I remember when I was a little girl, and Thanksgiving was just the day when our house smelled amazing, my mom was busy in the kitchen all day, and we ate a huge dinner much earlier than normal. There were pilgrims, cornucopias, and turkeys everywhere, and before we dug into our big plates of food, we gave thanks for everything we were grateful for. I mean, that’s what Thanksgiving is about, right? Not so much.
I won’t get into what actually happened when the pilgrims came to America or how, in order to stay true to form, you’re going to need to kill your dinner guests and their entire families after you eat. That little tidbit of our history has been filed away in the “things Americans don’t actively think about” file. Let’s keep it there. It wasn’t our best moment.
I absolutely love this time of year, and I love all the holidays that come with it, but I don’t like how we carry on with the rest of the year… Almost as if Thanksgiving is a day for purging all the positive thoughts, so we can get back to being grumpy assholes for another eleven months. You can spend all week making trips to the grocery store and spending ungodly amounts of money for the perfect dinner. That’s natural. You can spend two to three days preparing dishes and pies. Who doesn’t? And you can certainly look forward to getting the whole family together to sit down for a meal together. Because, let’s face it, it’s uncommon these days.
We call Thanksgiving a day for giving thanks… a day to be thankful and realize our blessings. In theory, this is a great idea. But we’ve just spent the entire year worrying, stressing, envying, and feeling sorry for ourselves, just to come together on the last Thursday in November to say thanks for everything we have been blessed with. Please don’t take it personally if you are just a naturally positive person and you feel like I am generalizing. I’m simply saying that most people spend their lives focused on what they don’t have and what they wish they had. Which is healthy in some regards, when it comes to setting goals and working toward something, but in most cases it’s absolutely toxic.
Let’s think about what we do after Thanksgiving. Millions of people flock to malls and stores to fight over items that have been marked down a few bucks for the big “Black Friday” sales. What happened to being thankful for what you have? Oh wait, that was yesterday. How about when we complain about having to work extra hours one week? Shouldn’t you be thankful you have a job or that you are gaining hours rather than having them cut? When you get a flat tire on the way to an appointment, it can literally ruin your day. What terrible luck! However, shouldn’t you be thankful your blowout didn’t cause you to lose control of your car and swerve into oncoming traffic?
Don’t Get Me Wrong
I am, by no means, perfect. I often find myself stressing over financial issues. My thoughts travel all the common routes, “will this ever end?” and “why, when we work so hard, is it so hard to catch up?” “Will we ever catch a break?” But, when it comes down to it, my husband and I are both blessed to have jobs. We may not always be able to make ends meet or grocery shop to our heart’s content, but we aren’t living on the streets. We may be eating Ramen for dinner, but we didn’t have to dig it out of a trash can. We may have to go without the things we want, but we are almost always able to get the things we need. And while I’m at it, at least I have a loving and helpful husband. He doesn’t beat me, cheat on me, or spend our money on a drug or alcohol addiction. So, what are a few skimpy meals and a landlord who stays irritated because we’re always late on the rent?
Now, I realize that not everybody has it as good as I do. Some people are beaten, cheated on, stole from, addicted to vices, homeless, and emotionally broken. And I’m not suggesting that the old man sitting on the corner bench with all of his worldly possessions in a shopping cart should be thankful he has a shopping cart and a bench to sit on. What I’m saying is that those of us who have our basic needs met, aren’t physically or emotionally abused, and aren’t starving would be a lot happier of we focused on what we do have, rather than what we wish we had.
So on One Hand, This is My Life
I am a 32 year-old college student. I know the absolute true meaning of the phrase “broke college student.” My full-time school schedule greatly limits the amount of time I can dedicate to making money. I currently work a 32-hour-a-week job on third shift, making minimum wage, and it sucks. The way I am treated at work sucks too. People aren’t appreciated for what they do. They are pushed to do more. Because, “if you can do that, I don’t see why you couldn’t do this too,” and “Well, yesterday you did extra stuff that you didn’t have to do. Why didn’t you do it today?” I often have trouble finding time in between getting out of classes at 2pm and going into work at 10pm to do my homework and sleep. We STAY late on all of our bills and have risked eviction more times than I care to think about. I lost my mom very suddenly when I was 20, and I still have pretty serious anxiety issues about death. I constantly worry that someone I love is going to die. I also suffer from social anxiety. Without medication, I can’t bring myself to go to a store by myself, I get dizzy and nauseous in public, there aren’t many people I feel comfortable hanging out with, which limits the number of friends that I have, and I have missed out on a pretty big portion of my life because I was scared of it. My husband and I have been trying to have kids for about five years. Our efforts have been put on hold while I’m in school and money is so tight, but for five years I was unable to get pregnant. I am already 32 years old, and I’m afraid it will only be more difficult in two years when I graduate. My biggest fear is that I will be unable to have children. My husband and I both REALLY want kids. I feel like it’s the one thing in life that I want the most… to carry a child and be a mother. The thought of that not happening devastates me.
I am blessed to have made it to 32. A lot of wonderful people were taken from this earth before they had that chance. I may be a broke college student, but at least I am a college student. The privilege of higher education is something I could never put a monetary value on. Had I went straight out of high school, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it as much or gotten as much out of it as I am now. It has already been a life-changing experience and worth every minute. Not only has it helped me meet some of the most amazing people, but it has helped me find my passion and better myself. My third-shift, 32 hour a week job may not be the bee’s knees, but it’s 32 hours, not 18. It’s third shift, and I don’t have tons of scheduling difficulties with my class schedule. I may make minimum wage and get treated like dirt, but at least I’m not making 50 cents a day and working in life-threatening working conditions. The time between work and school isn’t always enough to get everything done, but I never have the chance to say I’m bored. Our bills are always late, and my landlord probably wishes he had never laid eyes on us, but we get things paid eventually, and by now I think he knows we are good for it. My mom is dead, but I got to spend 20 years with her, and it was wonderful. She passed suddenly and I never got to say goodbye, but I didn’t have to watch her suffer either. I worry about the death of a loved one, but so far, all is well. I have three amazing men in my life. My husband, my father, and my brother. They are all three so supportive and loving, it’s unbelievable. I do have social anxiety, but with the help of medication (anti-med opinions aside), I am able to function normally. I no longer skip classes because I’m afraid to go. I can go to the store by myself, and it isn’t the end of the world if I’m seen out without my makeup. I don’t have a TON of friends, but I do have a few AMAZING friends who I wouldn’t trade for a hundred new ones. And, finally, I may not have been able to get pregnant yet, but there has been no official diagnosis that I never will, and if they decide to come along after school and when we are more financially stable, it will all be for the best.
So, I am thankful for my not-so-perfect life every single day of the year. It keeps me sane. It keeps me from killing people. And it keeps me happy. The next time you’re upset or stressed over one of life’s many failings or disappointments, remind yourself how much worse it could be, and be thankful… in November, March, June, whenever. Because happiness comes more than once a year.