Christmas is a time for family, but I am on the other side of the world. I celebrated instead with my partner’s family and friends, and experienced firsthand the slightly disorienting feeling of everything being slightly off-kilter. Christmas here is similar. It is winter instead of summer, but there is still food, family, and lazy days; gifts of socks and cologne and chocolates, and an afternoon nap. On the other hand it was completely different – no bare feet, no BBQ, no cricket on the lawn – no mother or siblings or cousins.
Dark Eyes by Chris JL, via Flickr
Now that the celebration is over, I find myself reflecting on what it means to leave behind one life and begin another.
Anatole France once said “All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” This is, I think, the most accurate way I have found of expressing this feeling of happiness conflated with sadness.
Travel may make this particularly poignant, but it is a feeling common to all who notice the passing of time – particularly as the year comes to an end. We look to the future while longing for the past, and France’s ‘melancholy’ haunts the final days of the year.
Big Sky, Broken Tree in New South Wales, by Tony Hammond, via Flickr
I think that this feeling is common, and although sad, it is not problematic. To reflect on a life or time we miss is to recognise the happiness we have experienced, and give thanks for it. The closing of one year and the beginning of the next – just like the plane journey that carried me to my new home – is an opportunity for reflection and renewal. Take some time to wallow in this bittersweet sadness, then lift your eyes to the New Year and begin – refreshed, thankful, and at peace.