25 November, 2017

What's a Title?

Depression manifests itself in many strange ways.

My room is either pristine, or a Jackson Pollock of last week's socks and t-shirts. That can be said about pretty much everything in my life: my hair, my makeup, my kitchen. That's part of life, right? Why does it have to be?

"Just be happy."
"You've done so much, you're so lucky."
"Think of all the great things you have accomplished!"
"At least you have a healthy relationship and a boyfriend who loves you."
"People love you, remember that."

Yeah, yeah. I've heard it all before. But hearing it again, wow! Cured my depression right up! Thanks!

Fuck off.

Okay, I'm sorry. That was mean. I really do appreciate encouraging words. I know you all mean well. I guess I automatically feel like people scream: "Your depression is not justified because of all of these great things!" Thanks, brain.

I know these things. I'm thankful for these things. So what's the problem? I don't know. I don't know and I hate that I don't know.

What am I saying? I have so many words struggling to get out of my exploding heart. At one point in my life I said I never wanted to take antidepressants because I wanted to feel everything purely. I wanted to know the highs, the lows, the in-between. Now I can barely function before I have that little pink pill in the morning. Even then, more often than not, I am not in control. I guess that's what I'm saying. I've lost control.

See, the thing is, even when I'm in a wonderful relationship, even when I'm pursuing my dreams, even when....whatever. Still then, I sit here, heartbroken. I sit here in pain. I sit here hating myself.

I hate myself.

But I also love myself?


My heart breaks so easily. I feel so deeply. I miss my friends. All of my best friends are so so far away and I miss them so so much. In Tennessee, in Turkey, all over the world. And right now I can't even plan to see my friends in Turkey because of a travel ban! Oh, how my heart hurts. Everything hurts! My body literally aches because of the sadness.

And then suddenly, I'm happy again! I'm full of hope. I'm full of, "well I've gotten this far so what's the next challenge?" I'm singing and smiling and laughing and not caring that I've had three chocolate chip cookies. I feel so excited to see my friends thrive and live their best lives and chase their dreams. I'm full of everything good! Praise!

And I know things can be worse, and then I feel even worse about myself! I get this downward spiral of feeling bad because I feel bad. How pathetic is that? How can I regain control?

I really do hate myself. I'm sorry to say that but I do. I hate how I look most days. I hate how I feel, all this chronic pain. I hate that my body freaked out after my surgery and now I have harsh, flaming stretch marks across my abdomen from how badly I bloated. I hate that my weight is out of my control. I hate that I cry so much. I hate that one day, I'm flying. I'm on cloud nine, I'm so happy, I'm so full of life, and then BOOM! I crash. I'm buried under mounds of rubble. I don't want to live anymore.

There aren't many days in-between. It's either one or the other. If I have a middle ground, it's lethargy. Fun.

So what am I saying? Really, please. I don't even know what I'm saying. Shouldn't I be happy? Shouldn't I love myself? Shouldn't I practice what I preach?

I'm trying!! And like I said, I generally do. I really do love myself. I love that I'm strong and independent and curvy and vivacious and well-traveled and that my eyes change colour but tend to be grey and I think that looks pretty and blah and blah and blah.

This is me? This is who I am?

I don't know the point in this. I don't know what I'm writing. I know somewhere in my mind I had a purpose and an outline and a goal to achieve with this post. I know I have stories to tell and things I wanted to say but I can't see past this cloud of confusion and darkness and horror.

I'm sorry. I guess I'm saying all of these things because, well, because I want to live honestly. I want to show the ugly. (There I am with my hope again.) I guess I want people to know...I'm messy. I'm imperfect. This is who I am. And maybe, someone feels the same way. Maybe I'll find solace in that. Maybe someone else will, too.

Here I am. With all my tears and snot, writing this in my dark apartment while my boyfriend is at work. My head is throbbing and my shirt is soaked with tears. On days like this I told Troy to ask me to tell him three good things/things I'm thankful for at the moment. I'll end with that.

