Giving Thanks

I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to write this post. I haven’t been in a very thankful mood recently. I’m tired and annoyed most of the time, and I can’t seem to snap out of it. If you asked me what I’m thankful for, my knee-jerk reaction would be “nothing.”

And then I realized that that is really screwed up and set off to find something that I’m thankful for. I also want to discuss the general culture around Thanksgiving that left me with my reaction in the first place.


I’ve always hated the version of Thanksgiving they give us in elementary school. No, not the pilgrims and Indians partying together. Not that part. That part is universally recognized as BS, but until we have honest conversations about the Trail of Tears and the skeletons in America’s closet, I can’t get myself worked up about a cheery story we tell kids. There are larger, systematic problems to worry about.

No, I’ve always hated the way they tell us to write down what we are thankful for, and everyone writes canned responses: family, love, food, God, et cetera, et cetera. And parents see the cute crafts and smile and hang it on the fridge and no one ever asks, “Really? You couldn’t get more specific? It’s a holiday devoted to being thankful. Think you can come up with something that you can’t find on a Hallmark card?”

For the record, when I was in first grade, I wrote on a school project that I was thankful that my mom read me bloody stories (I was really obsessed with Egyptian and Greek mythology). It was hung on the wall for everyone to see. When people started laughing at “how cute” it was, I felt like absolute shit, but at least I wasn’t the kid who couldn’t think of something better than putting cranberry sauce on turkey.

It’s not that I think being thankful for family is bad. I think it’s fantastic actually. However, I feel like it negates the point of the holiday. We just write down a stereotypical noun and that’s it–let’s eat turkey. Yeah, yeah, I’ve been thankful–see! I love my family.

But do we realize how amazing it is to be able to honestly say “I love my family”? There are people who I know who honestly can’t, and it is destroying them, absolutely and completely, and there is nothing I can to do help. There are people all over the world who don’t have families to love. Depending on what day it is, I can’t always say that statement as a fact. I hate this. All of it.

Anyone who can be thankful for having a loving family should shout it from the rooftops. Every day. It should be a constant blessing. It should be a daily thought. And Thanksgiving should be a time to examine that love more closely, and reward it.

This is not just for family, either. All of us have something that makes us happy, hopefully. Today, we should figure out what it is and honor it. Maybe it is as simple as a song or slightly burnt toast with butter. Maybe it is as monumental as faith in a higher power or a supportive family or getting to follow your passions in life. Who am I to judge you for what you are thankful for? One isn’t better than the other.

I think my frustration with the cheesiness of Thanksgiving, the shallow thanks we are told is enough, has made me very cynical about the holiday. This, coupled with exhaustion and pent up anger, has left me decidedly not in the holiday spirit.

But here’s the thing. I’m happy.

Tired? Hell yes. Angry at society? Totally.

But I’m happy. I’m content. And if I’m not that, I am at least not miserable (most of the time).

I want to honor the things that make this possible. Some of these things will be typical, some of them might make no sense. Some of them may make you think I am shallow and stupid and privileged–and you might be right.  All I ask is that my list prompts you to create your own list, filled with words you wouldn’t find in a greeting card.

(In no particular order)

  • Friends. You guys are what makes my life bearable, what makes school so much fun. I couldn’t do it without you, and I hope I can give you guys back even a tenth of the support you send my way.
  • Family. Thank you for listening to me. Thank you for letting me vent. Thank you for putting up with me. Thank you for letting me become who I am.
  • My mom’s brownies. Wheat germ totally makes them better.
  • My mom. You have the answers for everything. You know what setting to wash my bras on. You know the definitions of basically every word I don’t. You know history and correct punctuation and way more biology than any human should be forced to know. You know how to make the aforementioned brownies. You buy me fruit. You read me bloody stories. You rock.
  • My laptop. I do my best writing on it. It has all my favorite music on it. My favorite sites are bookmarked. I made every scratch and dropped every crumb on the keyboard. It’s mine, and I love it.
  • Books. I always have one with me. I read between classes, in class, after school. I read no matter what mood I’m in. Books have carried me through life and I know they will never drop me.
  • Inside jokes. These are the marks of friendship. They are the marks of time. They are proof that we happened. And they make me laugh.
  • Fencing. Speech and Debate. This blog. I started all of these things in the last few years. All of them have helped me grow into some part of myself I didn’t know was there before. Of course, they stress me out sometimes–but they are also the ultimate stress relievers. I’ve made friends, learned new things, and joined larger communities.
  • Death Valley. This is definitely my favorite place I’ve ever been. I can’t put into words the way it makes me feel. I love climbing the rocks and taking crazy pictures and listening to my grandparents’ geology lectures. I love the wildness, the way human history feels paused. I love the way I don’t have cell phone service and I get to escape the world while I’m there. Thanks Grammy and Grandad for showing me it.
  • My twin sister. We are in this together. We would be partners in crime if we had any time after homework. You help me study. You are my extra brain. You are my support group. We listen tothe same music (thank God). Twinikensis all the way.
  • Anyone who helped me be who I am today. Maybe you encouraged me. Maybe you pissed me off. Maybe you got me to like Taylor Swift or took me to a bookstore. You are all part of who I am today, even if you don’t know it.
  • Who I am today.  I’m thankful that I like myself. I’m thankful that I can look in the mirror and smile. I’m thankful that I have grown up into a smart, driven, kind young woman, and a lot of it was all me. If I met myself, I think I would like her. I’m proud of myself, of what I’ve accomplished, and I’m ready to do more.

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