As I briefly wrote in my previous post, when I found myself with a singular class that required my presence on campus a mere once a week, I had a hard time dealing with the resulting social isolation from my peers. As I also wrote, I was fortunate enough to tap into a support system that enabled me to discover ways to manage such struggles. Even so, I would like to retouch upon the same issue I wrote about before, but under a different context — the peaceful melancholy that creeps up during the fall as the semester comes to an end.
The Thanksgiving holidays have a bit of a unique distinction in the way that they herald the start of the holiday season, yet aren’t themselves lengthy enough to disrupt the curriculum. In my experience, we typically receive the Thursday and Friday of the week off for a long weekend, but then the semester continues on the same as usual. For this reason, Thanksgiving tends to feel like a brief holiday from school, as opposed to a lengthy break between semesters as with the Winter holidays. It is also for this reason, unfortunately, that the holiday often gives me the sense that it’s something I miss out from enjoying.
For most people, even the short Thanksgiving holiday is one of plans; people travel, reconnect with one another, and pass the evening with family. In my case however, it’s typically just another day off. I don’t have any extended family that can be easily reached and, due to my parents’ reclusive personalities, we have no family friends either. As I grew older and began to understand how others live, I asked my mother about this and she sympathized — she knew that I had a different personality than theirs and supported my social pursuits in any way that she could, but it did not change the fact that I would often feel somewhat “left out” whenever Thanksgiving would roll around. To no one’s fault, I would spend the holiday without anything “special” to do since the people who I would want to hang out with would have their own obligations during the holiday.
Due to this fact, on the occasion that I do have the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving in a comparatively notable way, the experience sticks with me as a pleasant memory. I can still recall how quiet the campus would become at UT Dallas — with the university closed during the holiday, students who lived within driving distance from their families simply went home. Only the students such as my room mate and I, whose families lived too far to justify a brief trip for the holiday, would remain and pass the time amidst the on-campus housing. These occasions would be quiet, but, since I was spending them with my school friends, they would also offer a certain melancholy about the serenity in our lives outside the typical school day. I treasured it, in a way.
Once I left UT Dallas, I found myself persisting in trying to spend Thanksgiving in a “social” way. One year, I passed the holiday by streaming Akiba’s Trip; using the built-in chat, the viewers and I were able to interact and comment on the gameplay live. Other years, I immersed myself in work – I distinctly remember running experiments in the lab one Thanksgiving, as one of my co-workers remarked what “dedicated” scientists we were for sacrificing our holiday. Still, there was a certain fun dynamic between our coworkers so I didn’t mind so much.
When Thanksgiving once again rolled around in late 2016, I didn’t exactly have any high hopes — owing to the fact that my school is in the Texas Medical Center, there is virtually no on-campus housing and thus no larking about when school is not in session. With nothing else to do, I found myself gravitating to multiplayer games (as I have done so before in the past). I’m not sure why, but perhaps it’s because I take a form of solace in the fact that I can spend time with others who seem to be passing the holiday at their computers — this was certainly the case when I was playing Eden Eternal (indeed, I became infamous within my guild for spamming the action button on my turkey mount). These days however, I haven’t seen too many MMOs that have interested me, but there was a multiplayer game that had been catching my eye…
Overwatch. I had seen all sorts of fanart and memes pertaining to the team-oriented shooter game, but I never actually bought the game due to me being busy with school. As luck would have it however, Overwatch was discounted on Blizzard’s site, so I figured… why not?
I already had fond memories of playing Team Fortress 2 at UT Dallas, which was gifted to my friends and I by my roommate “so we [had] something we [could] all play together” and Overwatch was somewhat similar in its gameplay. For this reason, I was pretty excited, especially because I was also enjoying the art style and the variety of characters. It wasn’t long before I started my very first match on the Nepal map as Tracer. I was (as usual) messing about during the game and wouldn’t you know it, Leah, a friend I recently added, decides to spectate my match just as I was unloading my pistols onto a statue of a horse in the middle of the map. So it was a bit of a delight to see her come on and just laugh because she caught me doing something that was such typical behavior for me.
Thus, I was able to start playing some matches with Leah, and I really enjoyed myself! Soon however, she had to leave, so I decided to text my brother to ask if he wanted to play (as he had bought the game a few months prior). He was thrilled that I had finally bought the game and was happy to explain the game mechanics as we played together. Given that I did not have a headset at the time, I had to clumsily use my MacBook as a makeshift microphone for a voice call, but it all worked out in the end. All in all, we had a great time passing the afternoon playing Overwatch.
So Thanksgiving wasn’t a total bust – I quite enjoyed being able to interact with my friends through Overwatch. Surprisingly, I was even able to get in the spirit of things during Black Friday when I went with my parents to a shopping center to help pick out holiday gifts. See, we don’t typically shop in this manner because we don’t really have any extended family and any gift giving during the holiday season is accordingly small-scale. That year however, my mother had become the branch manager for her bank and was shopping for all of her employees; it was a small thing, but it was still a fun change to be thinking of others while shopping rather than just immediate family. To top it off, another friend (Marianne) invited me the next week to a small (5 people) Thanksgiving dinner party which ended up being an absolute joy since it gave me the opportunity to celebrate the holiday in a more “traditional” manner and spend it with my friends. Sure the party ended with blood being spilled over the coffee table and Monica’s phone, but hey, that’s a different story.
Why then, if all this happened five months ago, am I writing about it now? Honestly, back in November, I felt that something was missing — as if my thoughts on the matter were formed, yet still incomplete. I suppose, in a way, it’s because I don’t consider Thanksgiving to be the point. This final semester, the semester of nursing school that I am currently in, is unique in the way that it consists of no classroom time; its entirety is comprised of “clinicals” in which students work alongside existing registered nurses. For this reason, one hardly gets the opportunity to see their classmates due to everybody’s individual schedules. The point is that I knew this semester was ahead of me. I learned a lot about myself over the past few months – but I suppose I wanted to wait and see if everything really was going to be okay.
But I have to say… I’ve been fine. I learned how to unwind and make time to spend time with others last semester. I’ve learned how to get my fill of social interaction outside of school and how to deal with stressors in healthy ways. In fact, my friends have been particularly helpful as of late as I’ve endeavored to keep my mind occupied – I currently find myself waiting to hear back from many of the jobs that I applied to earlier this year, and it is unlikely that I will get a position that I will actually be happy with. The wait has been a painful one. It is thanks to my friends that I have a Playstation 4 (an exceedingly generous gift from the holiday season) and the ability to play Persona 5 — a game that I have been looking forward to very much.
All is well, which is exactly why I chose this time to reflect. For now, I think I’ll just take my time, and see what will unfold before me.