The past 12 months have been strange ones for me, and for a number of reasons. It’s the first year in the past four where I’ve spent more time in my home country than overseas. It’s the first time since university where I’ve found myself living abroad in a country outside of Asia. And it’s the first time I’ve ever experienced Christmas in the summer. Odd as it sounds, that’s probably the strangest one of them all. I’m writing this Christmas letter while sitting outside in a T-shirt at 8:00 pm and the sun is still up!
But here at the end of this strange year, as much as my thoughts veer towards the future, I can’t help but dwell on the past. This year, I managed to knock off two life goals I’ve been putting off for years: go on an extended road trip with a good friend and move to New Zealand on a working holiday visa. I also managed to keep a promise to another good friend and make it back to Korea for an absolutely beautiful wedding. I visited eight states and five countries, and even managed to squeeze in a few job promotions along the way. It was a good year.
There’s a cloud over my thoughts this Christmas, and it’s casting a shadow over my holiday season. It comes from the realization that I don’t feel like I belong in my home country anymore. I’m not talking about my family and friends — I’m blessed to always feel acceptance and warmth whenever I go home. It’s my country which seems a stranger to me.
I try not to read the headlines coming out of the US, but they’re impossible to miss. Bouts of violence, blood spilled for no reason at all. Hate spewing from political podiums, echoed and chanted across the nation. People of one religion striking at those of another. Liberty tarnished, the gates to the Dream slammed shut.
This is not the America that I love. To reuse a line from a brilliant satire of a recent controversy, “Where my country gone?”
Not that all the places I’ve been to have been perfect. They have their dark sides as well. I guess, what I’m saying, is that I find it hard to be proud of (and associate myself with) a country where bigotry, hate, and fear triumph over acceptance, love, and peace. To quote a song by the Lonely Forest, “…I don’t want to live there, buy there, or die there.”
So this year, for my Christmas letter, I’m not posting a sappy message about what I’m grateful for or how much I miss home. This year, I’m mixing up the whole ‘Christmas wish’ thing and issuing a challenge. If you’re reading this and you feel hate or unease towards a certain group of people just because of their race, faith, or preferences… let it go.
The world is a beautiful place, and there is more love in it than hate. It is a wonderful place, and there is so much more to be in awe of than there is to fear. The world is as much yours as it is mine, and as much theirs as it is ours.
For 2016, let’s make a change. Maybe, if we listen to what our mentors, prophets, and messiahs teach us about embracing love and forgiveness, we can make the next year just a little better than this one.
Merry Christmas, everyone!