What I Wanted to Say: Sushi For Christmas

What’s a holiday post without an embarrassing family photo?

December 24th, 2022:

Today I want to share a journal entry I wrote two years ago on Christmas Eve.

This was a part of an online journal I worked on as a part of my therapy I was receiving while I was overseas. Weekly, I would write how I was feeling at the time, and explain why in any way I saw relevant in a paragraph or two. I wasn’t given much direction by design, as to allow me to speak freely about my mental illness and emotional health, but ultimately ended with me just saying “I felt like garbage this week, idk lol, here’s nine jokes to deflect from my darkest impulses.”

This particular week wasn’t ordinary, though. My depressive episode had a cause this week. It was the first time I missed Christmas with my family in my entire life.

Now, to this day, I believe I am the only one of my family to miss the holidays, and I’ve since missed many family events since then. This day, December 24th, 2020, was my first big one though, and it is the one that cut the deepest. Rod Stewart told me this would happen, and I didn’t listen, partially because I prefer the Sheryl Crow version, and partially for other reasons I’ll get into later.

For now, let me summarize what I wrote in my journal that fateful day.

I outlined what the typical holiday was like for me, and it’s nothing overly special. We get a late start to our day, we wrap presents, we get into silly family arguments about various topics, et cetera. We used to go to church back in the day, and Christmas was actually my favorite mass for a few reasons, not the least of which was my brothers making at least one side comment that caused me to stifle cackling laughter. We don’t go anymore, so the comments have been more likely to be directed towards me, which are still very funny but admittedly do not hit the same. The tradition that hasn’t died over the years was the dinner we had with our neighbors, a family my parents, and thus I, had known for our entire lives. We take turns hosting while adding a gift exchange at the end of the evening. It’s always the highlight of Christmas Eve.

Then, I admitted my Christmas Eve that year, which was having dinner at my Bosnian coaches home, playing blackjack with 10-year-olds (because children can never be too young to experience the joy of gambling, right?), and watching Netflix until the family FaceTimed me before their dinner. They did their best to cheer me up and include me in the night, but when I hung up, I felt possibly the most isolated I had ever felt in my life up until that point. There I am, crying myself to sleep in a studio apartment roughly the size of a freshman dorm room, questioning whether life overseas truly is the life I want to choose.

At that point, I decide to find a positive spin to end the journal entry, so I referenced something I had seen or read that said when you’re alone for the holidays, you can make your own traditions. I decided to eat something I never ate for Christmas before, either for the story or for the hell of it. Probably both. I landed on sushi because it sounded good and it was very accessible at the time. So, I ordered salmon maki, California rolls, and gyoza on the side. Did it help? No, no it fucking didn’t. I don’t know if you heard me the first time, but I had sushi for Christmas. It was bland, it was bizarre, and my isolation just grew more. I just missed my family, and no amount of stale rice balls was going to fix that.

That was my story, and I hope you liked it, because my therapist did not. This was the entry that prompted her to tell me I was “journaling wrong”.

Now, as devastating and hilarious as that critique is, I understand what she meant. I wasn’t journaling in the moment, I was giving a recap of my week, and therefore I could neatly package it into a nice feelings essay. That’s why I never got into it in the first place: I never want my writing to be too raw and messy, the two qualities most journal entries have. Therefore, journals became my creative kryptonite. So, in the spirit of trying to better myself, I’m going to end this a little messy.

Thanks for making it this far. Here’s a picture of some dogs.

By that, I mean I have no clear conclusion for you, dear reader. I still miss big moments I would give a kidney to be present, and I’m positive I’ve got a few more years of consistently being away from the people I love. Working abroad comes with experiences that I wouldn’t trade for the world, but it also comes with immense sacrifice. That’s just the way it is. For those of you away from family and friends for the holidays, for a job or otherwise, I hope you find warmth and comfort to get you through a truly lonely time, and perhaps you feel a little less lonely knowing you’re not the only one aware of how miserable it can be at times.

Now, for those able to be with loved ones, I also don’t really have anything for you either, at least nothing you wouldn’t hear in those Hallmark movies you’ve been watching all month. All advice is cliché at this point. However, I promised you a mess, and Hallmark is still making bank off those wonderbread, overdone, propagandistic media for white people, so what the hell. The truth is, the things that I missed when I wrote that entry weren’t part of some opulent or grand tradition. We hang out with friends and have a nice meal. But that’s the part of the holiday my mind put so much meaning on. I’m sure there’s someone out there who has had sushi for dinner on the 25th of December, which by the way, if you’re reading this, I’m really sorry I seemed like I’ve been dogging on your life choices for a while there. If that’s what you like about your holiday, eat away. I just want you to take a second and breathe in even the tiniest of instances you know you’d really miss if you weren’t there.

For me, the reason for the season is to, if for a day, a minute, a second, you know you’re not alone in this world, and that the love that surrounds you can conquer any dark times that may come in the years to come. I hope you can celebrate that too. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a dinner to get to.

Happy Holidays.

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Nick McGlynn

He/Him. Approaching the “trying something” era of my life. Twitter/Instagram: nickwritesjokes