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Pre-emptive disclosure: Christmas remains my most favorite season of the year. The carols, the lights—they all still have a hold on me, to the point where I could even be convinced to step inside a church for the first and only time in a year.

But as for the rest of the holiday’s trappings that I grew up with—the gift-giving, the family viewing of TV specials, staying up until Christmas Eve to join the adults around a table—they had all fallen away.

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For six years now, I’ve been welcoming December 25 in bed in a hotel, reading celebrity gossip and thinkpieces online. There’s a box of pizza within easy reach and some TLC program as background noise. The most important detail of all this: I am utterly, gloriously, merrily alone.

I call it my Ctrl + Alt + Esc version of Christmas.

Nothing dramatic precipitated my practice of being alone on a holiday that’s sold as a family affair. I just remember thinking, as the last harried workday of 2009 approached, how nice it would be if I did Christmas the way I wanted to at 27. I ticked off the things I didn’t enjoy: hiding my annoyance and boredom with everyone, trying to find common talking points with relatives I haven’t seen since I was five; answering probing questions I don’t even ask myself, pretending to care about kids; and constantly checking the time hoping it’d pass by faster.

It had become depleting to go home after a year of trying to be a proper adult and taking maturity accomplishments wherever I could find them, only to be reduced to a perpetual teenager in the company of family. In case it wasn’t obvious yet: I didn’t appreciate being the receptacle for unsolicited comments, stories, advice, and sermons.

Maybe had I tried harder, I could’ve showed them the real-time grownup me; given them the chance to understand I was no longer the awkward, quiet 14-year-old still figuring out common sense. Maybe I could’ve learned to let go of the need to appease authority figures, especially those who loomed early in my life and inadvertently taught me that family is as capable of loving as they are of hurting. Maybe the patronizing way I get talked to was done out of love.

But it’s a kind of love I found suffocating, frustrating, and boring. Shaking off the yoke of childhood intimidation would take a lifetime of therapy I can’t afford. I don’t want to talk about getting older with still no one to “take care” of me, about having to mend fences with family members whose transgressions I’d rather not invest any more energy on.

I don’t want to feel like jumping down somebody’s (elder) bigoted throat in a discussion about politics. I don’t want to rush getting dressed on Christmas morning to visit other relatives or go to the mall to catch a movie, and suffer through traffic in the process. And let’s not even get into that relative or two, who’d sound out a potential loan just because I had graduated from college, have a job, and am single and child-free. Hello Tito? I budget, too.

Process of elimination done, I realized all I want for Christmas are to rest and treat myself to strong Wi-Fi, buffet breakfasts, and a room uncluttered by detritus of the years past. No worrying about someone else’s feelings; to quote Greta Garbo, “I vant to be alone!” Preferably in a comfortable room that someone else will clean up later.

It’s not sad in the least. Sure, a solitary Christmas doesn’t make for festive Instagram photos, but unfiltered image of the last slice of pizza still in the box, surrounded by grease stains and crumpled napkins can always stand out against the stylized party photos crowding my feed with a near-midnight post of “Almost done with Noche Buena! #PUSH #foreveralone #Christmas2016” with an accompanying. Besides, it’s Christmas: At least three people will like my greasy pizza post out of general goodwill.

Besides, my Ctrl + Alt + Esc Christmas affords me the time and opportunities to do things I normally wouldn’t or couldn’t in daily life. It was a different kind of holiday when I tried to explore the very pretty Luneta Hotel one Christmas evening, going to a different floor…only for the elevator door to open to total darkness because apparently, I was the only guest booked that night. Fun!

Or an out-of-town Christmas morning when I woke up super early to catch the sunrise then do a three-hour hike that involved minor spelunking. Super fun! Conversely, going back to bed to plow through Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story after gorging on a breakfast of sushi and oven-warm bread was heavenly. So was sinking into a warm bath for a leisurely hour of exfoliation and DIY facial. All selfishly simple pursuits, yes, for someone who doesn’t have the worries of a parent—but that’s why I’m not a parent.

On a holiday that’s about giving, especially after the year that was, self-care is one of the best ways to celebrate being alive. (And yeah, Jesus, sure.) It’s not for everyone, I agree. But those who need a little seclusion from the mess of other, familiar people deserve to enjoy Christmas too—the way they want to, with no recriminations or judgment.

Illustration: Madel Crudo

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