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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11 Things I Want My Parents To Know When I Come Home From College

An open letter to Mom and Dad, from a college student that isn’t a kid anymore.
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Aight, listen.

Put on your reading glasses and blow that wisp of graying hair off your face (yes, Mom, I see it, you’re not fooling anybody), because I’ve got some things to say.

I just completed three months worth of college. C-O-L-L-E-G-E. For roughly 90 days I fed myself, I somewhat successfully did my own laundry, I made my own life-or-death decisions when it came to college parties, and I even managed to fit in schoolwork — most of the time.

The point is, I might not have become a fully fledged, mature adult, but three months of newfound independence is like finding out that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny aren’t real all at the same time — you do a lot of growing up, fast.

So, almost-adult to adult, here are 11 things that I want you to know when I come home for the holidays:

1. First and foremost, I get it.

I’m not in college anymore, there are going to be rules again, you pay all my bills — right. I understand. Please, no long speeches. No constant reminding. I’ve been making predictions and inferences since 2nd grade, so believe me, I’m pretty sure I’ve got the gist of what’s going on in this story.

2. I may or may not have transformed into a creature of the night.

Yeah, no, I’d probably go ahead and define myself as nocturnal. In college, everything starts at night, like parties, house meetings, the will to do homework — it’s completely different. So if you find me doing the dishes at 3:00 a.m., it’s not because I was feeling generous, it’s because Netflix got boring and I had nothing better to do.

3. Curfew or nah? Nah.

Now that we got the whole nocturnal thing out of the way, let’s get something straight. I can’t tell you how many times I stayed up with friends until the wee hours of the morning, how many times parties kept me out of the dorm for the entire night, or how many times I went on late night runs to get food. I know that the house is not a hotel, but you have to understand that the night is primetime to hang out with friends or take that random McDonald’s run. So please, loosen the reigns a little. I’ll be quiet, I promise — I’ve got three months of tiptoeing around a sleeping roommate under my belt.

4. I love you, but I love sleep more.

You guys are great, but my b(a)ed and I need some alone time. Keep the door closed.

5. I’m ok! That was just me screaming in relief at the feeling of not having to wear shower sandals anymore.

6. Be a bro and spot me? I’m poor.

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to be that college kid. But it’s the holiday season, and I know you guys have missed me, soooo how’s 20 bucks sound?

7. A gift card to Starbucks would make for a great Christmas present.

Put yourself in my shoes. I’m a slightly impoverished neo-adult with a mild-to-moderate coffee addiction, and I sleep all day. Plus, Starbucks has those new red cups — I’m telling you, coffee tastes great with a hint of controversy.

8. Chores, shopping for groceries, driving people around — I got this.

Let me take some extra responsibility. After three months on my own, I want to show you that I can handle it, that I can pass for being a competent adult. So don’t let me slack off and mill about, challenge me to help the family out as an adult instead of a dependent kid. I’ll make you proud, I promise.

9. If I want to go to that concert or party, I’m going to go.

Let’s be real here. In college, if I wanted to go skydiving or bar hopping or sleep over in a girl’s dorm room, I could I have done it, no questions asked, and you guys would have been none the wiser. So if I want to do something fun, I’m truly open to your thoughts and opinions, because your advice is what guides me every time I go out. But I’m not a dumb teenager anymore, so trust me and let me do my own thing, ok?

10. You guys are awesome, but so are the friends I haven’t seen in a long time.

Yes, I know, it always seems like I care way too much about hanging out with friends. But three months is a lot to catch up on, and I’ve missed them like crazy.

11. But no matter what, I’ve missed you so much, and I’m glad to be home.

Even if I’m stubborn, too argumentative, or seem eager to go back to college, you have to realize how good it feels to be home again. There have been so many times in the past three months that I’ve felt unbearably weak and vulnerable and wanted nothing more to call you guys and ask you for your amazing advice, but didn’t do it because I wanted you to think that I was ok. You are my greatest teachers, and I can never thank you enough for all you do for me. I love you.

Cover Image Credit: _elemenoh_ / Flickr

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I've Been Skeptical About The Holidays For A Couple Years, But I'm Ready For Them This Year

Finally decided to stop calling the Grinch my animal spirit.

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The holidays have finally reached us, and I think I speak for many of us when I say that we are excited to be able to breathe from school and spend time with our loved ones -- and to eat food, tons of it.

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But for some others, the holidays are a time that reminisces bad moment in their lives. They become a time of sadness and dark pasts. Loved ones have different faces, and homes, where good wishes are shared, have different walls painted a different color.

About four years ago, I left my country and moved to the US -- new traditions and adventures. The holidays weren't easy for my first year. I achingly missed my parents and family from Honduras. The holidays here didn't seem as exciting without all the people I had spent them countless times before.

In Honduras, on Christmas Eve we would always go visit my grandmother from my dad's side for lunch. In the afternoon, I would have dinner with my parents and brother, and then we'd go to church. After that, we would always go to my mom's family to receive midnight and have a sort of party. That was something that I always looked forward to.

The holidays here weren't as adventurous as they were over there. I would stay all day home and wait till food was served and just spend it with my family until we all decided it was time to go to sleep. They seemed pretty dull for the first two years. But now, my boring, asocial ass is fascinated with the simpleness of the holidays.

Sure, here people take the holidays more seriously than we did in Honduras, but I never assimilated. I began seeing the holidays as another day, except that deliciously exquisite food was going to be served that day. It was not like my mom's food nor like my grandmother's. Everything was different, and this difference weighed heavily on me.

Fast-forward to the present day, and I'm still kind of skeptical about the holidays. I don't get the spirit anymore, and till today, it still hasn't hit me. The only thing that I can think of is that the year is soon going to be over.

The one thing I am excited for is being able to celebrate the holidays with the new family I've been slowly building. My partner is accepted and loved by my relatives, and they invited him over to spend Christmas with us. One of my new best friends was also invited. Being able to spend this time with them kinda shines a glimmer on the idea that I have of the holidays.

This new fresh addition to my life have given me many blissful pleasures this 2018, and I know that with them, I'll probably begin to cherish the holidays a little bit more.

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