As the student body is feverishly itching to get off of campus for the quickly (but not quickly enough) approaching Thanksgiving break, professors and peers are asking each other about their plans for the holiday. While it seems likely that everyone is more excited about the chance to sleep in and momentarily stop stressing about homework for a few days than they are about eating some turkey and maybe pretending to be interested in a football game, there is still some acknowledgment about the actual event of Thanksgiving. In most years, my response to the “are you doing anything fun over the break?” question involves travels to a three day affair of family and friends complete with a live band and a midnight trip to see the lights behind Niagara Falls. This year, though, my family’s Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different than it has in the past. I won’t be traveling, I won’t be gathering with tons of family, and I won’t be dancing the night away to a band cover of Earth, Wind, and Fire’s “September” like it’s sophomore year homecoming. My family decided to pass on the big ‘shabang’ and instead will be staying home, just us. Even my older sister, who needs to work in the hospital on Thanksgiving, won’t be joining us for the holiday for the first time ever. That leaves the big day to just me and my parents.
Of course, the entire globe has already needed to go through the experience of skipping traditions and missing family during last year’s holiday times to remain responsible during the pandemic. This experience of “abnormal” holidays isn’t new to me or anyone else who may be experiencing it again this year. Perhaps the way we were forced to adjust last year to new holiday celebrations is part of the reason why I am actually so beyond grateful for the low-key Thanksgiving I will have this year.
Launching into a nearly completely normal semester after spending a year and a half on hold has taken its toll on me, and I assume on the rest of my peers as well. This semester has felt like the swiftest “kick in the pants” I have ever experienced—and the stress levels I have felt and conversations about burnout and exhaustion I have heard around campus have certainly clued me in that we are all feeling the whiplash. While exciting holiday gatherings are of course fun and do help to take our minds off of impending exams and recharge the social battery, I’m craving the tranquility of a casual Thanksgiving after the whirlwind of the past few months. While a part of me is feeling the FOMO of not being at a big family event and another part of me is sad to not be able to spend the day with my sister, I am mostly feeling grateful.
I’m grateful to be in the true comfort and warmth of my childhood home. I’m grateful to have the time and space to actually talk to my parents instead of rushing them off of the phone so that I can make more time for the library. I’m grateful to enjoy preparing and indulging in a delicious home-cooked meal without worrying about running out of mashed potatoes. I’m grateful to be able to give my body the sleep that it so desperately needs instead of waking up early to catch a morning flight. I’m grateful to spend the day cozied up on the couch and in front of the fireplace. I’m grateful to finally feel enough peace to reflect on and recognize the many things in my life I have to be thankful for.
Not everyone’s celebrations will be as intimate and mellow as mine will, but I think that the restfulness of a calm holiday could benefit us all right now. After expending so much of our energies for the sake of the first “normal” semester in what feels like forever, it’s important that we soak up some of the moments of peace and repose that the break offers us. So even if you are hosting all 26 of your second cousins, or have exciting travels planned, or will be celebrating somewhere that makes Thanksgiving a full-on formal event, take some time to let yourself be calm this break and to feel grateful for the peace that it’s offering you.