It’s been a ridiculously long time since I’ve posted. I’ve been so caught up in teaching and exams and life that I haven’t carved out any time to sit down and write, so this feels long overdue.
Let’s talk about Thanksgiving.
Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of it. As a child, I was an extremely picky eater, so the smell of all the different foods was often enough to keep me wishing that the day would be over so things could go back to normal. I was also quite shy, so the sensory overload from all of the guests didn’t help. When I got my first job, I always volunteered to work Thanksgiving because of the double holiday pay and the fact that it was a holiday that just didn’t mean much to me. One of my fellow workers – a nurse who was half Cherokee – also always tended to sign up for the Thanksgiving shift and explained to me how the optimistic origins of Thanksgiving we were taught in elementary school are total bullshit and completely ignore the atrocities that were committed against Native Americans by the white settlers. Recognizing that truth pretty much put the nail in the Thanksgiving coffin for me.
When I started college, I had no excuse anymore. We were living three hours away from home and we always had the day off, so it seemed only fair that we make some time for family; unfortunately, it was always easier said than done. My parents and one set of my grandparents are divorced, so splitting time among my family members was always difficult. Once I added my husband’s family into the mix, it pretty much always felt impossible. There was always some kind of complaint that we didn’t spend enough time with one family member or the other, so we always ended up leaving feeling stressed out and unhappy.
Needless to say, it wasn’t terribly hard for me to kiss Thanksgiving goodbye when we moved to Turkey. To be honest, I hadn’t even thought about it until our department head informed us that all of the foreign language teachers traditionally get together and have their own Thanksgiving festivities. I had planned on ignoring the holiday altogether, but had an unexpected wave of nostalgia and homesickness when it was brought up. When Thursday rolled around, we all gathered in our friend’s lojman and shared a wonderful hodgepodge of foods from Turkey, the US, the UK, and Spain and had many drinks and laughs together. We even had football playing in the background that we pretended to watch. We chatted until five in the morning, after which we all agreed we should get some sleep before lessons (which took place a mere three hours afterward).
Though it was far from a traditional Thanksgiving, I walked away from it feeling profoundly thankful. There has always been a stubborn part of me that has dismissed Thanksgiving for one reason or another, but when I was forced to step away from it this year, I realized that there may be something to it after all.
The truth is, I have a lot of things to be thankful for.
I am thankful to be living out my dream of living abroad and traveling the world. I am thankful to have an amazing group of friends here already. I am thankful to have survived the first term and my first big wave of culture shock. I am thankful for all of my wonderful friends and family back home that I know are probably missing us a lot this time of year. I am thankful for my students who amaze me every day and constantly remind me why I became a teacher in the first place. I am thankful for my wonderful husband. I am thankful for my health and a million other little things each day that make my life worth living.
Is Thanksgiving still a gross euphemism intended to sweep genocide under the rug? Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean I can’t change what it means to me.