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I don’t remember the last time our family celebrated Christmas the same way two consecutive years in a row. We’ve celebrated Christmas in Illinois, Argentina, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, California and Puerto Rico.

Somethings remain the same: baking and decorating of Christmas cookies, biscuits and gravy, some form of sunshine, NBA Christmas games, a puzzle or two, and practical gifts from my mom or sister-in-law.

People usually ask if I’m going home for the holidays and my answer is always complicated because home has a different meaning for me.

Christmas isn’t as magical as it used to be when I was younger. Now, it comes with a tired mind from hard work, anxiety from the happenings and expectations of life and the notion of wanting. It’s easy for this time of year to remind me of what I don’t have.

I was talking to my therapist about my anxiety about this Christmas, telling her that I’m usually my worst self when I’m around my family. I worked through ways I can change my way of thinking, how I can be better. Not only for myself, but for my family.

We’re a rather independent family and I love each of them dearly. This Christmas is the first time we’ve all been together this year. It’s always interesting when we come together, each family unit with their own set of values, routines, and personalities. I’ve learned there are things I won’t compromise when I’m home, like rest and my mental health—so I’ll sneak away for a quick nap or just time to myself to recharge.

I recently read a book and one of the lines stuck out to me, like it was meant just for me. It said:

Home isn’t a place. It’s not having a bed to come home to, or a yard, or a Christmas tree at the holidays. Home is the people who love you.”

So if you ask me if I went home for Christmas this year, I’ll still reply “no”, but I’ll add something to it. What I’ll say is that I got to spend Christmas with home, with the people I love for better or worse—my family—in beautiful Puerto Rico. I’ll tell you that we took a relaxing cruise in the San Juan Bay on a catamaran. I’ll tell you that we opened gifts from my sister-in-law on Christmas Eve, a tradition of her family she’s brought into ours. I’ll tell you that I was awakened Christmas morning after sleeping terribly to my mom grinding coffee beans I brought from home and the smoke detector going off in the kitchen for whatever reason. I’ll tell you that I laid on the beach and swam in perfect temperature water on Christmas Day.

My Christmas most likely doesn’t look like your Christmas, but that doesn’t mean I have to focus on what I don’t have. Rather, I can focus on the things I do have—it’s my own sort of normal that I get to embrace.

Christmas at HOME means I get to experience something new almost every year. It means I get to learn more about myself and the people I love. It means I can acknowledge the things I want, that I might not have, and still be immensely grateful for what I do have.

Christmas, to me, hasn’t been about the presents, tree or cookies, for quite some time. It’s always been about quality time, in different places and experiences, with people I get to love.

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