Airbnb booked, bus tickets ready, suitcase halfway packed. A Nina Simone record was playing in the background as I looked around my bedroom for travel essentials. After checking next week’s weather in NYC, I added an umbrella to my luggage. I always hesitate about bringing readings on trips to New York. Not taking them excludes the opportunity for me to do homework, and yet realistically I never really study during short vacations in the city.
This Thanksgiving is going to be pretty routine: meet up with friends, shop for winter boots and Christmas presents, and finally have dinner with family friends Thursday evening. My parents and I scheduled a Skype session on the night of Thanksgiving – they’d be having breakfast in China while I’d be nibbling on a slice of leftover pumpkin pie. I could practically already hear my mom nagging me to stop eating sweet things after dinner, while my dad may shush her and let me eat however much that pleases me. The only divergence from my usual plans is my Airbnb host’s invitation to join her family in serving food to the homeless Wednesday night – something I happily agreed to. It has been five long years since I did anything close to charity – besides that one time when I rush edited a friend’s last minute application essay – and it is high time I broke that half-decade streak.
This Thanksgiving is also going to be my sixth one spent in Manhattan. While during the day I usually visit friends outside the city, it only seems right to return to my American city of origin when night falls. My first Thanksgiving in America was during my junior year of high school, when I still had no clear idea what university I wanted to go to or even the slightest clue as to what I wanted to do with my life. Last year however, I felt slightly strange that it was my first Thanksgiving without the company of family members. But this Thursday, it’ll feel like a perfectly ordinary time for happy reunions and sleeping-in. I am spending more time worrying about getting grad school applications in on time than missing my family!
Time has softened the rougher edges of my memories these past six years, but has not changed too much all the things that I feel thankful for.
I am always grateful for the company and support from my friends, kindness from my family, and for all the wonderful people who have helped me reach my professional and academic dreams. In giving back to community, I look forward to serving food to the homeless and experiencing a day in their shoes. Thanksgiving is not the same if we don’t give of ourselves in sharing what we can with what we have.
You can contact Sally Gao at firstname.lastname@example.org.