Three Good Things/My Thankfulness
1. I have banana bread baking in the oven.
2. Paramore is a good band.
3. Both Troy and I have jobs in our new city.

06 October, 2017

A Big Step

Someone once told me, "the only thing constant is change." I think I heard that when I was in middle school or early high school, and I thought it was the most profound shit I had ever heard.

Though probably not incredibly profound, it holds quite a bit of truth. I've always welcomed change. I get bored with consistency. I love to be constantly moving, constantly working, constantly traveling, constantly learning new things...you get it. I love change. I think it's great. Sometimes it's hard, but hey, it's something new to experience, so sign me up! I loved that my comfort zone sat in a field of change. My heart and mind were always soft and open to the new. Until a fundamental dream of mine decided to begin its metamorphosis.

Dreams change, too. That was a hard thing for me to grasp.

For, oh wow, perhaps my whole life, I dreamed of living in Colorado. I spent my summers in Estes Park growing up, and it was the number one thing I looked forward to every year. Driving the 8 or so hours from our house in Omaha across the vast, flat, boring state of Nebraska was worth it for that first look at the mountains. Colorado was a dream land. It still is. I've told a number of people that if I were to continue living in the US, the state I'd want to live in would be Colorado. So I set my dream boat directly West and set sail for Denver.

I was introduced to Metropolitan State University. I met professors. I saw the campus. I saw their theaters. I read about their speech pathology programs. I was SOLD. I based my education on being able to continue my academics right in the heart of Denver. Everything looked great. Everything was set. Tuition and scholarships were looking good, I was excited for classes, my boyfriend was excited to move, the whole shebang. Only one problem: I didn't have a place to live.

No biggie, right? Just gotta do some house hunting. That's when it all fell apart.

I knew Colorado would be expensive. Everyone is flocking there, and for good reason. I wanted to flock there, too. Things were looking decent...until they weren't. Situations out of my control caused my dream to crumble before my eyes. A trip to Denver turned out fruitless. I began to see the cracks in the foundation of the plan. I began to see how horribly crowded Denver became. I talked to locals, who grieved the loss of their once calm Denver to overcrowding and price surges. The crumbling turned to tears, anguish, and all that jazz. What was I supposed to do? I didn't have a plan B.

The only thing constant is change.

I had to change course. I couldn't just abandon ship. All this work? For nothing? No. I can't have it be that way. So I made sure it wasn't.

Fast forward to me, quickly scrambling to figure out a plan of action. I had seven hours between Denver and Lincoln to come up with a plan. Could I do it?

Of course I could.

Friends, I've kept this as much under wraps as I could, but I am here to officially announce: I AM MOVING.

Not to Denver. Not to England (though maybe someday). Not to a different city in Tennessee. Not anywhere particularly exciting even.

I'm moving back to Nebraska.

That's right. BACK TO. I'm going back to my hometown. I've fought to stay away for so long. I didn't feel a pull to ever be back. I didn't think moving "home" was a forward step, but as it turns out, it's the perfect step. A big step. A scary step.

I have been officially accepted into UNL's BA program for Speech Pathology. I! AM! GOING! BACK! TO! SCHOOL! Oh, joyous tears. It's finally happening. It's happening fast, actually.

I move in a month. Just a month. I finish my show (Stupid Fucking Bird, which by the way, everyone should come see) and I take off shortly after. I start school in January. It's finally happening.

Troy's coming too, for those of you wondering. Someone loves me enough to stay with me and my changing plans, and to do life with me every day. God, I am lucky. He is looking into going back to school too!

We love Nebraska. It'll be good to be back, actually. It'll be good to reconnect with my roots. It'll be good to see my high school friends more than once every few years. It'll be good to have a fresh start as an adult in a city I only knew as a child.

