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5 Things I’ve Learned Choosing To ‘Opt Out’ Of Thanksgiving

This year, my mother and I made a decision that seemed to shock quite a few people. We decided we’re not cooking for thanksgiving. No turkey, no stuffing (which I partially regret), no pie, nothing! Deciding to go out for dinner was something that had actual backlash. Our decision to go out has taught me a few things in the preparation and going about the day itself. So, before I head out for the evening and prepare for the next twenty-four hours of extreme back-and-forth in the questioning of humanity, here’s a list of the top five things I’ve learned in deciding to not ‘do’ thanksgiving.

You’ll get crap for your decision

Yeah, it’s a definite given that you’ll be getting a lot of flak for choosing to opt-out of the turkey and all the trimmings. It’s apparently a very big deal to have the sit-down meal with your family, even if you don’t talk to them or have much to do with the people you share closer strands of DNA with. My mother and I got ribs for our decision, some people asking for reasons and giving us options for what we can do at home. It was our decision to go out and not do what we’ve done for years. But some people truly can’t accept that, and make it their business.



Your options are…kind of limited

The bigger problem we faced after brushing off comments about our decision was the realization of our options. Our original goal had been to go out for Chinese food, but we realized quickly our options are severely limited. Unlike Christmas, where more restaurants stay open, Thanksgiving offers even more limited options. Our hunt for places to eat soon became a hassle. Finding lists of places that COULD be open, calling and finding out that they opted out of being open, and many places even wanting reservations. We decided on IHOP, and had zero qualms with it. If you choose to go out instead of dine-in, realize that you won’t exactly have every option available. Depending on where you live, it can be even trickier.


But some people can be awesome about it!

Despite the flack we got for our choice, some awesome folks have renewed my faith in humanity. Some supported our decision, understanding where we’ve been in the past few years and the drastic life changes that have occurred especially in the past few months for us. They offered ideas and recommendations of where to go. When I told them our plans we were met with praise for ‘taking it easy’ and not ‘going through the hassle’ of cooking and dealing with others. Some folks were even kind enough to offer an open space at their dining tables for my mom and I. While we appreciated it greatly, we simply wanted to do things our way this year. We may take others up on that offer in the future. It was humbling to see how many people cared, and were concerned for us and us having a happy holiday.


It’s a drama-free dinner!

One thing I was excited about was bringing a close friend along for our dinner out. I offered others to join us and some wanted to join, but had previous plans. Others wished they could do what we were doing instead of driving across the state or even going across the country. Going out with a close friend and being in the company of people you want to be around is great. In a time of political struggle and constant debate, the thanksgiving table has been estimated to be a divided table this year. I’ve even seen articles on how to avoid conflict at the dinner table. Many will be sporting political party gear and are as heated as the turkey in the oven to get into it with family members. If the biggest issue we have is finding a parking spot or waiting an extra twenty minutes for our food, I’ll be very happy!


You get a new perspective on things

Above all else, I’ve learned quite a few things preparing for our venture out on Thanksgiving. I’ve honestly never felt more grateful for everything around me. I’m so grateful for the people who opened their arms to my mother and I, and who want to spend time with us. I’m grateful for the places that are open and the kitchen staff and wait staff that are busting their butts today taking home pay. Especially in a time when everyone is screaming for ‘togetherness’ while they prepare to tear each other apart at the dinner table. Other people truly dread having to get together for Thanksgiving. They dread having to get together with people for whatever reasons, and wish they had the courage to step back and say no. For us, it wasn’t a decision of struggle, but one of simplicity and simply enjoying our time together, no matter where we are.


I want to wish everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving, whatever way you are choosing to do so, a happy holiday! If you don’t celebrate it, I hope you have the day to relax and unwind. A special thank you to all who are working today, from the retail worker and waitress who signed up ready to face the world, to the men and women on the front lines across the world. To all our first responders, healthcare staff, and men and women in blue, Happy Thanksgiving!

Whatever you do for Thanksgiving, carrying that gratefulness all year long is essential! We all face struggles in life, and we may not be on the best terms with family and friends. If you feel alone, or feel ashamed of how you’re spending the holiday season, remember that you aren’t alone. You are precious, and your memories of good times through the year and how far you’ve come in whatever path you’re walking on is something to truly be thankful for! Know I’m proud of you and what goals you’ve strode for this year, and I raise my glass to you! Cheers!

*Images courtesy of Oakland Post and Giphy

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Lindsey Tracy


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