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. 


22 June, 2015

Let's Talk Turkey

Finally.

As most of you are probably aware, I spent the month of May traveling through Turkey. I was there on another study abroad trip, this time taking a gender studies class. We started in Izmir, then worked our way to Fethiye, Kemer, Ankara, and finally to Istanbul. Let me tell you, this trip was the most incredible few weeks of my life in so many ways. I could talk about Turkey forever...actually I mention it at least one (or seventeen) times a day to the dismay of all those who must endure my conversations (thanks for putting up with me).

Prior to my trip, whenever I would tell anyone I was going to Turkey, 9/10 times I would hear something along the lines of:

"Oh my gosh, really? TURKEY? Aren't you, ya know, like, scared?" (I was never scared.)
"Promise me you'll be safe."  (I was always safe.)
"Oh, honey. WOW. Be careful over there. It's...you know." (It's not like what you see in the media.)

To be honest, I was pretty annoyed by these misconceptions. I appreciated the concerns of my customers at work and some of my friends, but honestly, a school trip wouldn't take us anywhere that was deemed to be dangerous. Plus, why would I let fear drive me from exploring? I just didn't understand. But anyway...

Turkey was...ineffable. Every time I try to explain it, my words fall short of the absolute wonder and glory I experienced in Turkey. I saw the Hagia Sophia, experienced a boat tour around parts of the Mediterranean, walked through the ancient streets of Ephesus (and performed in the grand theater there!!!!), crossed the Bosphorus to get to class...I experienced so much culture and history in three weeks that I didn't even know what to do with myself.

But that's not why Turkey has won over my heart.

Perhaps one day I will write a tourist-y post about what I loved seeing in Turkey and eating in Turkey (everything), but today is not that day.

Today is about more than that. Today is about why my trip to Turkey changed my life. Okay, that sounds a little cliche, but please, hear me out. I learned one of the most valuable lessons in my life while in Turkey, specifically in Izmir.

This post is dedicated to you, Izmir.


Left to right: Ali, Julianna, Orhun, Mert, Hasan, Naz, Sacha, Ceylin. 
From the top of Asansör (Turkish for "elevator") on my last night in Izmir.


The people above are more than just my friends. They are my family. To say that I miss them would be the understatement of the century. I talk to at least one of them every single day. Why is that important? Let me explain.

So. Izmir.

We (TnCIS) began our trip in Izmir, where we were graciously hosted by Yaşar University. Each American student was paired with a Turkish student for the week, which was super incredible. Studying abroad is really fun, but getting to study abroad and meet/hang out with students my age from said country...that's an unmatched experience. It brings everything to life in a new way. But anyway...I was paired with a girl named Naz. Right from the start, she was more than a friend to me. She was a sister. We loved the same books, animals, everything. She has one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know. She is so kind and so loving and I miss her so much. 

I truly got the lucky straw in Izmir, though. (And every other city but that's a different story.) Not only did I wind up paired with Naz, but I had a whole crew of Turkish students that weren't necessarily paired with anyone, but they just wanted to hang out, which was awesome. That's how I ended up gaining such a great group of friends in Izmir. Our group was sometimes even bigger, with an additional American and even more Turkish friends. 

I did everything with this group of people. They took me out to eat, we drank beer by the sea in Konak, and found the best little coffee shop in Izmir. They even planned a night for us Americans to try Rakı, a traditional Turkish alcohol made from the anise seed (which is super delicious, by the way). Even on the times we weren't doing anything in particular save for walking around Izmir, I was having so much fun.

Let me repeat myself: I WAS HAVING FUN IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE.

This little introvert never felt out of place. She was never exhausted by spending time with these people. She finally found a place where she felt like she belonged

Maybe it's because their spirits and attitudes matched mine more than that of most of the people I know here in the States. We would talk about books and media and things that mattered to us. We would talk about what made us feel alive. We, instead of shaming our differences, celebrated what made us unique. We found the many ways we were similar. We laughed and cried and sang and joked around. 

This all sounds mundane and normal, probably. But as I said before, I'm not sure the right words exist to fully encompass my feelings for these people and the experiences we had together. I remember turning to Mert one night while we were on the balcony of a bar and saying, "Remember when I asked you when you felt most alive? Because my answer is right now." 

Here's what's really important about these people, though. Most of you know, I'm really not a fan of being in groups of people. You know, an introvert in a field of extroverts. I don't have many close relationships. I'm always the one to say that I can go through life alone and be completely fine. Now, I finally see the truth.

These people taught me what it means to have a real friend, and I no longer want to go through life alone.

