Thanksgiving day, my phone was of course buzzing away with notifications from my family back home…and I had to wait until Friday to look at them. I just couldn’t stand to look at the pictures and videos of the turkey, the gravy, my aunt’s famous mac & cheese – it was all too triggering to look at in real-time. I suddenly realized that this would be the first year I didn’t do Thanksgiving with my family (and maybe the first year I wouldn’t do Thanksgiving at all). It was surreal to go grocery shopping the last week and see nothing’s changed – no pumpkin or pecan pies out, no cold turkeys chilled and ready for the taking. Sometimes you never notice what you’ve been doing your whole life until you’re finally in a situation where you can’t do it anymore.
Luckily, I’m one of 4 Americans in my MA (out of 33 students), and luckily Julia had the incentive to host a Friendsgiving dinner this last Saturday. Some Friendsgivings I’ve been too are this way or that, but no, this Friendsgivings was the real deal: charcuterie was out, turkey, stuffing, (one of the other American’s brought their grandma’s sweet potato and pecan recipe), brie, the whole 9 yards! What’s even better was that more than half the people at the table weren’t Americans, and were experiencing Thanksgiving for the first time themselves. That was something else for me. Me, at a table away from my family for the first time, them, partaking in this weird (and controversial) American holiday. A night of firsts.
At the end of the dinner, Julia had this idea to go around and say what we were thankful for. I personally thought everyone was going to take it as a joke and say sarcastically what they were thankful for (as is typical of a Friendsgiving), but no, everyone exposed a bit of themselves for context, and then explained why they were actual thankful for something.
Phillip is Dutch but grew up in the States, and his parent’s never really knew how to celebrate Thanksgiving, so it was always just time off to see family and relax during the holidays. It’s been years since he celebrated it since moving back to Europe, and he was thankful for the simple act of that dinner.
Francisca just moved to London from the MA by means of Portugal, and having studied American Studies at uni, she was thankful that she was doing Thanksgiving for the first time, and that tonight looked just like the movies.
Oliver grew up in London was thankful for his best friend that is his younger brother, his mom, and the ability that he has the privilege to write poetry without having to worry about his next meal, or the clothes on his back.
And so on , and so on.
My MA director emailed me a few weeks ago to ask how I was getting on with the course, and if I needed any additional resources (being an international student). She explained that moving to a different country is hard, and she was just making sure that I was finding friends and I was getting around London alright.
At first when I read the email, my ego pushed it aside, of course I’m ok! I’m in London! I’ve made friends! I emailed her back saying thank you for checking up, I appreciate it, and if I need anything I’ll let you know. It took a few weeks after her email to realize that my ego was just doing a lot of pretending for me. That no matter what city, or however many friends I’ve made so far, that moving to a different place, a different culture, away from the turkeys and pecan pies of back home doesn’t have to be hard, but it’s ignorant to think that it’s easy.
I said I was thankful for the opportunity I had to be here and grow, and for everyone back home and here in London that has made moving here not so intense.