A few weeks ago, my best friend sent me a nervous text that was, I realized later, a foreshadowing of everyone’s 2020 holiday season.
“Am I overreacting by not going to my brother’s wedding?” she asked. Though the wedding was set to be a small outdoor affair, it was being held in a Covid hotspot region within a Covid hotspot state. Maybe more crucially, my friend lives overseas; her attendance would have required a transatlantic flight followed by a two-week quarantine in each direction.
Maybe this scenario makes you respond, as I did, “Um, are you joking?” For many of us, the mere question of air travel — let alone two eight-hour flights and a total month of self-isolation — is so off the table, it’s easy to forget that there was ever a table to begin with. Never mind “gatherings.” Celebrations. Going home for the holidays.
The trouble is that everyone’s boundaries are different. Weddings are still being held with the expectation — or, at least, the hope — of overseas guests. And, right on schedule, families around the world are figuring out how to handle the holidays. If heading home isn’t in the cards for you this year, the hardest step before breaking the news to loved ones is accepting the decision, yourself.
In other words: You need to give yourself permission to not go home.
In a helpful how-to for Vice, the writer Rachel Miller points out that feeling confident in your decision is essential for communicating plans that your family may not want to hear:
If you don’t feel right about it, you’re more likely to waver, over explain yourself, be talked out of it, or make excuses that are untrue or disingenuous. So, before you talk to your family, think about all of the reasons your plans make sense and are OK. If you’re feeling really guilty, you might even want to make a list — for your eyes only — with your thought process.
That list can include whatever you need it to. To quote Miller once again, it might be as simple as writing that “traveling and celebrating the holidays during a pandemic is incredibly risky for a number of reasons and I’m just not comfortable doing it.” Maybe you have other reasons, too.
Whatever your rationale, putting it down on paper will make your decision feel concrete. From there, you’ll be in a better position to be kind, yet firm, when you break the news. Your loved ones might be disappointed, but chances are that they’ll respect where you’re coming from. (And, in case you were wondering, my friend’s now-married brother completely understood her decision to stay home.)