A Day of Thanks

You know that saying, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone?” Well, I never really appreciated that until now. When I started college, living away from home for the first time, I did start to appreciate the little things that I had previously taken for granted: having a home-cooked meal every night, curling up in front of the fireplace when it was cold out, being taken care of when you’re sick, annoying my little sister. When I moved to school, however, I was still close enough to home that I could go back for a weekend and I was definitely close enough to always spend Thanksgiving with my family. This year was the first year that I had a “Friendsgiving,” which was actually quite fabulous, by the way. I was pleasantly surprised with the outcome of our meal (considering none of us had much cooking experience), we laughed until there were tears and our abs ached, and it was spent in the company of some extraordinary people, none of whom I would have met without coming on this amazing adventure. So it was a really great evening, but it being Thanksgiving, I began to reflect on what I am thankful for:

  1. My family. This is at the top of my list every year. It can be hard being so far away from them even though I actually talk to them more now than I did when I was at school in California. I think it’s the fact that I am literally on the other side of the world – I can’t just swing back home for a weekend if I want to. I was also super close to my grandparents and an aunt of mine. People I could see whenever I wanted to, and who I won’t see until I get back. Friends, as well. I won’t be seeing anyone over winter break because I will be here. It is a little weird. My parents and sister will actually be coming to Edinburgh for the holidays and not only am I (of course) extremely excited to see them, but I can’t wait to share some of my experiences with them. It’s one thing to describe an experience to someone, and it’s a completely different thing to experience it with them. Before coming to Scotland, I was always able to share big moments in my life with my family. I’m so happy I will be able to share a piece of this with them as well. I want them to experience the awe that I have been experiencing since day one of being here. It’s something you just can’t capture in words or with a picture.
  2. The sun. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I actually miss the heat. Well, let me rephrase that. I miss the warmth. I still hate the heat, but the lack of sunshine here is affecting me more than I thought it would. When I was in California, I was constantly complaining about how hot it always was, and how it never rained, and how we never had four seasons. And while it is nice to experience a bit of a change here, grey skies do get old fast. I still enjoy the cold, but I enjoy the cold when the sun is out. More often than not, the sky is grey, the wind is blowing something fierce, and it’s raining. You have to think about that if you want to spend the day walking around Princes St. (the outdoor shopping center), or enjoy the Christmas Market that is now open, or go grocery shopping, or just go outside. I never realized how restricting rain can be. Just this morning, I had to do a bit of grocery shopping. When I stepped outside, it was a little gloomy and just drizzling a bit, nothing too bad. I go to the store, get my stuff, and expect a similar walk home. When I stepped out of the store, it wasn’t raining at all. That was nice, considering I had three bags of stuff to carry and didn’t have an extra hand to use my umbrella. Then the wind started to pick up. And when I say pick up, I mean walking against the wind takes a significant amount of effort. Following the moments of calm after a big a gust, I felt like I was walking three times as fast than when I was fighting to go “upstream,” if you will. So, I’m about a third of the way home. A bit of wind but so far so good. Then, yup you guessed it, it starts to rain. At first it felt like just a little drizzle, but add the wind and it begins to feel a bit stronger, a bit colder, and those drops hitting your face feel less like water and more like little pebbles. And then the drizzle turns into a pour. Plus the wind. Plus me carrying three bags of groceries (in canvas, water-absorbent bags, might I add). Plus no umbrella – well I had an umbrella but no hands (and even if I did have a free hand, umbrella plus super strong wind is not a great combo). You’d think I’d be wearing a waterproof jacket or something. Or at least something with a hood. Nope. Needless to say, I was a little wet (i.e. VERY wet) when I finally got back to my flat. Had to dry off most of my groceries, too. I didn’t think I was, but it turns out that I am that extremely naive Californian who doesn’t know what rain is and doesn’t appreciate just how cold cold can be (and it’s not even the coldest time of the year!). Well, I am learning… slowly but surely (sadly, this is not the first time I have been caught super unprepared in the rain). I’m sure I’ll figure it out at some point… So, yeah, I miss the sun a little. I definitely took that for granted when I was in California.
  3. American brands/stores. I didn’t even think about this when I decided to come to Scotland. I mean it’s not like I was moving to some super remote part of the world or anything. But it is kind of weird when you want something specific and you either don’t know where to get it, or it’s too American so it just doesn’t exist here. And when you do see something familiar, you freak out a little bit, even if it’s something you would never actually buy if you were home. American stores are also so much bigger than any stores here. For instance, here there are like a million different grocery stores you can go to and each are slightly different – some are cheaper (Lidl is the cheapest), some are better for produce, and they all sell slightly different things (I’ve found some really random American stuff in Tesco). And they are SMALL. So if you go to any grocery store at peak time, be ready to stand in line for at least twenty minutes (I recommend going either early in the morning or late at night – go at the right time and you don’t have to stand in line). Also, if you are emotionally attached to any specific brands or items, buy a whole bunch before you get here. There is actually a bit of overlap in makeup, but, for instance, I had this amazing waterproof liquid eyeliner that I would get from Sephora back at home that doesn’t exist here. Same with the face lotion I use and the makeup remover I like. So, again, if there are specific things that you like, bring a sufficient amount with you. I didn’t think about this before I came, either.
  4. And, of course, I am so grateful for the fact that I am spending a year in Edinburgh. Regardless of all the things I miss, I am spending a year experiencing a new kind of life, meeting new people, and learning a ton about myself in the process. Honestly, part of my decision to study abroad was so that I could grow as a person and discover things about myself. Because, being in such a foreign environment (even if it doesn’t seem foreign at first) forces you to adapt and learn and discover things about yourself you wouldn’t have otherwise. Like everyone, I like being around what is familiar, I like being in my comfort zone. But that’s why I am spending a year here. I wanted to force myself out of my comfort zone. You will be amazed at what you find in the world, and within yourself.

There are so many things I am thankful for, but these were just a few that I wanted to put out there. It is also officially Christmas time! Since, Thanksgiving has passed, I can finally embrace the Christmas spirit (I’m a little more forgiving about seeing and hearing Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving here, since Thanksgiving isn’t a thing, but I hate when stores start throwing Christmas in your face at the beginning of November). During this time, I urge you to look around and appreciate everything in your life, no matter how small. We all have things to be grateful for and it’s easy to take them for granted. Stop to smell the roses, look up instead of down, and smile. 🙂

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Not too shabby for a bunch of college students making a Thanksgiving meal for the first time!

xoxo

Alex

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