This Thanksgiving, I Was Truly Thankful for Family

This Thanksgiving, I Was Truly Thankful for Family

How college, independence, and a different mindset made me truly celebrate the holiday

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This past Thanksgiving holiday, I had the opportunity to return home to Minnesota and spend the break with my family. Having spent the Thanksgiving break at home every year I can remember, I had become accustomed to waving it off as a ho-hum five-day weekend from school. However, attending Emory this fall stirred things up. I arrived in the middle of August and didn't return home until this past Thanksgiving. That period of three months where I was on my own, just me looking out for myself, changed my mindset significantly.

First, and most surprising to me, I truly began to think of Emory as home. Walking up my garage stairs into my house for the first time felt surreal as if I were in a dream, where months had passed by but seemingly no time had passed by at all. Something didn't feel right.

More importantly, my experience made me realize how lucky I was to be returning home. Over those three months, I had begun to miss my family significantly. While not necessarily homesickness, I began to truly appreciate what I had left behind. Separation from loved ones is a moving experience. It's both an intoxicating feeling of freedom yet can be a nervous attack. And while I enjoyed my fall at Emory immensely, I missed the order and familiarity I had enjoyed back home.

One of my first ideas, after I arrived, was to try some true separation from my parents, to gauge my "independence". Fewer phone calls from Mom were answered and more snapchats from my brother went unopened. And honestly, the plan backfired. Turning away the people I depended on the most, even just as some kind of weird experiment, left me more desperate to reach out for communication, jokes, and even validation.

When I finally allowed myself to relent, I had some great moments connecting with my family. Somehow, someway, I even had text conversations with my brother, something that rarely happened before I left.

When I returned home for Thanksgiving, I was able to finally get the full experience. I enjoyed the time off by sleeping, catching up on the video games I had missed out on, going on some runs for the first time in a while, and not opening up my backpack for the whole break. But most important to me was connecting with my family in ways I hadn't for months. Sitting at the table, looking at the people surrounding me made me realize how lucky I was to have people who cared about me enough to send me to Emory, checking up on me and encouraging me throughout.

But not only was it my biological family; I met a whole new family this past fall. The cross country team has been nothing but a joy to take part in, and I owe that to my extended family of runners. They have shaped my perception of college and life drastically for the better, and they have helped me realize the value of family.

If it takes moving a thousand miles away to realize how valuable family is, then maybe there was something I was missing. But regardless, if I hadn't, I wouldn't have had the realization of how much my well-being depends on those people. And thankfully I did, because if there was something extra special about this Thanksgiving, it was being (truly) thankful for family.

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3 Reasons Why Step Dads Are Super Dads

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I often hear a lot of people complaining about their step-parents and wondering why they think that they have any authority over them. Although I know that everyone has different situations, I will be the first to admit that I am beyond blessed to have a step dad. Yep, I said it. My life wouldn't be the same that it is not without him in it. Let me tell you why I think step dads are the greatest things since sliced bread.

1. They will do anything for you, literally.

My stepdad has done any and every thing for me. From when I was little until now. He was and still is my go-to. If I was hungry, he would get me food. If something was broken, he would fix it. If I wanted something, he would normally always find a way to get it. He didn't spoil me (just sometimes), but he would make sure that I was always taken care of.

SEE ALSO: The Thank You That Step-Parents Deserve

2. Life lessons.

Yup, the tough one. My stepdad has taught me things that I would have never figured out on my own. He has stood beside me through every mistake. He has been there to pick me up when I am down. My stepdad is like the book of knowledge: crazy hormonal teenage edition. Boy problems? He would probably make me feel better. He just always seemed to know what to say. I think that the most important lesson that I have learned from my stepdad is: to never give up. My stepdad has been through three cycles of leukemia. He is now in remission, yay!! But, I never heard him complain. I never heard him worry and I never saw him feeling sorry for himself. Through you, I found strength.

3. He loved me as his own.

The big one, the one that may seem impossible to some step parents. My stepdad is not actually my stepdad, but rather my dad. I will never have enough words to explain how grateful I am for this man, which is why I am attempting to write this right now. It takes a special kind of human to love another as if they are their own. There had never been times where I didn't think that my dad wouldn't be there for me. It was like I always knew he would be. He introduces me as his daughter, and he is my dad. I wouldn't have it any other way. You were able to show me what family is.

So, dad... thanks. Thanks for being you. Thanks for being awesome. Thanks for being strong. Thanks for loving me. Thanks for loving my mom. Thanks for giving me a wonderful little sister. Thanks for being someone that I can count on. Thanks for being my dad.

I love you!

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My Boyfriend's Family Helped Me Find My Home Away From Home

Taking "home is where the heart is" to a new level.

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I have always heard that one day I will find a place that will feel like my home away from home, specifically with my significant other. Honestly, I couldn't envision loving a place like the way I do my hometown, let alone love it even more. Nonetheless, here I am, sitting in the Little Rock, Arkansas airport tearing up as I say goodbye to my home away from home.

Let me tell you about my hometown. I live in a relatively small town in Wyoming and it has always been my home. My family, friends and work are here in Wyoming. But, there happens to be this man who has my whole entire heart. His hometown is a little town in Arkansas, that also happens to be 17 hours away from me. I came to visit him in his hometown for the first time ever. Not only to see Arkansas for the first time but to see him for the first time in a month and to have the opportunity to meet his family.

I won't lie, meeting parents for the first time is definitely nerve-wracking. It's not that I am hard to get along with, it's the fact that I want them to love me because I love their son and I couldn't conceptualize that ever changing. From the moment I stepped into their home, I was welcomed with big arms and beautiful smiles. His family welcomed me, a complete stranger, into their home with no questions asked. Right away I knew I felt like I was home.

Finding your home away from home is easy to recognize. Home is a place full of love and laughter and that is what I found in Arkansas. It was a second home that I felt comfortable in. Feeling comfortable somewhere is not always the easiest feeling to grasp. For me, I feel the need to be in a comfortable place to be myself and call it "home."

I believe that it is essential for everyone to have a "second home" or a "home away from home." Having a second family can and does provide so much more love in my life I never knew I needed. I of course do and always will love and adore my family with my whole heart and soul but having these other people in my life gives me so much assurance that I'll always be surrounded with love and happiness. You can never have too many friends, too much family and certainly never too much love. So thank you. Thank you for welcoming me, loving me as your own, and showing me that having a home away from home is such a positive part of my life.

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