“But is this fun?”
This was the question my inner child asked when I was standing under the shower this morning, preparing to spend another day in transit. After living out of a suitcase for almost a year, my psyche is showing signs of extreme wear and tear because I can never find my socks or my bearings. Traveling from Amsterdam to Paris and then on to Northern France on less than two hours’ sleep calls for more chill than I had left when I got up.
To me, digital nomadism is another name for survival in motion and geographical adaptability. It was the only way I could go back to Europe and help my parents navigate the unpredictable reality of Stage IV cancer while supporting myself.
In practice, my lifestyle is a form of homelessness; I hold no key to any front door and am forever anxious about overstaying my welcome. My family and I are only beginning to build a solid relationship now, after years of partial estrangement due to childhood domestic abuse.
That my inner child should pipe up mere days after discovering I don’t belong anywhere during the holiday season was quite a surprise. Until then, I had been racking my brain trying to find something other than work I could lean on to get me through December without collapsing. Keeping darkness at arm’s length is part and parcel of dealing with chronic depression. But being the odd one out at a time when everyone is getting together and celebrating is quite the punch in the gut that could wipe you out.
“But is it fun?” isn’t the thing to ask but kids are inappropriate and my inner child is no exception; she desperately needs looking after so I have to find a way.
Meanwhile, the answer is no, not one jot. It hurts so much I come up against the limits of language every time I attempt to corral the storm raging within into words.
“How can we make it fun?”
Now here’s a question you can chew on and a process that could even be enjoyable or at least enlightening. Finding solutions is a whole lot more appealing than being stuck even after you’ve asked for help, assuming that is something you can even do.
When no one cares and it feels like the world has given up on you, it doesn’t mean you should stop caring and give up on yourself, too. Silliness, humor, and random acts of kindness might be just the ticket to help you weather the holiday season.
Left to my own devices, I’d live in my gray polar bear PJs until Jan 1, quietly wasting away because appetite is always the first thing to go when distraught. Alas, depression is far more powerful than my Frenchness, which regards food as a cross between an art form and a religion. Yes, even as a vegan.
Don’t wait for someone to bring the cheer but be the cheer instead, perhaps? And how about going on an active hunt for nuggets of joy and collecting as many as you can? For me, the easiest way to do this is by getting out of my head and talking to people; I’m curious, it happens naturally if I let my inner child run the show.
Interacting with others is also how I connect dots between existing ideas and new possibilities I hadn’t even thought of.
Fun is a mindset.
When you approach life as a comedy of errors, levity takes away some of the sting, even if you end up laughing at yourself alone. Weirdness makes for good stories and everyone likes a giggle so opportunities to share will eventually come along when you least expect them.
I make a point of committing all kinds of details to memory; they’re often seeds that will blossom into storytelling at a later date. Or sometimes, they’re little bursts of instant delight that can easily be let loose on social media for others to enjoy.
Every smile is a celebration of life so the more smiles I can make happen — be they mine or those of others — the happier I am. To my inner child, every day comes with infinite potential for play, discovery, and learning.
My outer adult is not all that different from my inner child but for one thing. Spending five years cooped up in my cranium while my writing voice had gone AWOL as a result of major depressive disorder made me forget how to laugh.
Along with everything else that makes up being human, I’ve been relearning what humor is, how it works, and how to use it to defuse difficult situations. I don’t always succeed but it is one of the gentlest ways I know to engage others without putting them on the spot.
My inner child keeps pulling on my sleeve and pointing at things, daring me to pause, survey my surroundings, and crack a smile. Despite alighting in Paris with a heart whose weight rivals that of my suitcase, I couldn’t help but notice the holiday lights in the train station.
When I came nose to nose with a giant festive hourglass complete with life-size nutcracker, I had to stop and take a picture. And I’m glad I did because it includes a bonus random guy and the result is hilarious and perfect for a caption competition.
My inner child was thrilled, my outer adult humored her, and now I get to share those pictures and hopefully brighten someone else’s day.
So why not allow your inner child to come out and play and let them hold your hand through this? The random, the amusing, and the absurd tend to beget more of the same once you start seeing it and the season certainly lends itself to bizarreness.
A lonely kid will make their own entertainment so why not rekindle this practice into adulthood when we need a little extra oomph?
Even when you’re underwater, it’s OK to stick your head out and breathe every now and then.
You need to.
I’m a French-American writer, journalist, and editor living out of a suitcase in transit between North America and Europe. To continue the conversation, follow the bird. For email and everything else, deets in bio.