Have you ever been un-invited from a party? I have. It sucks.
I am the most un-invited person I know. Instead of writing about holiday love and family and joy, or listing all the hopes and dreams I have for the new year, I am going to tell you about being un-invited for Christmas. And New Year’s. If you are the un-inviter, consider how the other side feels when you break the news; if you are the unfortunate un-invitee, know that you will be ok – this will not be the end of the world. And for both parties: give that relationship a second thought.
Here is my story.
On a crisp and sunny Christmas morning, I was listening to Christmas carols while picking out my Christmas outfit for the early dinner my friends had invited me to. Winter holidays at this lovely couple was a decade-long tradition: we were close friends, we were from the same country – and like any immigrant who spends the holidays away from home, I found it recomforting and fun to spend the holidays together with them. I heard my phone: cling! A message. It was my friend. She texted, simply, that she was cancelling the Christmas gathering I was just getting ready to go to.
What?! Oh, no… What….
This really came out of the blue. Was this a prank? I was in disbelief. You must be joking, dear, this is not happening. Oh, yes, it is. A huge wave of holiday blues hit me like a tsunami. What did I do to deserve this? A somber voice rang in my ears: you are alone for Christmas…
I was alone, now. I felt lonely.
And then, I remembered that magical New Year’s Eve, two years ago, when that same long-time friends informed me – around 6 pm – that I was no longer expected at their place. You are alone for New Year’s, the same somber voice whispered in my empty room. I remembered the same disbelief. Yep, I had been uninvited from New Year’s. And yep, overall, I had been un-invited twice… both for Christmas and New Years’, although in different years (thanks goodness!).
How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
Regardless of the reason, getting un-invited felt abysmally awful. More so because it was done by my close friends and on a special occasions, like end of the year holidays. I was shocked, appalled and incredibly hurt – each time. Why would they do that?
Each time, I felt the most unwanted person of the holiday season.
And each time, I went through the same phases of grief, mourning that party that had been taken away from me.
And each time, I found myself questioning a friendship and wondering what was so special about me that got me un-invited more than once – by the same people.
After the initial disbelief, I was overwhelmed by a (useless) bout of anger: why didn’t I go home for the holidays? For a second, I even considered quitting my job and moving back home that very day. Luckily, I realized I was being overly dramatic and that it would cost me a lot of money to move overseas on Christmas Day. I wanted to calm down, I wanted to believe that everything was ok, but it was not: besides the fact that my friends effectively ejected me from their home, I realized I had no food in my fridge and not a drop of wine in my apartment.
I was suddenly lonely, hungry, thirsty and depressed (same feelings and same empty fridge, on both occasions). Was I wrong to anticipate eating, drinking and being merry at my friend’s home?
And then I faced my daunting first world problem: the realization that everybody else in the universe had solid plans for Christmas Day. I could crash a party, I thought, I could send a desperate rescue message to my contacts list: with my unfortunate story, I would have surely inspired endless pity, people would have taken me in, like a holiday refugee, they would have probably offered food, and shelter, and a small community to call home for the evening. But I felt too proud and too hurt to do that. I started feeling sorry for myself. I found myself alone, in a foreign country, abandoned, rejected, discarded by my friends on Christmas Day (and New Year’s Eve, on that prior occasion). Did I mention I had no food and no drink at home? I felt even worse when I glimpsed at my sulking teary eyed face in the mirror. With no one around, I felt like giving myself a big hug.
Wait a minute, I told myself – both times. Why do I rely on other people for my holiday happiness? And just like your typical American movie hero, I picked myself up from the ground, theatrically wiping my tears. I looked stoically out on my room’s window, glancing straight into the cold winter day: nobody puts me in a corner, especially not for the holidays! Truth be told I cared about these friends, and I loved our decade long tradition of spending the holidays together whenever we were in our adoptive country. In their adorable, cozy house we always recreated a home away from home, a miniature universe where we carried on our traditions, songs and jokes from our country. But now that I was banned from this warm, fuzzy universe, I could not let this ruin my holidays. And just like that, bright ideas started pouring into my head and my brain started buzzing, searching for the best available solution (my brain works wonders under pressure).
Thanks to some businesses run by people that did not celebrate Christmas, I found a café that offered fragrant coffee, aromatic wine, crunchy bread and flavorful cheese which I shared with an Indian friend who responded to my emergency. On the way home, I stumbled upon an open deli that had mouth-watering ice cream, which was the best companion for my reliable Netflix streaming service. I was ok.
And I recalled that New Year’s Eve as well, it turned quite all right: I ventured outside, in the park, where the mayor of my borough was giving an outdoors party with live music and free hot chocolate. I even found a deli open, I bought a can of beer – I needed some bubbles to ring in the new year. And then, there was the collective countdown, the fireworks, and all the people in the park toasting with champagne bottles and cheering the new year in. And I was not alone.
So now, at a time when everybody is reviewing this year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, my un-invited story left me with two takeaways: first, I can always pull myself together from a crappy situation. When I stop feeling sorry for myself and realize that I have all the resources at hand, I can make the best out of what I have. And second, I realized that friendships don’t necessarily remain constant over time. Some flourish and stay, some slowly fade away. And all I need to do is to accept and cherish – new friends and old memories.