I'm both scared and excited. I have cried so many times thinking about the wonderful people I am leaving behind, but I know my time has come. Tennessee, you were both incredible and horrible to me. Thank you for these last five years. Thank you for the adventure. Now it's time to go.

To everyone who has supported me, I thank you too. I've had so many people cheer me on as I've tried to rebuild myself. I have so much support. I am surrounded by so much love. This was a hard decision to make, but my heart feels secure in hope.

To my Nebraska friends: hello again! I can't wait to have you all over for coffee or booze or both. I can't wait to hopefully have some SNOW! I can't wait to see the holiday lights all over town. I'm ready for the glorious sunsets and the horrible road construction and everything that comes with Lincoln. I really am. Let's reconnect.

I'm ready. Life's happening. Let's go. 

22 May, 2017

Miss Diagnosis

God. It's like I can't win.

I was diagnosed with endometriosis a year ago. I was put on a regimen of birth control to hopefully ease the pain, and make my periods lighter, as I was losing an incredible amount of blood each month (and being anaemic, well, it wasn't good). All the medicine did was regulate my periods (bless -- they were so sporadic), but there was little to no aid in the pain department.

I started seeing a new OB/GYN, and was put on a different birth control. The amount of hormones going through my body with all of my other medicine was causing a lot of problems health-wise. The new birth control had a smaller dose of hormones, but my pain gradually increased. On my first visit, we found no signs of ovarian cysts or any other cause of pain, so my diagnosis for endometriosis was thought to be spot-on.

A few months later, after trying the new birth control, my pain became so unbearable I couldn't live a normal life. I would miss work, miss days of meals, and barely make it out of bed during the worst days of my cycle. I went back to my OB and had a vaginal ultrasound. The doctor found a large cyst growing on my right ovary, and a surgery was quickly scheduled to remove it. A surgery to fully diagnose my endometriosis, called a laparoscopy, was also ordered, to knock out two birds with one stone.

The day of the surgery finally came, and everything went smoothly. The cyst (which wound up being half the size of my uterus!!!!) was benign, and removed without a problem. The catch? There was no trace of endometriosis. Which, is great, yes, but finding out that my diagnosis had been wrong the entire time? Honestly horrible. It's great to not have endo, but now I'm back to square one in the diagnosis process.

I am now a little over a month post-surgery, and my first full period (I had one during recovery too, which, let me tell you, was NOT FUN) was HORRENDOUS. Awful pain, so much blood, sporadic bleeding. I kind of expected it to be slightly abnormal, as my body is learning how to cycle without that cyst inhabiting my lower regions, but DAMN, did this last cycle suck. At my post-op, I scheduled an appointment to get an IUD at the recommendation of my surgeon. We were hoping that the focus of hormones on only the affected region would help my body process everything, and hopefully reduce my pain and flow.

So today, I went into my appointment, both nervous and excited. I've heard so many great things about IUDs! I was excited for the excellent contraceptive, as well as the focus of hormones on only one part of my body. I took the medicine prescribed to me as directed, and off I went to the OB/GYN.

I was ushered into the ultrasound room. The medicine was making me feel a little crampy, understandably, as it was meant to soften the cervix. As I laid back on the table, I got ready for the understandable cramps accompanied with the insertion. Little did I know, it would be so much worse.

My doctor did everything she could, but my body rejected every attempt to clear a path into my uterus. She tried four or five different times, and my uterus pushed back. I have never been in so much pain. My body was convulsing so severely, and the doctors all knew they had to stop. I was given pain medication and asked if I wanted to try again, and I said yes. So we tried again...to no avail. Pain pain pain. Worse than, God, I can't even think of words to explain just how much pain I was in. My uterus was not having it. I'm not having it. I couldn't stop crying, both from the pain and the disappointment. I wanted the IUD to work for me so badly. Maybe it will in the future, but for now, the pill is all there is.

