Column: Stay grateful in the tough times

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November has been a long and rocky road, to say the least. Students were somehow expected to undergo the turmoil of the presidential election and then, in the same month, sit down with family and avoid getting into arguments about the results. 

College students experience the shock of the results more acutely than the general public because they constantly think and worry about the future they are expected to work in as a young adult. 

They have felt the tension brought on by the topics covered in the media, including never-ending coverage of shootings on the news and discussions about the Dakota pipeline, immigration policies, abortion, gun control and a smorgasbord of other topics.

Maybe the most nerve-wracking , however, were the presidential nominees who never spoke about these topics head-on and instead attacked each other.  

I am sure the tension has grown now that we have our president-elect. Just after the election, it looked as though we were mourning ourselves. 

Students are tired and unhappy, either because their candidate won and others are protesting, or because their candidate lost and they feel defeated and scared, as though the U.S. will fall to shambles overnight. 

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So, how did you fare on Thanksgiving day? Did your family bring up the election, or was it avoided to preserve the mood of the holiday? 

Thanksgiving has become more of a tradition now than an actual event to give thanks, just as Christmas is a commercialized holiday aimed at spending money to make others happy. It’s understandable why gratitude may not have been the first topic of discussion.

It’s easy to dismiss Thanksgiving as a real holiday and recognize it as more of an excuse to fill up on turkey and ham. But it’s also important to use the time to be grateful for things that are taken for granted each day, especially in a political climate that is trying to change those values so much. 

I grew up in a household that couldn’t afford expensive Christmas gifts like a new video game console, TV, or even a new phone. Each year, my mom would stress about buying me something that she could afford and which would still make me happy. Thanksgiving was a holiday about giving thanks, specifically for things like love from family, the ability to afford a new pair of shoes and for being able to celebrate a holiday when I knew it would be easier on my family’s wallet if we didn’t. 

I now spend a lot of time volunteering. My family’s condition has actually worsened since I left, but I try not to think about it much because I know they have weathered more storms than I could ever count. 

There are countless people in the world right now even less fortunate than I, in all sorts of different places, who have to spend their energy working toward rights they should already have. 

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It’s astounding, really, to think that there are people in Flint and the Dakotas who have to protest for the right to access clean drinking water. The Black Lives Matter movement had been going on for years and is still gaining momentum. LGBTQ groups are still establishing a place in our society. 

This country—on the brink of so many revolutionary movements—is full of potential and college students, as the next working class, have the power to enforce change by protesting, voicing opinions and using whatever privileges they have to help others who don’t. 

Although it may be difficult with problems on so many different fronts, this is a good time to reflect on how far we have come individually and as a nation. Many of us have had chances that others haven’t; even me, who grew up in a small, one-parent household on a dirt road for 18 years. 

College students have already accomplished an amiable feat considering all the years of preparation and stress leading up to college. No matter what you choose to do with your degree, you must remember that by simply being able to afford to go to college, you have had advantages that other students might not have. 

It is our duty now more than ever to invoke change and to support ideas, not people. Try to remember this next Thanksgiving when you’re at the dining room table expressing your thoughts about the president. It is more effective to advocate for disadvantaged people and express interest in a cause than to talk about a political leader whose ideas are so scattered that your family may feel threatened by the ideas you bring to the table. 


Follow Elizabeth Quinlan on Twitter.



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