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Student Blog: Holiday Alone

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A Reflection and (Sort Of) Guide to My First Holiday Break Alone in College

Student Blog: Holiday Alone

Content Warning: brief mentions and discussions of food, mention of the roots of Thanksgiving

I want to start this post by prefacing that I am not particularly a fan of holidays. I don't feel much of a connection to them in any sense and I've never really enjoyed them. I mean, my first Halloween consisted of visiting a grand total of three houses before informing my mom that I was done. Why would I go to strangers houses who had bad candy when we could just go to the store and get candy I actually wanted? Despite this, I've always sort of wished I could enjoy most holidays for what they are. I want to feel the love and cheer around the holiday season or go all out for Halloween. Admittedly, I do love the novelty of it all.

However, the core reason why we celebrate a majority of them isn't exactly to be admired, especially when it comes to American Thanksgiving. I've never really looked forward to this holiday because 1) I don't like food in general and 2) I dislike traditional Thanksgiving food even more than the food I do tolerate. My disdain for American Thanksgiving grew even more when I learned about the "genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture" that coincided with the "beginning" of the celebration of Thanksgiving (UAINE). I feel it is important that white and non-Indigenous American folks remind ourselves of these facts when we sit down with family and friends for dinner on that third Thursday in November each year to "give thanks".

Back 'home,' in what colonizers call Portland, Oregon, I distanced myself from American Thanksgiving as much as I could. That land rests upon the traditional village sites and summer encampments of hundreds of Indigenous Tribes along the Columbia (Wimal) and Willamette (Whilamut) rivers who were forcibly removed from their homes. These tribes include, but are not limited to the Multnomah, Wasco, Cowlitz, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Tualatin, Kalapya, Molalla, and Bands of the Chinook. There, it's much easier to simply not profit off of what I'd prefer to be dead traditions. On the other hand, in my college town that colonizers call Boston, Massachusetts, the land of 'the first Thanksgiving' or more importantly, the stolen traditional homelands of the Wampanoag and Massachusset People, it's much harder to step aside from the holiday.

It isn't just the fact that I'm in the area of "the first Thanksgiving," nor is it the turkeys that roam about the city in the days leading up to the holiday (I am not exaggerating; there are literal hoards of them roaming the campus and surrounding neighborhood). Instead, it's the isolating feeling of a holiday break in a college town. Just the week prior to the holiday, I was hit with the realization that most of my friends would not be in Boston during the five day break. Two days before the official break and my first holiday alone, it felt as if the entire student population at Boston University had gone home for Thanksgiving. I think there was only one other student on my dorm floor, the security guards at the front doors weren't even in their seats, and the entire campus felt like a ghost town. I thought I had prepared myself for this, but I don't know if anyone can prepare themselves for these feelings. The best I can do is share my experience to prepare someone else should they find themselves alone on campus during a holiday.

Tuesday:

Although break had not technically started at this point, this was actually one of the worst days. My classes went as normal as they could be with less than half the students present (there was some miscommunication and multiple people went home before break officially started, while several others were sick with what BU students refer to as the 'BU Plague'). We presented our finals for Voice and Speech and worked on finals for Acting as best as we could. Despite smaller than usual classes, nothing felt off. That is, not until I walked back to my dorm alone in the dark while my phone was pinging with messages in my cohort's group chat saying how great of a semester we had and such. The semester isn't over. We still have three classes of acting left and then five or so classes left for core lectures. Then, while sitting in the dining hall alone, everything felt very different. Usually, you cannot escape the clatter of plastic dishes or the screaming of hundreds of 18 year old college students. On this Tuesday at 5:30, there were only thirty or so people in the dining hall, if even. It was like an empty void both externally and internally. The internal void didn't go away that night. Typically, I am very comfortable sleeping alone in a room. My roommate returns home every weekend, so I am especially used to being secluded in my dorm room for two days each week (and I often yearn for this weekly seclusion). For some reason that night, I had the worst feeling of loneliness and solitude. Maybe it was the looming holiday or the emptiness of campus or all the above, but I could not escape this feeling.

Wednesday:

By the time I woke up Wednesday morning, the empty feeling had been pushed aside as my focus turned to completing my errands before everything closed that afternoon. I took my required weekly COVID test, bought groceries, treated myself to food from my favorite local plant-based cafe (Life Alive) because the dining halls would be closed for most of the break, visited a local indie bookstore for Christmas shopping, and grabbed two poster boards from the dollar store for some arts and craft Christmas gifts I had planned out for the weekend. I saw eight turkeys roaming the campus during this time (third day in a row), was hopefully set with enough food for a few days, wasting my time with the freedom of no classes to attend, and feeling good. That is, until I got back to my dorm and realized it was only 12:15pm. Luckily, I had the arts and crafts and homework to work on. I had also plugged in my Nintendo Switch for the first time since arriving at college and hyperfocused on attempting to finally finish Pokemon Shield while watching endless YouTube and tv shows including a two hour video by Mike's Mic about Pretty Little Liars seasons one to three and a half and the first two episodes of Hawkeye on Disney+. Safe to say I was ready to settle in for the holiday and long weekend.

Thursday:

I don't usually wake up on holidays and instantly recognize it as such. It usually takes a few reminders. This holiday was very different. The moment I opened my eyes, I knew it was one of my least favorite holidays. This physically made me uncomfortable. In an effort to disassociate from all that, I instantly got up and rewatched the first two episodes of Hawkeye, because I hadn't actually fully processed them the day before. The aforementioned cohort group chat was blowing up with "Happy Thanksgiving" and "I'm thankful for all of you" messages that I begrudgingly--and, admittedly, guiltily--rolled my eyes at. My plans for the day were as follows: eat breakfast, rewatch Hawkeye, actually do the arts and crafts projects I had planned out, clean my dorm room because she is dusty, participate in a zoom call with my sister and mom, remember to eat, talk to an auditioning incoming freshman, play more games because that was fun, work on writing a paper for Introduction to Aesthetics and Dramatic Literature, tidy up my creative presentation for Adaptation and Remediation, and complete my paper for the end of the semester artistic conferences. By the end of the day, I got about half that done, which is amazing.

Friday and Saturday:

Honestly, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all seemed to meld into one. I woke up, ate breakfast, did arts and crafts, worked on writing this blog, actually remembered to eat food (which doesn't normally happen, so I'm very proud of myself), played Pokemon Go (as of Saturday, I am about to enter gym 8, the dragon type gym), watched the first five episodes of The Sex Lives of College Girls on HBO Max, rewatched Ginny and Georgia on Netflix for the fourth time despite my hating it, began watching season 3 of Dickinson on Apple TV+... everything seemed so normal. It just felt like a normal weekend holed up alone in my dorm. The only times where things felt different, like an actual holiday alone, were that Tuesday night in the dining hall, and my first thought upon opening my eyes on Thursday morning.

Altogether, my holiday wasn't as lonely as I thought it would be. I was worried for nothing. Keeping busy, finally doing the arts and crafts projects I've been wanting to do for months, and remembering to talk to real people are all very helpful. I also highly recommend doing arts and crafts on holidays. It's truly a wonderful experience that I hope will become my new holiday tradition. Sure, my dorm room is even more messy than it was beforehand, but I am so excited to clean it all up. I would show you all the arts and crafts I did, but that would spoil my mom's Christmas gift ; )

If you're still here after my long rambling regarding holiday loathing, the roots of American Thanksgiving, and my experience of the holiday alone, thank you. I hope you had a wonderful holiday whether you spent it with loved ones or alone.


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