I have my annual leave coming up, and while I’m looking forward to some much-needed time off work, the topic of holidays has been depressing me ever since I can remember. It’s high time I addressed this.
I know the reasons for it and I know they’re not good enough, but until I write them down and confront them, I don’t think I’ll fully accept it; instead, I’ll give into the self-pity and let myself be sucked into a depression yet again. So here goes, my attempt to explain why I associate holidays with stress…
I first started to get an idea of what a holiday was when I learned enough English to understand the kids in my class talking about their summer holidays. I remember once when I was 10, our teacher said that we’d received a postcard from Joseph in our class, posted when he’d been on holiday to Spain. Joseph had returned to England faster than his postcard and was there to hear it read to the class and there was such excitement as we got to hear that they stayed in a villa with a pool. These were all things that I wouldn’t hear about at home.
The holidays I knew of from home were those my cousins went on. They all went on the same holiday: to visit family back in Cyprus. I didn’t have great memories of Cyprus at age 10 . Plus, even at this stage I knew that terms like ‘indefinite leave to remain’ didn’t apply to my family yet, so no holidays abroad for us. Plus, even if we did get this status, how would we ever afford a holiday when my mum wouldn’t even allow us to keep our birthday money?
I was 17 when I had my first holiday trip. It was a random holiday literally the year we were granted citizenship, after a 10 year wait for a decision from the Home Office. I have to say I don’t even know where my parents got the money from, but somehow they scrambled it together and sent me and one of my sisters to Cyprus with my auntie. My mum made me pay for it in the end. When I was there I discovered a bank account that my name-sake had put some money into for me…and as I write this i have worked out for this first time where they got the money from. While we were there I heard my auntie talking on the phone back in England with my mum. My mum had borrowed money from her (I didn’t know what for then, but now I realise it must have been to pay for our flights) and she needed it. My mum was saying she didn’t have it. I offered to lend my mum was was in my bank account in Cyprus. Like my birthday money, I never got it back.
Still, that holiday, although it had its dark family moments, reminded me of my love and awe for the sea, the beach, the water, the sunshine and nature in general. Being able to just absorb it all, purposelessly. I basked in it and I knew if I could do it on my terms, it would be my happy peaceful place.
The following holidays were on my terms. As I struggled through uni, working far too many hours, I saved up and went on cheap and cheerful holidays, and though they were tainted with the fact that I would usually have minimal (and once no) spending money, they were still my bit of calm and freedom. I was in a place I’d chosen to be.
It’s now been 5 years since I went on a holiday abroad due to financial constraints. Yet, these last 5 years have been the most meaningful and fruitful of my life. I have finally addressed my mental health and am slowly starting to address my physical health too. I have begun a genuine voyage of self-discovery (slow as it may be) and I am making more informed, intentional choices, instead of letting life drag me along.
So, when people at work ask me where I’m going on annual leave, I shouldn’t feel this great anxiety and feel flustered into explaining why I’m not going anywhere. Sometimes I’ll say we might have to move soon, sometimes I’ll say I have family stuff on, because I just think that I don’t want to have to say that I can’t afford to go anywhere. I feel embarrassed to say I don’t have any plans, but why should I? Why is it such a big deal to me?
It’s because to me it’s a reminder that I’m failing at that aspect of life. I’m failing to be a normal person who has energy to do stuff after work and is organised enough to save money and plan holidays. But I’m not. As much as I want to, I can’t save money for a holiday, or a deposit for a mortgage, or even basic clothing. But I have to also realise that I could be as organised as can be, but I could never afford to save any money until we are both working. For now, this is a single-income household with 2 people and £1000 a month rent to pay.
And I need to remind myself that holidays don’t have to be abroad. They just have to not be wasted. This is me reminding myself.
Tomorrow is my last day at work before my holidays. I’m going to the beach. It doesn’t have to be abroad. It just has to be when I choose.
The British summer is beautiful and I know I can be happy in it.