Today is November 24, 2016. In the United States families and friends are sitting around tables topped with turkeys, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pies. Today, I’m sitting around a table four thousand miles away, in an apartment owned by my best friend from high school in a little city in France called Metz. Although a very tiny chicken has replaced our turkey, and raspberry jam attempts to hold the place of my favorite Thanksgiving side of cranberry sauce, today I’m still filled with immense gratitude.
I’ve thought a lot about everything I’ve been thankful for recently. Not necessarily because of the looming holiday, but because these past few weeks, I’ve woken up thinking about how much life has changed in the past year and how happy I am to have reached the point in life I am in right now.
I have a clear memory of Thanksgiving just one year ago. I visited my roommate, as I’ve done for the past two years. Thanksgiving with her family is usually a grand event with upwards of twenty guests each year. We eat a huge feast complete with ten different sides and five different deserts, relax and watch movies in the evening, and right before bed, her mom makes us her special chocolate chip cookies that are truly out of this world and serves it to us with a tall glass of cold milk.
Despite celebrating a wonderful holiday with an even more wonderful family, I remember sitting on my bed in the guest bedroom right after dinner, when a wave of anxiety and sadness swept over me. Before I knew it, I just started to cry.
The cry was a long time coming. It was like that strange phenomenon of getting sick right as you’re about to go on break from school. Your body decides beforehand that it’ll fight off this sickness because you need to keep going and get your work done, but the moment you relax, it decides it’s time to let it all go.
Like a cold, my negative emotions had begun brewing all last fall. I wasn’t happy with my classes, I was homesick for my family who was experiencing some health problems, the days had started getting shorter and colder, and my heart was still healing from being a little broken earlier in the year. I had pushed all to the side because I had to. I had to keep going, but the moment I didn’t have to anymore, all of my emotions began spilling over.
In that moment, crying in the guest bedroom of my roommates house, I remember asking myself if the overwhelming feeling of bleakness that I experienced almost every day of fall would ever go away. I wondered if I would ever feel normal again…
Fast forward a year later and life is very different. Today I’m visiting my very best friend who I haven’t seen in over three years. We’re eating a delicious meal that she prepared special for me, and her golden retriever puppy sits under the table licking leftovers off of my hand. The past few months have been some of the best ones I’ve ever had in my life meeting people from all over the world, visiting different countries, and seeing some of the most beautiful sights.
Today I’m most thankful for the ability to tell myself that no matter how hard times were, they got me where I am. Today thankful that I’m able to remind myself that even if times get tough again, they won’t be tough forever. Today I am grateful for what a year can bring.
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Nicole Von Wilczur
My name is Nicole von Wilczur, from Phoenix, Arizona. I'm a rising college junior attending Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. When I'm not studying, I enjoy fighting for social justice, being outdoors, photography, and learning to recite the lyrics to 90's and early 2000's rap songs. I've never traveled outside of the US, so I am very excited for the opportunity to be studying abroad in Granada, Spain, and sharing my experiences with you!