There's no winning with this body. We don't know where the pain is coming from. We don't know a cure. We don't know a diagnosis. We simply don't know. And boy, is that terrifying. I'm tired of being in pain. I'm tired of putting my life on hold. I'm tired. I'm exhausted. I'm disappointed. I'm a mess. I am fighting for my life back, and nothing seems to move me forward.

So here I am, back in the waiting game. Just sitting here, hoping and praying for answers. Hoping and praying for relief. I know I'm not the only one suffering. I hope and pray for a cure for each and every person dealing with this unknown origin of pain. 

03 November, 2016

TnCIS Conference 2016

I recently had the opportunity and honour of being the lunch speaker at the 10th annual TnCIS conference. For those of you who don't know, TnCIS is a study abroad consortium in the state of Tennessee, and I've traveled with them for three years studying in different countries. I had a lot of people come up to me after the speech, thanking me for my words and thanking me for my passion.

I always feel best when I'm in the company of like-minded individuals, and I feel right at home whenever I'm working with TnCIS. Everyone involved is so passionate about international education, and it really inspires me to continue to push my studies towards a more international curriculum. It also makes me realise that I should really continue to write, as I feel my thoughts flow more freely when I have a pen to paper or fingers to a keyboard.

I wanted to share with you all the general gist of my speech that I shared this afternoon. It is my goal and my passion to inspire students (and teachers alike) to do part of their studies abroad. I studied mainly with Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, and their scholarship program is absolutely marvelous.

I know you all are probably tired of hearing me talk about studying abroad, but I cannot tell you enough how much it changed my life. Here are the words I want to share with you:

When I first came to Tennessee, I was a senior in high school. I had every intention to continue my education at the University of Tennessee. I thought community college was the easy way out, and that I wouldn't have the opportunities I wanted from college at a community college. Boy, was I wrong. One day, Charles Miller, head of the theatre department here (at Pellissippi), contacted me and asked if I would consider joining the theatre program at Pellissippi. I came and toured the facilities at this campus, but it wasn't the facilities that brought me here. Charles told me that there would be an intro to theatre class taught in London over the summer, and I immediately knew I had to attend school here, as it was a dream of mine to go to London.

I couldn't be happier with my decision to come to Pellissippi State. Not only was London a dream come true, but it opened the doors for me to explore other countries. I've now studied in England, Turkey, and Italy, all through TnCIS programs.Most people were amazed when I told them I was going to be studying in Turkey. I was only 18 years old when I went to Turkey, and many people I talked to, who were well into their 50s and 60s, said they had never traveled as much as I had, and they were impressed and encouraged by my courage to be out in the world. Many of them told me how badly they wish they had this opportunity when they were young. Many people begged me not to go, as they thought it wasn't safe. They thought what the media showed of Turkey was all that was true, but I can assure you, it is not. I am incredibly lucky to have traveled to so many incredible countries at such a young age.

The most striking and important of my trips was to Turkey. Anyone who knows me knows that I am absolutely and completely obsessed with Turkey. The TnCIS program was exceptional. Dr. Sekman worked incredibly hard to make sure the students had a proper "Turkish experience." We were hosted by different universities throughout different cities in Turkey, and in each university, the American students were paired with a "Turkish Buddy" who would show them around the city, take them to classes, and always be there to hang out. I swear, I got the lucky straw with my time in Turkey. In Izmir, I was paired with a girl named Naz, and she immediately became my sister. I made so many friends that week in Izmir, and it was the hardest goodbye I've ever had to say. The connections I made on that trip are lifelong connections. I missed those friends so much, that I traveled by myself to Turkey this past summer to spend two weeks with the friends I had made on my TnCIS trip.

