One of the hardest things to do as a human is to reassess long-held beliefs, behaviors and traditions.
There’s a lot holding us in place. Our families, the media, and society keep us hanging on long past the time that it makes sense. I once had a job where I had to be careful of suggesting new ideas because if we did something once it became a tradition. Inspired by Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow and Adam Grant’s Think Again and J. Milburn’s Responsive Parenting, I have been interrogating my beliefs. Recognizing preferences for identity-first language over person-first construction, I stopped thinking of autism as a disease, I started to understand addiction as a perfectly reasonable response to trauma, and I am letting go of hands at 10 and 2 o’clock on the steering wheel.
Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday for a long time until it wasn’t. On the surface, it seems laudable: family togetherness, good food and gratitude. But as an adult navigating the holiday, I learned that Thanksgiving can be miserable for many and not that great for vegetarians. Everyone means well. Even though I am not evangelical about vegetarianism (it’s hard and it’s not for everyone), I have felt like a freak on Thanksgiving more than once. No surprise: that kills the good feelings around the holiday.
A couple of years ago, I decided to be very selective about Thanksgiving companions. I was tired of explaining myself and tired of less-than-hospitable behavior. Last year, the day was a non-event, spent like any other day off. And it felt … good. There was no pressure, no cooking marathon with piles of dishes, and no overconsumption.
This year, I am questioning a holiday that is as much about overindulgence as it is about family–maybe more. And it’s based on a false narrative that from an indigenous person’s point of view is hurtful. For some, the third Thursday in November is a day of mourning.
So I’m letting it go.
I know that’s controversial. And it’s very difficult. It’s hard to let go of a lifelong tradition, one that is deeply entrenched in U.S. culture. I respect the meaning and importance it has for others and I will try to feel thankful every day. But like hands on a steering wheel, I can shift.
After all, Gardein turkey cutlets are available year-round.