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The post-Holidays are the worst. Back to work, back to the grind – Christmas and New Year’s seem to have just ended with such suddenness. Next thing you know, you’re jerked back to the reality of an eight-hour (nine if you include the working lunch breaks) job, looking at your endless piled emails, and waxing nostalgic over a Holiday break you wished could have been two, three days longer.

UST Field

I hate vacation breaks because of this unwanted return of the blues. I’m bad at it. Even back as a student, I always had the blues, which was quite funny considering the schools I went to were all near where I lived. My classmates who lived in the provinces or in suburbs on the edges of the metropolis always appeared more excited than I did going back to classes. I always needed a day or two – sometimes even a week – to assimilate myself to reality. I needed time to miss my room, my home cooked meals, my parents, my siblings, our pets, and the comforts of our house.

I didn’t exactly have time between graduation and my first job. Next thing I knew, I was working. I didn’t have time to prepare myself for the lack of vacations I was so used to when I was still studying. The weekends became incredibly valuable as I slowly adapted to my professional life. Vacation leaves and sick leaves were to be earned. The early morning commute meant I only saw my family when I got back home, so adjusting to this new set-up required a lot of personal detachment.

But the Holidays never fail to reemphasize the importance of family. Awkward reunions, family dinners, out-of-town trips – what wonderful moments they are; so simple in their delights. When you’re working you tend to be negligent of your loved ones. The busyness which we have been accustomed to has certainly changed the time we spend with our families. Call-centers and IT organizations run twenty-four seven. Night shifts and weekend shifts are now normal. People work during Christmas day itself. You’re penalized if your stall at the mall is closed during the holidays. We’re spending so much time without our families to make ends meet, to keep up with the fast-paced world.

While it’s nice to have fancy noche beuna, I’m quite content to simply be with my family. On my first day back at work, I wondered if I spent my Christmas break well. Maybe I should have had more conversations with my cousins. Maybe I should have accompanied my mother to the grocery when she insisted, rather than looking at my work email (I couldn’t resist!). Maybe I should have talked to my father about my career plans.

Back at the office and facing a deluge of piled-up tasks, the anxiety is so strong not even a good cup of coffee can soften the blow of my return to reality. I need to work. I need to work hard to afford myself some certainty about the future. I need to work even if I’m feeling gloomy, and I want maybe an extra hour of sleep. The sweet dream of the long holiday break is over. I have to wake up and settle some things.

I’m still like my college student self – hungover from good memories, fearful of present day uncertainties, and sentimental. I still miss my family even though I see them every day. I feel guilty of being homesick when I have friends who live on their own. What longing they must have, going home to the provinces to spend a week with the family, then returning to the city, missing the loved ones they have to leave behind. I’m still fortunate I have loved ones to rely on: a mother to converse with after a stressful day at work; sisters to console me when it comes to my love life; brothers I can always share a laugh with; nephews and nieces who temporarily soothe heartaches of various kinds.

I wish I was more of a man in facing new days, and less attached to the sentiments of the good yesterdays. It would do me good to be firm towards my emotions. It would to me well to rely more on myself. I was never good adjusting to changes; I only embraced it once I was sure something on the other side – like the new year, the new week, a new job, or a new friendship – could anchor me again. Once I get used to something, it’s hard getting “un-used” to it.

A cold chill from the north has arrived, but the Christmas songs are gone. Neighbours are dismantling Christmas decorations, and fellow workers and commuters are rubbing off the Holiday cheer. At home, traces of the holiday are slowly being taken down. Only the Belen is left. It’s the first month of a New Year. I must be quick on my feet to catch up with the changes.