• Kristy Gnibus

I PLAN on Being Alone for the Holidays

At least sometimes.

Girl looking off to distance in Erie, PA Photo by Emmy Hackshaw
Photograph by Emmy Hackshaw, Erie, PA

"You're alone? Would you like to join us for the holiday?"

Honestly, I don't want to go to your holiday celebration with YOUR family. It just makes it worse when I see the love, silliness, fun, or even family feuds that I could be having. Please, don't get me wrong. I really appreciate the opportunity. I've had so many invites, and it is immensely heartwarming how compassionate people can be. That is one thing I am thankful for: All you compassionate people who think of others. Even though I decline, not everyone will. For some, spending a holiday with anyone is better than alone. So please don't take this as a reason to not ask others to join you!

Why Am I Okay Alone?

The first few years it was a sinking feeling, as if I was missing out on something and it all was my fault. Perhaps I didn't plan things right? Anytime I ended up alone, I felt I needed to fill that time. Free-time alone isn't something I handle well. I keep myself busy with kids, multiple jobs, the gym, friends and really anything to occupy myself.

I had a completely different plan for my life. Plan. What a funny thing to do. We are told since we are old enough to comprehend really anything to plan everything, from what you're going to wear each day, to your weekend plans, to your work or college career, your living destinations, your retirement, even your death.

I was a master planner.

I excelled in school. I picked out my career in 10th grade. Went to the college I planned. I had an unplanned pregnancy, and then another, but that didn't take me off course. I didn't miss a beat and graduated on time. Planned my career path, and got it. Planned my graduate schooling, and did it. Although as holidays and events with family approach, I find that being alone isn't how I planned things. At first it is startling and hurtful, as I planned to be married by now or at least engaged. I planned to have someone romantically significant to share my life and holidays with. I planned to never be alone, especially on the holidays. See the theme here?

My family is quite small, and since I am the only one in my immediate family to have children besides my cousins, it seems even smaller. So for the most part, I am feeling alone when my children are with their fathers for the holidays we share. More than anything I really miss my sister. She moved a few years ago to Texas for a career opportunity, and as my only sister and my best friend, the holidays are a bit empty. Yes, I know. That's not what the holidays are about, but you know what? For me it is. It isn't just about a religion or a God. If you believe in a God, it is about the people that God put here on this earth. So, if holidays are about anything, they are about people. I miss my people. Especially as my kids bustle off to their fathers.

So what's changed since I am not lonely all the time? A few things. Even though my family grows smaller in some ways, and I don't have a house packed full of family and a significant other to share it with, I have fantastic friends, and the family I do have near and far are wonderful. I am loved and supported. My children are so sweet, intelligent, fun, and deeply loving. The holidays are a time for being thankful, and I am thankful I have them. Even if I have to share, even if it's not what I planned.

Two young girls sitting on steps at an art museum
My unplanned gifts and what I am most thankful for. Photograph: Emmy Hackshaw

No one can plan everything. No one. Not even for the worst, whether it be a death of a loved one, a divorce, breakup, job loss, or a medical emergency. Life is full of ups and downs, and who am I to sulk or feel sorry for myself? I cannot and I will not. I really am very lucky with what I have. And as it turns out the things I didn't plan are the things I am thankful for and love the most.

So even though I may not be able to plan for everything, I can plan to be alone, sometimes. But more than anything I plan on being thankful.

If you are looking to volunteer, these are great places to contact for the holidays. If you are looking for a meal, these are the wonderful places to fill your tummy and warm your heart.

United Way list of Thanksgiving places to have a meal in Erie County

Free breakfast on Thanksgiving in Perry Square, Erie, PA
Free breakfast on Thanksgiving in Perry Square, Erie, PA

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