To me, the connections and friendships made all around the world are some of the most important parts of the experience. I've always had quite the travel bug, and having the experiences I've had in all of these countries has allowed me to feel comfortable in any situation, be it in the States, or in another country. I never felt unsafe on a TnCIS program. Every staff member was incredibly helpful in getting us around the cities, and making sure we knew how to stay safe. Brickey even made personal maps for each and every one of the students on her trip! That's above and beyond excellence. The lessons I learned in England, Turkey, and Italy are lessons I carry with me every day. I'm far less fearful than I have been in the past.

These trips have even inspired me to push my education further. I now have a degree in performing arts, but am completing my bachelors in linguistics in Colorado. I have a heart for foreign languages, surely heightened by my experience abroad. My next steps are figuring out how to internationalize my major. I want to work overseas. I want to continue to travel and explore and see what this world has to offer. And I know none of this could have happened without the help of TnCIS.

Being a student at Pellissippi had additional perks, being the incredible Dr. Wise and Dr. Edwards. I can definitely say I wouldn't have been able to travel so frequently if it weren't for their generosity in scholarships. Pellissippi offers 40-60% scholarships for students studying abroad, and I've heard many students say they wouldn't be able to travel without this assistance. It breaks my heart when I hear that students at other schools are unable to attend due to lack of financial aid. The state of Tennessee has received recognition in the number of students sent abroad, but I know that financial aid and scholarships could push those numbers higher. With the influx of Tennessee Promise students this year, I have a feeling more students are going to want to travel abroad, especially once they hear about the experiences TnCIS has to offer. I will preach until my dying day the glory of TnCIS. It completely changed my life. There's no way to go on one of these programs and come back completely unchanged. It is single-handedly the best experience I've had as a student. It has not only broadened my view on different parts of the world, but it's given me a new love for cultures, for new foods, for learning in my own country. Everything I do is in the shadow of my time abroad, and in the hopes that I can one day return to my homes overseas.

My dear students--WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? I know you might be scared. You might miss home. You might miss your friends, your family, your boyfriends and girlfriends, but I promise you, the three weeks you will spend abroad with TnCIS will be some of the best days of your life. Now is the time to do it. Get out there and explore. The world is waiting for you.

31 May, 2016

The Buddhist Institute

Hello again. I'm very behind on this blog. I started writing this post a couple weeks ago in Siena, but neglected it until now. I'm currently back in Rome, wrapping up my class this week.

A lot of you have asked me about my time in the institute. How did I end up there? Was it weird? What was it like? What did you do? The whole thing is a little crazy. I can't believe I got to have this experience. Here's the story.

Back in Tennessee, I am a work study student in our performing arts centre on Pellissippi's campus. My director/boss and I were talking one day about my trip to Italy and how I was spending a little extra time there prior to my class. He mentioned he had an aunt in Pisa, and told me he'd contact her and see if I could stay with her for a few days. I graciously accepted his offer. I was soon connected with his aunt, and found out she did not live in Pisa, but was a teacher at a Buddhist institute in Santa Luce. She told me they'd be happy to host me, if I would like to volunteer there. I had nothing to lose in this offer. I was (and am) so grateful for their accommodations.

I booked my flight to Rome and traveled to the institute the next morning. It was a gorgeous stone building in the middle of the Italian countryside. There were beautiful gardens, walking paths, and cats everywhere. I was greeted with such kindness and hospitality by the entirety of the institute. I was given a bed in a dormitory, and told to relax until dinner. I'll admit, I was nervous. I had no idea where I was, no clue how to behave, what to wear...I didn't know if anyone knew English, who were students, who were volunteers...you get my point. I sheepishly walked to dinner that night, not knowing anyone or how the process of getting food worked. I was greeted by the head of the institute with a huge smile and hug, but she spoke only Italian. We found another volunteer to translate for us, and I got the run down on how things worked.

As a volunteer, I was required to work a certain number of hours a day. The jobs were divided up among the volunteers, some of them having different jobs every day. I was placed on the cleaning crew.

