How to Not Die of Loneliness During the Holidays When You Can’t Go Home
Sometimes the hardest part of the holidays is the fact that you live eight hours away from family and can’t afford to go home.
I didn’t quite know how much I’d struggle my first year away from Florida. Sure, I had lived away from home during college, a whole one hour and forty-five minutes away, but moving to Wake Forest was my first time living in a different state than my family and childhood friends for an extended amount of time. Through my time here, God has shown me more than I ever expected (or, at times, wanted!). Here’s a few ways I’ve learned to enjoy different kinds of holiday seasons through my fair share of moping, crying, and making do. Maybe you’ll start to see the fun and adventure constrained circumstances can actually afford during the holidays!
1. Build a Community Where You Are
Make new friends. When my parents and I first unloaded a U-Haul of furniture, clothes, books, and whatever else I deemed necessary to life here in Wake Forest, I knew absolutely no one.
No contacts. No friends. Nada. So I know how awkward and exhausting it can be to make new friends in a place where you have zero history.
I felt like I couldn’t be frustrated or have a bad day. New people wouldn’t know that I wasn’t being normal Lindsey, but grouchy Lindsey, or really, really, tired Lindsey, or hangry (so hungry you angry!) Lindsey. What if people thought that’s how I acted all the time?
The crazy thing that I had to learn is that if you want a history with someone, be it a friend or mentor or church, you have to build it. And building a history takes time and effort, so don’t give up or expect too much too soon. Pray that God would provide a solid, biblical church where you fit in—you’ll need people from all walks of life beside you—and other women to walk alongside. Then go out and make friends. Go to your church’s events. Talk to people. Invite them to coffee or over for a movie. And most importantly, learn to listen. Ask others about themselves and be genuinely interested in what they have to say.
If you want to be here, really be here, then you have to build a community. Otherwise, all you’ll do is think about home, call friends every chance you get, and be so lonely here you won’t want to stay.
P.S.—Trust me, it gets easier. You’ll make friends, good friends you wouldn’t trade for anything. You’ll grow (more than you thought possible), and you’ll see God provide for you in ways you didn’t know you’d need.
Invite others in. Once you have your people, your new friends, always continue inviting others in.
I know, you might get jealous or worry maybe your friend will like them and ditch you—you get all, you know, defense-mode. I’ve had other girls act that way towards me when I was apparently getting too close to their friend, and I’ve acted that way before, too. But don’t be like that. Not only does it make you look both immature and insecure, it also doesn’t reflect the biblical picture of community we see in scripture.
Be hospitable—genuinely welcome others into your life.
(And, no, this does not mean you have to be BFFs with every person out there. But you do need to be friendly and show them the same love that has been shown to you.)
2. Start Your Own Traditions
Decorate! Maybe this is obvious, but if you’re not going home for a holiday or only get to go home for a few days, decorate your apartment! Hit the Goodwill or local thrift shops around town and find a few decorations to help your apartment feel festive. Make your little home warm and inviting, even if only for yourself and roommates. Y’all know Pinterest has all sorts of fun, inexpensive ideas to decorate: don’t just pin ‘em, make ‘em! And if you have extras you don’t want or won’t use, pass them on to others.
Celebrate! You’re in a new place with new people—how exciting! Start your own new traditions! This could either mean incorporating your family’s traditions, like a favorite movie while cooking together or decorating with your new friends (while also letting them introduce you to their special family traditions), or it could mean starting something completely new altogether. Google local events going on in the area, and then go explore! Find a swanky little coffee shop you’ve never been to and enjoy a cup of Pumpkin Latte or Peppermint Mocha together. Have a picnic of cocoa and treats in the park. The possibilities here are just about as endless as your own creativity. Get out and do something!
3. Keep Perspective
As amazing and unbelievable as this might seem, whatever your life looks like this holiday season, well, it probably won’t look the same come this time next year. Maybe you or a friend will move to another city or a different apartment. Maybe you’ll get married or have a baby. Or maybe you (or your husband) will graduate and find ministry work elsewhere. You never know what this upcoming year might hold. So don’t take what you have here, right now, for granted. As Trace Adkins once sang, “You’re gonna miss this”: the ridiculously small apartment, the even smaller budget, and the community of other seminarians (just as poor and cramped as you!) just trying to be faithful and prepare well while living their lives together one ordinary day at a time. You only get so many Easters, Thanksgivings and Christmases here—don’t waste a single one! Your God is sovereign and aware of where you are. Be where He has you, even if it’s not where He’s going to keep you.
Lindsey Pope is a 2011 graduate of the University of Florida (Go Gators!) and is currently pursuing her M.Div in Christian Ministry. At the age of sixteen, she was called into Christian ministry; that same year she met two women, one in her twenties and the other in her forties, both pursuing their M.Divs. It was then that she first started dreaming of seminary.