Turkey trendsetter Alison Herman defends the anti-holiday: sticking around Columbia over Thanksgiving.
Thursday morning, I’ll be taking the Metro North train out to Westport, Connecticut for my Thanksgiving meal. Thursday evening, I’ll be taking the train back into the city and spending the rest of my holiday break the way I have for the past two years: on a completely empty, blessedly quiet campus.
The idea of sticking around for some or all of Thanksgiving weekend strikes most of my friends as depressing. “Won’t you get lonely?”, they ask as they board the M60 for LaGuardia. “Don’t you want to escape the city for a few days?” The answer, in short, is no.
As for many Columbia students, my sticking around for the break isn’t entirely a matter of choice. I’m from Southern California, meaning that a trip home takes both more time and more money than is necessarily worth it for a short few days in San Diego. Many other students are in the same boat; traveling’s expensive and inconvenient, especially for those whose families don’t even celebrate American Thanksgiving.
But sticking around Morningside is more than just a matter of logistics. I’m fortunate enough to have extended family in the area with whom I’ve happily celebrated Thanksgiving (and this year, Thanksgivukkah), complete with family recipe squash mash and a prestige movie matinee showing. But that leaves a full three-day weekend I’ve come to value as a much-needed break, and not just because it gives me a full seventy-two hours to recover from my tryptophan coma.
Columbia is stressful and weird because people are stressed and weird, blah blah blah. So yeah, it’s nice to have a break from the grind. But as to why one should spend that break in New York as opposed to literally anywhere else? One word: staycation.
We get a lot of our brochure copy/sense of superiority from the fact that we’re theoretically “right in the middle” of Manhattan, even though we’re actually closer to half of New Jersey than what most of our friends from home think of when they think of “the city.” And there are fewer forces of nature stronger than the Columbia Bubble, that illogical mindset that keeps us in Butler and off the subway even when we’re doing nothing more productive than finishing all of Orphan Black in 24 hours. But a funny thing happens when one sticks around for break: the Bubble dissolves.
Without classes or club meetings or even parties keeping you tethered to campus and the surrounding five-block radius, the psychological barrier between you and the Strand or the Brooklyn Flea or even that one coffee shop you wouldn’t mind sitting in for a few hours disappears. It’s that feeling of actually living in the city as opposed to just going to school in one of its neighborhoods familiar to those of us who’ve been here over the summer, except that New York in November and New York in June are two completely different animals. And between Thanksgiving and fall break, we only get a handful of chances to see New York in Autumn before everyone else comes flooding back onto campus, with reality (and finals) close behind.
Speaking of other people: don’t underestimate the value of some alone time. Not having to worry about which of one’s friends is most likely to step foot on the 1 train is liberating; not even thinking about which half a dozen people to text about Friday night plans even more so. As one of the few people who’s around for the whole weekend, what you do is your decision and yours alone. Social anxiety about what everyone else is doing isn’t an option, since “everyone else” isn’t around to make you feel weird about getting excited for the Rockefeller Center tree like a five-year-old or not leaving your room for the entire day.
So while I’ll be alone for Thanksgiving break, I’m not counting on being lonely. Campus is quiet over break, chilled-out and slow-paced. That’s enough of an escape for me.
Carbs on carbs courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.