For those not at home today

By Payton Aper, Blog Staff

It’s such a weird feeling not being home for Thanksgiving. I had to talk myself out of
watching Stephen King’s The Shining after I noticed a bit of an uncanny resemblance between
the set of that movie and the empty, hotel-esque hallways of Mosher Jordan. When I walked
around campus Tuesday on my way to get some boba, it was just me and international students.
There are squirrels and birds everywhere, almost as if they feel comfortable coming out now that
everyone is gone. And it’s kind of lovely walking around outside without the white noise of a
thousand footsteps around you. It reminds me of the ghost town Ann Arbor was last fall. Sitting
in a semi-empty League yesterday, I felt almost nostalgic for my snippet of a freshman year.
I had to keep myself from going on my phone too often, and not just because I seriously
need to study for my upcoming Orgo exam. Seeing everyone’s hometown Friendsgiving
reunions, videos of their dogs, or hilariously drunken relatives, makes me almost wish I was
having a regular Thanksgiving this year. Emphasis on almost. I think for people that don’t have
ideal family lives, whether it’s your immediate family or distant relatives, holidays like
Thanksgiving are just a painful reminder that your great-uncle is a raging homophobe, or your
aunt is never going to stop passively commenting on your body size. It’s watching trauma being
passed down in real-time, right alongside a stuffing recipe or a napkin set.
I figured maybe it wouldn’t be so bad to go home this year, that I could stand for a
reminder of why I had to end up the exact opposite of my family. I could listen to the tense
chewing of turkey and scraping of plates and express my thanks that I’m only there for four days.
I don’t know if it’s because capitalism has burned the nuclear family onto my brain (like my
Women’s studies professor would say), or if paternal fidelity is a residue I can’t scrape off, but I
feel a duty to see my family. Hell, I even want to see my family sometimes. But it never ends
how I think it will, and every time I’m reminded why I was hesitant to go home in the first place.
This Thanksgiving is the first one I’ve ever spent alone. I’ve got “Hooked on a Feeling”
blasting out of my TV speaker, four scheduling tabs opened for next semester, and my blinds
open to a very dreary looking Washtenaw Avenue. And as sad as that might sound, this might
end up being a Thanksgiving for the books. If When I end up finishing this schedule, I’ll watch
On My Block or listen to a crime documentary. I’ll call my parents at some point because I can’t
go a full holiday without really talking to them, and I’ll drag myself to the dining hall for a
lackluster “Thanksgiving Feast”.

I realized a few days ago that I didn’t have to go home for Thanksgiving because I was
already home. Even if the house is empty and my friends are catching flights to different coasts, I
can still hear echoes of laughter (hopefully not the Stephen King sort). I can wrap myself in
gratitude for everyone I’ve met in the past couple of months, for my student organizations like
What the F. I’m grateful for my friend who visited me yesterday and laughed with me over
fictional men and family pasts. I’m grateful for the Phd students in my research lab, who are
brilliant and so, so helpful. I’m grateful for my hometown friends who I don’t talk to but I’ll
always love, I’m grateful for my roommate who listened when I cried about why I wasn’t going
home this year. I’m grateful for my chemistry group chat that has me laughing like a maniac on
the diag, and for my professor encouraging me to write. And I am grateful for my family, too,
even though I’ll be away from them today.
To everyone still on campus right now, to the kids filling out alternative housing forms
for winter break: you’re not alone. Whether a trip home was too costly or timely, or emotionally
draining, you are not alone. To the ones disillusioned at the dinner table, you are not alone. To
the ones who couldn’t wait to leave college for a few days because the homesickness was
crushing, you are not alone. I hope you are surrounded by people that love and support you, even
if it means you’re at a table for one. I hope you’re grateful for yourself today. I know I am.

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