*sigh of relief*

To my friends in Turkey: I've said it a million times before and I'll say it many more times: Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you for loving me and accepting me. Thank you for being my friend. Thank you for showing me what it means to care for someone. Thank you for singing with me and laughing with me and crying with me. Thank you for helping me see that I no longer want to walk though life alone, and thank you even more for walking this path with me. You have my heart. I love you all so much, each and every one of you. 

You were the key to open this lock I've put on my heart for so many years. Never in my life have I felt so happy. I owe you all so much. I can never thank you enough for setting me free.

...

I'm sitting here crying because I am filled to the brim with gratitude for you all. You mean the world to me. It brings me so much joy to know I will be reunited with you in the future. 

On that little tote bag you all gave me on the first day, it had the little slogan, "Biz bir aileyiz" written on it. Though it may be cheesy to admit, that is what I feel for you. We are a family. 

Thank you, Izmir. Thank you so much.

I cannot wait to see you again.



26 April, 2015

My Own Contradiction

Well, hello there.

Obviously, it's been a while. I could blame my absence on a lot of things: school, work, general busyness, lack of writing topics, you name it. Many of these things are plausible reasons for me not to post anything in months. Some of them, in fact, are. I have been rather busy. I've managed two shows (one of which closed tonight), competed for a theatre scholarship, transferred workplaces, juggled schoolwork on top of rehearsals and two jobs, all while preparing to depart for Turkey (I leave in two weeks). While all of this was going on, though, there was another reason I never posted.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't allow anyone else to define my own happiness. I spent a lot of my life trying to please everyone, and we all know that's an impossible goal. In the past year, I've found out a lot about what I can do to make myself happy, and let me tell you, once you're comfortable with yourself, life is SO much  more enjoyable! But why does this matter?

Well, dear friends. As much as I told myself I was proud of my own writing, as much as I told myself that I should continue to post on this blog, I couldn't bring myself to do it. Why? Because I didn't have enough confidence in myself.

What? Julianna lacking confidence? Newsflash: it happens a lot. And you know what? That's okay.

Here's what's up. I feel as if there's quite a lot of pressure on me. Not just a societal pressure, but a pressure to do well. Obviously those who care for me wish for me to succeed in what I do, and I am thankful for that. We all have people we hope to see succeed, and I can assure you, I am immensely grateful for all of love and support everyone has ever showed me. The encouragement keeps me going when I get discouraged, and it helps me strive to continue to do my best in everything I attempt.

This next part is really difficult for me to write, because I hate bragging on myself. But...okay. I'm a pretty good student. I'm not the best, but I'm pretty good. I'm smart. I do well. I have my life together, for the most part. I'm the top in many of my classes. I WANT to do well. I'm not saying that anyone else is less smart or less apt than I am, but I've had many tell me they appreciate my hard work and my shit-together-ness. (Yes, they've really said that.)

So why is this relevant? Okay, Julianna, get to the point.

All of this pressure, all of this drive I have to succeed, all of these expectations for me to do well...it's a huge weight on my shoulders. Is it a burden? Well, honestly, sometimes. I always feel like if I were to make a mistake, I would fail, because I do well more often than not, and fumbling isn't something I often let people see me do. I like people to see a polished product. They don't see the drafts, the edits, the mistakes...they see the final outcome.

I was so concerned with writing something worthwhile that I never felt anything was "worthy" enough to share here. I thought everything I posted had to be profound, poignant, or riveting. I thought it had to be well-constructed sentences, perfect pronouns, and flawless grammar. I wanted to post to please. I wanted to post to get a reaction, to let everyone see how great I was at writing or whatever. I thought that's what having a blog was all about.

But I was wrong.

This can be about whatever I want! I can write lists. I can write poetry. I can write a question, and just let it be. I do not have to sugar-coat anything. I do not have to blog with the purpose to please anyone. 

To those of you who have read/will read my blog: thank you, I think. Yes, thank you. Thank you for taking the time out of your day to read my ramblings and rampages. I want you to know, this blog will not be perfect, for I am not perfect, and for either of these facts I will not apologize. So if you're here expecting perfect syntax, you might not always find it.

From now on, I will not post to please. So a warning to you expecting the beautiful: don't. Well, do. But also expect the ugly. Expect the vulgar. Expect nothing and everything all at once. Most importantly, though: expect the truth. That is what I want to write, the truth. At least the truth of my life. My thoughts, my ramblings, my concerns, my praises...me. I want to present you with me.

Here I am. My own contradiction. I'm not perfect, but I hope you can look past that.

It's nice to meet you.