A day at the institute looked a little like this: breakfast at 8:00, meditation at 9:00, work from 9:30-12:30, break for lunch, then back to work until around 3:00. It was a lot of physical labour—sweeping, moping, cleaning showers and toilets. We cleaned the entire institute. Daily. It was pretty exhausting, I won't lie. I took a lot of naps. But again, it was a learning experience, and entirely worth it.

I had to learn to communicate pretty much on the fly. Many of the volunteers spoke solely Italian. A few of them knew a bit of English. On the first day, I worked with a girl named Ingrid. She knew a bit of English, and asked about my life, my travels, etc.. Sometimes she'd have a word she didn't know, so we'd work together to find a way to translate our ideas. This was anywhere from acting it out, to pointing, to descriptive words or sounds. It took time and patience, but we figured it out.

The following days were pretty much the same. Get up, eat, work, eat, work, sleep, eat, sleep. It was nice. It was hard at times. The quiet gave me a lot of time to think. I had a lot of time to reflect on what I was learning.

I sat outside the cafe on my last day and made a list:

Things I learned while volunteering at a Buddhist institute

* Kindness triumphs over all
* Drink a lot of tea
* Wear comfy clothes
* Schedule time in your day to sit and have a silent moment, sans phone
* Meditation is a great tool to combat daily demons
* Skip the makeup for a few days. Let your hair fly free. Be at peace
* Everyone has a need to communicate. Sometimes all it takes is a little patience and a willing attitude. Trust me. You can do it
* Appreciate nature. Sit back. Breathe. Listen to the wind and the birds. Take out those headphones
* Ask for help when you need it
* Work hard. Be honest in your work. Shortcuts don't always make for best results
* Be kind to everyone and everything—including yourself
* Make friends with the chef. They'll make you laugh. They'll take care of you
* Respect other cultures and religions. Even if you don't believe in the same things, you can respect another's beliefs
* Clean up after yourself. Remember you are responsible for your own actions
* Experience everything to the fullest. Take every opportunity to explore
* If you are uncomfortable, stop what you're doing. Respect your own boundaries
* Never stop learning. Do not put up walls in your mind
* Choose to be good in this world. Smile. Love. Be friendly. You have nothing to lose in being kind

12 May, 2016

Not All Who Wander...I'm Lost

It's about time to start this writing process again.

Hello. I'm in Italy. And in a strange turn of events, I have no idea what is going on.

Seriously. I'm so lost.

Let's back up. For my past three years in college, I've been generally on top of things. My grades were good, I maintained two jobs while attending school full time, I did shows, etc. etc.. My last semester spent at Pellissippi changed everything.

First of all, I was in a car wreck over the Christmas holiday. Definitely the worst car wreck in which I have been involved, and hopefully the last. It really screwed me up. Long story short, I pushed myself and pushed myself to continually have my shit together and be "okay." I'm the oldest sister, if I was okay, my sisters could see it was good to heal, and they would soon be okay. I didn't slow down. I didn't take time to heal. I didn't want to think anything was wrong. Turns out, I had swelling in my brain, and because of how hard I was pushing myself, it only got worse, making my healing time longer. I wasn't sleeping. I had PTSD nightmares. I could barely eat. It was a nightmare. On top of all of that, I had a slew of health problems thrown my way. Anaemia. Possible thyroid disease. Finally being medicated for depression. And the really fun part: endometriosis. (Side note: we're not 100% certain on the endometriosis yet, as it is difficult to diagnose and the specialists who can test are about 3 hours from my house. Plus, with my leaving the country, we couldn't get an appointment until I'm back. But my doctor is nearly certain. Yay.) Every two weeks was blood work and tests and doctors visits. I went from a healthy, rarely sick person to an incredibly unhealthy individual.

