When we’re away at school and return home only a few times a year, we’re often made out to be a novelty to friends and family and feel the pressure to make appearances and put in face time. Because we’re usually only around during the holiday seasons, it can feel like everyone wants to know everything about our lives all at once. Instead of stressing over the perfect response for the tough questions, it’s time to shift our perspective on holiday table talk. By being the one asking the questions, we can avoid always being on our toes having to answer them.
Our family members have incredibly interesting perspectives on life and coming-of-age stories of their own, which provide us with the ideal conversation topic. Grandpa isn’t just that guy who sends you letters and offers you cold drinks at family functions, he’s a person who has struggled, failed, succeeded, loved, and lost. That younger cousin isn’t just a high-energy kid who loves to color and jump rope, she’s a girl with aspirations, questions, and fears who faces her own challenges every day. Everyone knows how to talk about themselves —what makes them tick, what they’d like to accomplish, what they’d like to change—all we have to do is ask the right questions, or think to ask at all.
When you’re sitting around the dinner table on Christmas Eve and your aunt asks about your post-grad plans why not respond that you’re keeping your options open and then ask about how she went about finding her way after graduation? When grandma asks if you’re dating anyone, why not shift the conversation and use it as an opportunity to find out how she met your grandfather? There are so many ways to move the conversation to a more comfortable ground that allows you to feel less like you’re running in circles trying to avoid the spotlight.
Because the holiday season usually means a good amount family time and togetherness, it’s the perfect opportunity to finally figure out what your mother’s favorite parts of college were, what your brother learned from his internship, or where your grandparents hope to travel in the upcoming year. It’s important to know where we came from and where we’re going and being aware of our family history and future aspirations are quintessential parts of gaining that knowledge.
Let’s make this holiday season less about the stress of defining ourselves in the answers that we give to our relatives’ questions and instead put a positive focus on them. Ask questions, listen intently, appreciate similarities, allow differences to help you become a more well-informed individual, and enjoy quality time with the wonderful family that you’re lucky enough to be a part of.