Oberlin Blogs

Blogging Thankfully: Old Photographs, Friends, and Destructive Consumerism

December 6, 2014

Brendan Nuse ’17 and Frances Casey ’17


Thanksgiving has always seemed like a pretty strange holiday to me. You're supposed to give thanks for all the good things in your life while you gorge yourself on as much food as you can...? To me, it seems like if you're going to express gratitude, you should be practicing restraint and sharing what you have with others, rather than taking as much as you want for yourself. This day of "thanks" seems even stranger when it is juxtaposed with Black Friday, where you're supposed to go out and get in physical fights with people so you can get as many things as you can get your hands on. I can't remember a Black Friday in New Jersey where I did not read about someone being hospitalized after being trampled by shopping carts in a Walmart. This year, such an allegedly patriotic holiday seems especially strange given recent events in Ferguson, MO. The fact that said events transpired just a few days before a day where we're supposed to give thanks for our country kind of gives me a government conspiracy theory vibe...maybe I've read too many young adult dystopian fiction novels.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving I spent my day in Oberlin, or more precisely in Burton (my dorm). I went outside twice, both times to go to Stevie to get food. I guess that sounds kind of sad when you consider how Thanksgiving is supposed to be a holiday about spending time with family and friends, but I enjoyed being by myself part of the day and hanging out with a few of my friends who were here too the rest of the time.

Going to Stevie for Thanksgiving was also pretty interesting. There was a "Thanksgiving Meal" from 1-3 P.M. in Stevie. The time itself was pretty interesting to me, and I assumed it was so the wonderful people who work in the dining hall could go home and have Thanksgiving with their family afterwards. I'm sure that was part of the reasoning, but I also found out that many people traditionally have dinner earlier in the afternoon than a normal dinner on Thanksgiving. My family always had dinner around 6 or 6:30 P.M., which is also the time they normally eat, so I hadn't realized that that was atypical.

Last year, my parents came to me for Thanksgiving. The three of us went to the Cleveland Zoo along with two of my friends. The zoo was free on Thanksgiving, which was pretty exciting, but I was a little intimidated by my friends, both of whom are biology majors who worked at zoos in the summer and are full of fun facts about animals. Although it was fun having my parents meet my friends last year, I think that this year's Thanksgiving was also fun, albeit in a different way.

Being mostly by myself for Thanksgiving gave me a lot of time to reflect on Thanksgiving and the meaning of gratitude (wow that sounds so corny), which is probably the cause of the first paragraph of this post, but it also inspired me to think about the things I am thankful for, both in general and at Oberlin specifically.

So, in the "true" spirit of Thanksgiving, and following in the lead of some of my fellow bloggers, here is a list of ten things I am thankful for:

1.I'm thankful that I have friends here at Oberlin who are willing to sit through many episodes of rather lackluster anime with me, and I am especially thankful that one of those friends was here for Thanksgiving - watching T.V. until you feel sick isn't sad if you do it with another person, right?

2.Although I often don't give them enough credit, I am thankful to my parents for putting up with me. I'm sure I was and am not an easy child to put up with, but they've somehow managed to do it for over 19 years. Oh, and I'm grateful that they pay (most of) my tuition, too.

3.I'm thankful that I go to a school where questioning social injustices is not only accepted, but also encouraged. I am thankful that I feel that I can speak about the things that I wrote about in the first paragraph of this blog post without fear of (too much) backlash. I am thankful that the administration at this school makes some effort to help marginalized groups at this school, and I am even more grateful that the students at this school call the administration out when it is not doing enough. I am also thankful that I can learn about these injustices in my coursework, rather than just having to find information online, like I am sure I would have to at some other schools.

4.I am thankful for the Chinese department at Oberlin! I took Chinese for a long time before I came to Oberlin, but I have never been pushed as hard in my language learning as I have been in my three semesters here. I'm pretty sure that I learned more in the first half of my first semester of Chinese here than I did in my last two years of high school. All of the Chinese professors I have had here are amazing, and have been willing to help me out with anything I need, be it Chinese or anything else.

5.I'm thankful for the great support I've gotten from professors at Oberlin, especially my advisor. My advisor has had to put up with his fair share of mental breakdowns, and has always remained friendly and helpful. He's also always willing to help me out if I need help getting into a course or finding a Winter Term project, and he always lets me know if he sees an opportunity that he thinks I would enjoy. I think it is amazing that I got matched with an advisor who is such a good fit for me even though I really had no idea what I was going to major in going into college.