Because of these health problems, I started having problems in school. I couldn't focus. Being in the classroom was increasingly difficult. I had one particular teacher with no care towards my condition who would offer no help when I asked, so I wound up dropping her class. I couldn't participate in theatre. I was too exhausted, too sick. For the first semester in nearly eight years, I wasn't involved in a single show. I wasn't taking any theatre classes. I wasn't assistant teaching. I still worked in the office, but that's not the same. I truly think taking time off from working in theatre was one of the most difficult things I've had to do to take care of myself. I thrive on the hard work and challenges the theatre throws at me. It's a great emotional outlet. Sure, I still wrote in my journal to get my "art" fulfilment, but nothing compares to theatre.

Though it was immensely difficult to take time away from something I love so much, I believe it to be for the best. I had a bit more free time than usual. Okay, I had a LOT more free time without theatre. I stayed busier than ever, though. I worked more. I studied more. I slept more.  I met a new group of people, instead of hiding away in a group of theatre kids. (Though there's nothing wrong with them. I love you, losers.) I went out on dates with a few different guys. Most of the dates didn't turn into anything, save for one, with whom I have an incredibly weird and fun friendship. A little light in the darkness!

The time off also gave me time to think. This is where I started to get lost. Prior to this last semester, I knew exactly what I wanted and where I was going. I knew my field of study. I knew my university. I was on the path to success! Then I woke up one morning and decided...nope. I don't want that. Well, maybe I do. But I'm not sure anymore. So I decided not to go.

Strange things happened after that. I was offered a job in Hong Kong. I was avidly looking at schools in Germany. I had a friend offer to be my roommate in Texas. I was all over the place. I was frantically scrambling to try and put the shattered pieces of my future together. I have never not known what I was going to do on this drastic of a level. I was always Julianna: The Girl Who Has Her Shit Together.

I am no longer that girl. Sure, parts of me are very well developed and put together, but I no longer have a clear set plan for my future. All I know is what I don't want. What I don't know is what I do want. At least that's a start.

I've always said I'm happiest and feel most alive when I am outside of my comfort zone. I consider myself very lucky to feel this way. I like a challenge. When I take a step back and really examine this situation, I realise I'm exactly where I'm uncomfortable: in not knowing. It forces me to learn new things—literally new survival skills. Part of me has always loved the mystery of the future. I know I can't control it, but I still try. But for now, I must be okay with not knowing.

With that, I have decided to take time off of school. Maybe a semester, maybe a year. I never thought I would do a thing like this. I love school so much, but I think I need to take time to focus on me, and really examine what I want. It will be good for me, I think. I will read for pleasure. I will work. I will travel.

Speaking of travel, as I mentioned, I'm in Italy right now. My current situation is hilariously parallel to what I'm processing in life. I am in a small province of Pisa, in the gorgeous Italian countryside. Really, I wish I could explain how beautiful it is, but that would be impossible. I came here alone. I was graciously offered a place to stay in exchange for volunteer work. I am volunteering at a Buddhist institute. Please let this sink in because I am neither Buddhist, nor do I speak much Italian. (I can say basic phrases and ask for coffee and wine...you know, the important things in life.) Everyone here is Buddhist, and very few of them speak English. This is a completely different culture for me, and I love it. The people I have interacted with so far have been nothing but kind to me, even with our language barrier. These next few days are going to test me in new ways, and I couldn't be happier. I believe I can learn a lot here. I will learn a lot here. I will take in the culture and be happy to do my work. I will have time to think and write and take walks in the countryside. Maybe I'll find some answers. Maybe not. But I cannot sit back and let a learning opportunity pass.

Here's to being lost. Here's to being okay with being lost. Here's to the mistakes I will make in my journey to learn. Here's hoping I'll find my way out. 

26 November, 2015

Why I Hate Thanksgiving

Yes, I know what you're thinking. "Thanksgiving is great! The food, the parade, the food." But I hate it. In fact, the "Thanksgiving season" is one of my least favourite times of the year. Though autumn is my favourite season, I'm never in the Thanksgiving spirit. I never was, even as a kid. So let's dive in.

