For many years, I went out of my way to feel embittered and surly at Christmas, refusing to live in the moment, opting instead to wallow in memories of lonely Christmases past. Looking back, though, I’ve never actually been alone. The memories I wallow in are false. They’re little stories, truncated and manipulated versions of reality, created by me. They make it easier to share my past experiences with others and to convey a version of myself that best fits into—maybe not how I saw myself at the time, but how I want people to understand my past.
For a long time, I held tightly to the memory of the Christmas sixteen years ago when I was nineteen, pregnant with a baby I was going to put up for adoption, and homeless. Truth be told, I’ve never spent a night outdoors except when camping. I’ve never spent a night starving. I’ve never really been homeless. This fact, however, doesn’t fit into the story I’ve told about me. It serves to make my bitterness justified—yet it no longer feels authentic or serves the new narrative I’d rather tell. I realized recently that I’ve built an identity around myself that no longer fits into my current understanding of who I am. It’s not who I want to be anymore.