, happiness, cheer and a general sense of positivity. Christmas music plays in all of the shops, we eagerly await those magical first snow falls (or heat waves down under) and rush around to get the perfect gifts for the ones we love.

Growing up, Christmas was a HUGE time in our household and I cannot overstate that. When I was young, my dad would line the house with Christmas lights, take us shopping, see Santa, take us to the Christmas markets and everything that comes with the holiday season. He was always big on the season.

But my mom, well my mom was actually crazy. She had this affinity with elves- mostly because she said the elves didn't get enough love. All you ever saw was Santa, snowmen, even reindeer as decorations, but not enough elves and they were the ones who put in all the work (trust me I know, but it's who she was.) We had literally hundreds of elves throughout the house as decorations, music would be blasting throughout the house the entire day and the Christmas tree was always a big deal in our house.

When I was a kid, Christmas Day was always over the top. My parents gave my brother and I every toy under the sun and every gift imaginable each year. We spent time with family during the days and it was always one of, if not my favorite, day of the year. Some of my best memories I still have stem from Christmas Day thanks to my parents.

As I got older, and times got tougher, Christmas was still the most important day. My mom still found a way to give us a special day. Presents became more meaningful than materialistic (I got a rock one year- yes a rock, from outside in the garden- and it's one of the best gifts I've ever received) and the day brought on new meaning. Again, some of my best memories come from Christmas. The best memory I have is probably was the excitement my mom had when my agent called me and told me I didn't have to go back to France on the last Christmas I got to spend with my mom.

But after that Christmas, my life changed dramatically. I lost my mom. The first thing I was told about how to move forward, was to come to grips that the firsts will be the hardest and there's nothing I can do about it. The first birthday, the first holiday, the first Christmas. Luckily for me, I wasn't in America I was under contract in Finland. I didn't have to deal with the familiarity of home during the holiday season. So as much as I struggled to get through that season, the blow was lightened.

But for my brother Kyle, that wasn't the case, and that haunts me to this day. I always had an escape and Kyle didn't. I was out of the country more than I was in it, and in hindsight, probably running from exactly what he was dealing with. Now most people know nothing about Kyle, and even if they think they do, they know nothing about him. But one thing I can tell you, if he doesn't want to do something he's not going to do it. Family tried to invite him into their homes but he declined. Instead, he spent the holidays alone, in our apartment. He limped through the holidays, but that kid is a warrior like you have never seen- easily the toughest person I know.

Kyle moved out to Colorado a few months later, and spent the last three years or so out that way. He recently moved back to New Jersey for a new job and is back around the familiarity. We spoke about how this year he is missing myself and my mom and bit more than usual. And I get it, I understand. But once again, I am in Australia where the weather is 85 degrees and Christmas is spent on the beach rather than in the snow.

Now this is an unprecedented time, and hopefully the only one like it we will experience in our lifetime. We have lost nearly 300,000 Americans, mostly because of incompetence and idiocy, but the fact remains we have lost a completely appalling number of lives. This is going to be an extremely difficult holiday season for everyone, but for some more than others. Not only have some lost loved ones, but they won't be around their loved ones again for Christmas (if you go to a large family gathering this holiday season, you are a f*ckwit and the reason the United States is the worst place on earth right now.)

There are going to be numerous people going through their firsts this year. They will be missing a grandparent, a mother, a father, aunt, uncle, cousin, maybe even a sibling and they will be struggling with the memories of holidays past. In normal circumstances family can get around each other, and they can uplift everyone to move forward and through a difficult time. With that option being gone, it is more important than ever to check in on each other.

You would be surprised what a simple phone call or text message can do for an individual. It just lets you know that someone is there and they care enough about you to check in. Those types of gestures go so much further than you can imagine. As someone who has gone through firsts, I can tell you that those calls and messages have pulled me out of a dark place, even for just a moment, that breath of fresh air was sometimes life saving.

In today's climate, it doesn't take losing a loved one to need a little help through this holiday season. Many of you have been doing the right thing, keeping your distance, not going out for non essentials. I see your posts about how frustrated you're becoming. I see how worn out you are. I see your pleas for everyone to get it together so you can get back to a normal life (whatever that will look like moving forward.)

I know mental health is at an all time low around the world but we have no choice, we have to move on. We have to move forward, because we have no choice. We have parents, siblings, some of us children, who are counting on us. We are all in this together whether you feel it or not. If you are reading this and struggling, I want to say that it's okay. I also want to tell you that if you are feeling this way, chances are someone close to you is feeling the same or worse.

If you are struggling, reach out to someone. Tell them how you're feeling because they might need to have the same conversation. Now more than ever, we need to band together. We need to be there for one another and get through this holiday season.

Please be mindful of those battling through their firsts, or those with sick family members. Please be mindful of those who have been struggling this year (which is all of us.) Please reach out to someone who you might think be in need. Please reach out to someone if you think you, yourself, are in need. Please have a little extra patience with everyone this holiday season. We are all trying to get through them as best, and safely as we can.

And if you can't do those things, then stay the f*ck home and do the right thing so we can battle this pandemic the right way (please see Australia and how we are back to pretty much normal in most places.) I would love to be able to come home to see you all.

If you ever need to talk to someone, please message me on any social media outlet @ericmcalister. I would love to hear from you all.