We shouldn’t say “survive” when talking about the holiday season

Columns, Feature, Opinion, Student Life

I can say with some certainty that most people who will read this article have some of the same problems that I do when it comes time for the holiday season. Many of us liberal millennials are stuck sitting around a dinner table with 10 or so aunts and uncles, all of whom are talking about what a great job they think Donald Trump will do as president. We have to hold our tongues, for the most part, because either our parents would kill us for causing a scene, or our parents are active members of the overzealous Republican dinner table.

In all honesty, I love my family, no matter what religion, political party, or sexual escapades they partake in. The only thing that could make me finally begin arguing about and questioning some of my family member’s values would be if my grandmother were to pass away. Unfortunately for me and everyone else, the inevitable happened on Sept. 28, 2016.

Upon her death, I began imagining what our dinner table would look like at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The first thing I began to worry about was how we were going to eat. My grandma showed great dedication to preparing meals for the family, so I was nervous for a brief moment that we were all going to starve.

After getting over the more docile, irrelevant fear, I began to wonder what the dinnertime conversations were going to be like. Would I be able to hold my tongue about things like police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement? Was I going to be able to hold back tears while defending my liberal ideology to people who could care less what I have to say about my personal beliefs? Without my grandmother around, I was unsure of where the conversation would go and who would calm everyone down when things got slightly heated.

With knots of nervousness and partially digested stuffing in my stomach, I entered my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving day, fully prepared to have to be defensive. The craziest thing, though, was that no one was talking.

Most of the men in my family clonk out after their third or fourth plate of food, and this year was no different. I was greeted by muffled snores from two of my uncles and grandfather, along with the silent plays of whatever football game was muted on the television. My aunts and cousins were playing Pictionary at the dining room table, a yearly ritual that my grandma never partook in.

Normally, Pictionary causes deep disputes between my aunt and myself. We yell and throw the dice, and we are almost always scolded. Everyone this year, though, was almost silent, as if they were waiting for someone to speak up someone who never would again.

After about 15 minutes of being in a now unfamiliar house with seemingly unfamiliar faces, I excused myself to the bathroom, locked the door, and cried.

Holidays are a time of love and cheer, and political drama. In fact, that should go on a Hallmark card. Growing up, I mostly just went along with what my family believed to be true. For example, I didn’t understand why the gay marriage debate was important until I was about 15, which is unfortunate to have to say.

I grew up in a conservative family; Southern Baptist Republicans who love God, John Deere, and country music. I, however, never related to any of those things. I felt like the black sheep a lot at family gatherings, and my grandma helped me not to feel so alone.

Now, she didn’t make me feel less alone because she agreed with me about anything. In fact, we disagreed on most things. My grandma always made me feel included because she loved me. She loved me and the rest of my family with everything she had to give, no matter who we loved, what political ideology we affiliated ourselves with, or even what football team we rooted for.

After seeing the lack of judgement from my family members this year, I began to realize that maybe loss is one of the most important things we can experience in our lives. Maybe we have to lose the most important thing to us to realize that the only thing we can do for people is love them. We cannot change anyone, or make them believe what we believe. Sometimes we cannot make them see the error of their ways, and we can’t make them apologize without them being willing. What we can do, though, is love them.

Unconditional love seems to be a lost art these days, given the consistently heartbreaking hate crimes that continue to happen every day, inside and out of our country. Now isn’t the time to argue about why it’s better to be a Democrat than it is a Republican, but to try and educate each other on how we think we can make this world a better place.

When first thinking about this story, I expected that I would have some sort of terrible experience to base my opinion off of. I anticipated the worst from a group of people that I claim to love, and that wasn’t fair of me.

We’ve lost two of our own classmates and friends this year. Many of us have experienced loss and sadness outside of school. Some of us have been victimized by things like sexual assault, bullying, and hate slurs. And yet, here you all are, reading this semi-manic opinion piece.

Like I’m sure most of you do, I’m hoping for some peace and prosperity in 2017. I’m also looking forward to seeing the growth that has to happen in all of our lives in order to ensure that we can use the holidays for what they were always meant for; to celebrate one another and togetherness, not hate. Let’s make our New Year’s resolutions to love each other, unconditionally, and to never, ever give up.

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