6.I am thankful for my roommate, who always puts up with my rants about the power of friendship or my complaints about his lack of work ethic. He's always there to provide a strange animal noise when one is needed.

7.I am thankful that I was able to find vegetarian food in Stevie, even on Thanksgiving. Although Frances will be quick to espouse the merits of OSCA, which I don't deny, it is good to know that there are options even for the non-OSCAns among us.

8.I'm thankful that I've had the opportunity to come to a school that fits me as well as Oberlin does. I think it is important to acknowledge that many people don't have the economic privilege to attend such an expensive school. Although the cost of college certainly has not been easy for my family to handle, I am so grateful that I have been able to come here despite that. I'm sure that I could have been happy at many schools, but I'm not convinced there is one out there that fits me better than Oberlin does, so I'm glad I've had the opportunity to be here.

9.I'm thankful for Frances! She stays here blogging with me despite my shenanigans, the many vaguely offensive nicknames I come up with for her, and the unflattering old pictures of her I consistently uncover. I couldn't ask for a better bromigo to blog with.

10.I'm thankful that even though this blog post will probably go up quite a bit after Thanksgiving no one is going to complain about that...right?


During this time of year, when the days are short and the air is colder, we are compelled to get together with people we love, indulge in some delicious food, and get away from the rest of our lives, where our obligations often keep us from looking inward and asking ourselves what we are thankful for in our lives. This Thanksgiving, I was fortunate enough to spend time with my family and friends, to take a break from my studying, and relax. Like Brendan mentioned, I have plenty of misgivings about the consumerism and "patriotic" origins of this holiday. However, I was happy to have any chance at all to take a much-needed pre-finals break, and enjoy the company of those who I love.

This Thanksgiving, I didn't go home to California, and instead visited my extended family in Baltimore, MD. My parents also flew in from San Francisco, and it ended up being the first time in many years that every member of my dad's side of the family was all gathered in one place. My grandmother turned 90 this month, so we were also celebrating that impressive milestone. I had a great time seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins, whom I rarely get to see more than once or twice a year. It was also great being able to take a short one-hour flight, instead of the arduous journey of airport connections and five-hour flights that are required to get home to California.

Our Thanksgiving meal took place at my aunt's home, and it was delightful. I was seated at the "kids table," where I was the youngest "kid" in attendance. There was warm sauerkraut served, a sort of gross family tradition (although it might be a Maryland thing? Marylanders, help me out here!). It was about as Norman Rockwell-y as a Thanksgiving can get.

Another cool thing I got to do over the break was excavate a ton of old family photographs of my grandmother's. My cousins and I found hundreds of old pictures that I had never seen before! As a nerdy history major, this was very exciting for me. I found everything from embarrassing pictures of my dad as a tween to 1940s glamour shots of my grandmother. I also found out that some ancestors of mine lived in Cleveland, proving it was my destiny to come full circle and go to Oberlin, of course.

There is so much I am thankful for in my life, my family being one of them, of course. I'm also so incredibly grateful for:

My education here at Oberlin. I am so lucky to have access to higher education, and to be able to attend a school that I love. I also acknowledge that I am incredibly privileged to have the ability to pay for my education here.

My friends, both here at Oberlin, and at home. I have made some wonderful friends here at Oberlin, who I have become remarkably close to in the year we have known each other. I'm lucky to have these folks around when I'm delirious at Fourth Meal after spending four hours in the library reading about fracking. I also have friends from home that I have kept in touch with and stayed close to since moving to Ohio, and I'm so lucky to have them to return to during breaks and over the summer!

The opportunity to eat in Harkness, and to be a part of OSCA. I love walking into the Harkness kitchen and finding bread, fresh out of the oven, that I can eat. I enjoy eating meals that I had a hand in preparing. I am so lucky to have the resources to eat in a cooperative space that celebrates making informed decisions about the food that we eat. On the subject of food, I am also thankful for DeCafe, my snack heaven. Its bounty has gotten me through countless paper writing sessions and early morning classes.

Brendan! He is the best bromigo to blog with. He puts up with me despite my awkward attempts at rapping, my badly timed jokes, and my inability to stick to deadlines. Thanks for being you, Brendan.

I'm also incredibly thankful for Cape Cod potato chips, my cats, and my Netflix subscription; I could go on and on.

I have one last thank-you to give:
During Thanksgiving break this semester, I, along with millions of other people around the world, was horrified and enraged by the news coming from Ferguson, Missouri. I would personally like to thank all of the activists and organizers on this campus who have been working tirelessly to provide healing spaces, educate others, and make their voices heard since last week. Your work makes me proud to attend Oberlin College. Thank you.

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