I considered myself lucky. The soldier life has taught me about camaraderie and appreciate my collection of friends and loved ones. Yet, even I have fallen victim to solitude for the holidays. The lonely feeling still remains, even though, the trainings and battles are behind me. So, I still carry a soldier’s mentality for the holidays: 1) Appreciate it with loved ones and family. and/or 2) Create new traditions while being solo. These ideas helped me survive those lonely hard times during the holiday.
Appreciate it with loved ones and family. As a kid, I loved the holidays (All the food, time with family and friends). I even enjoyed the grand reception soldiers receive when they arrive at airports and families are happy to see them. Yet, there was dynamic change as I became an adult or civilian: friends and siblings have families, loved ones get older or pass away, enjoying different traditions, and restaurants become optional.
Family tradition are great to do but can be adjusted in certain situation. I remember sitting at the children table with my daughter and ex because my ex’s brother’s large family needed the big table. So, My daughter and I just sat together and talk like long distance cousins. I still enjoy the holidays and any adjustments. I may not have all the people to enjoyed them with next to me but, I can still enjoy the feeling.
Create New Traditions
Create new traditions while being solo. Being deployed to other countries and away from family and friends is part of a soldier’s life. I have been alone for several years in my adult life. From living long distance from family to being unavailable for work reasons, I had to suffer with the thought of spending the holidays alone.
After a couple of depressing times, I decided to create new traditions or modify old ones. Since, who said you have to follow the holidays standard anyway? It is all a matter of perception. I know people who go to tropical paradises to escape winter wonderlands and others who do the opposite. Plus, I always found it fascinating what is available during the holidays.
I have enjoyed many movies theaters and restaurants alone and the employees or patrons don’t want to be there. So, that is someone who relates to the struggle, why not start a conversation or give a greeting? You may find something to talk about. I could enjoy making phone calls and sending a few holiday texts to family and friends but a warm hug from a stranger felt better.
While I was stationed at Fort Lee for advance training, our captain gave a morning speech to the company on Thanksgiving. He instructed soldiers to turn to the soldier next to them and invite them to dinner for no soldier should be left alone for the holidays. He is right. The holidays are a time of gathering. Being alone is a choice. People surround us: outside, inside, and online.
The meeting place doesn’t have to be extravagant. There are people who have meeting in parks with Turkey breast subway sandwiches this Thanksgiving. As my father(R.I.P) would say: Son, We all have different views, but we all enjoy a cooked meal. Thanks, Dad.