First of all, why do we even celebrate Thanksgiving? We probably are all familiar with the "pilgrims and Indians" story, with Squanto translating and everything. We imagine the pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe sitting around a large table laughing and eating delicious food and giving thanks. That's all fine and dandy. But that's not actually how Thanksgiving started. These people weren't looking to start a new tradition. They were just celebrating a good harvest (and they didn't even serve turkey--it was venison). This wasn't the first time a celebration was had, either. In the early seventeenth century, days of thanksgiving were held year round. Keep this thought in mind for later.

That still doesn't answer the question, so here's a little more history. In 1789, George Washington declared the 26 of November "Thanksgiving Day." (Hey, cool. That's Thanksgiving this year, too.) Washington's declaration had nothing to do with the pilgrims. This day of thanksgiving was for "public thanksgiving and prayer...for the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be." He also wanted people to count their blessings of independence post war. In 1863, after much pressure from the patriotic magazine editor and poet Sarah Hale, president Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be an official holiday on the fourth Thursday of every November. 

Great. Now we have the background of Thanksgiving. Really, it seems like a lovely thing, having a day dedicated to giving thanks. But I'm not all about that. I'm all for being thankful but...well, let's just do this in list form. I'll get to that part.

Reasons why I don't like Thanksgiving:
  1. The food. *GASP* I hate Thanksgiving food. While people wait all year for turkey and stuffing and cranberries, I am less than eager each year to pull up my chair to the table. When I was a little kid, my mom and grandparents would always force me to eat some of the Thanksgiving turkey. I'm not a big fan of turkey, especially that of the Thanksgiving variety. So I revolted. I made my own holiday called "vegetarian day." I don't think I've had meat on Thanksgiving for...12, 13 years? I don't know. I'll keep that tradition alive and just eat mashed potatoes.
  2. The day after. Perhaps this is a different topic in and of itself, but whatever. I hate Black Friday. It has turned Thanksgiving into a consumer holiday. I hate consumer holidays. It's like everyone spends all month being so loving and thankful, then BOOM! Everything is rushed and greedy and buy-me-this and buy-me-that and oh-my-gosh-i-have-to-have-this-new-thing. No way, dude. I'm NOT all about that. Quick story: Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1939, in attempt to make the Christmas shopping season longer and to boost the economy in the last years of the depression, moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November, but two years later Thanksgiving was moved back to its original date. So it's not just today that Thanksgiving/Black Friday has been for consumers. 
  3. The Concept. Okay, this one probably makes me sound like a horrible person, but hear me out. This is probably the biggest issue I have with Thanksgiving. I'm not against being thankful. I'm not against that at all. What I am against, however, is devoting a holiday to an emotion and action you should be expressing year round. This also happens to be the reason I hate Valentine's day. The entire month of November I see people posting "30 Days of Thankfulness" as their statuses, people leaving their baristas and servers some extra cash as a token of thankfulness, or some other good deed to get them in the spirit. Am I condoning these things, absolutely not. I guess my biggest problem lies in the fact that people wait all year for this month and then decide to be thankful or gratuitous. Shouldn't we be celebrating and giving thanks year round? I get that this is a time to focus especially on being thankful and whatever, but I just can't get behind a concept that I think should be displayed year round.
These reasons may seem petty, and perhaps I should just swallow my tongue and offer a pretty smile and play along with tradition. I have nothing against tradition, and I respect the traditions of the holiday season. I like tradition.  Maybe this is the outcome of years and years of aversion to thanksgiving. I'm not sure. I just really don't like Thanksgiving.

I'm not saying you should feel guilty about liking Thanksgiving. I'm not saying that at all. I will plead with you on one matter: please don't wait until November to be thankful. I know it's a great time to take a breath and remember why you're thankful and to spend time with your loved ones and to eat disgusting food. Take this time seriously. Celebrate with all your heart. But once the clock strikes midnight, please don't forget to carry these thoughts with you daily.