Orphan Week Essay: Why I’m Thankful I’m Not Going Home For Thanksgiving This Year

This Thanksgiving, I’ll give thanks for food, friends, and family (not necessarily in that order), but for the first time in my life, I won’t be spending the holiday passing the cranberry sauce to my mom or watching my dad awkwardly carve the turkey. Instead, I’ll be spending it more than a thousand miles away in my adopted home of Brooklyn, and I couldn’t be happier.

The truth is, while I’ll miss celebrating the holiday with my family, I’m looking forward to avoiding certain things. And no, I’m not referring to the judgment cast by my grandmother for biting my nails or for not sitting up straight, nor am I referring to the always-hellish experience of holiday airline travel. (Last year I was assigned a seat that had no cushion. Just a raw, curved piece of plastic. Good times.) No, I’m referring to the even more harrowing experience of running into people I knew in high school around my hometown when I least expect it. [tagbox tag= "Orphan Week"]

Like most people, I’m friends with what seems like all of my elementary, junior high, and high school classmates on Facebook. And like most people, that doesn’t mean I actually want to know all of them anymore. It’s actually become a little more awkward to run into some people when I go home to Atlanta, because now I know things about them that I wouldn’t have necessarily known had Facebook not existed.

For instance, a girl I’ve known since third grade is always going on about attending anti-abortion rallies. It’s weird enough to read about them from my couch in New York, but it’s far weirder to run into her at the grocery store when I’m visiting in Georgia. Now that I know that’s something she’s into, I can’t push it to the back of my mind. It’s like everyone I see walks around with funny labels because I have such a compressed understanding of who they are now. For all I know, the anti-abortion rally girl has taken up watercolors and enjoys mountain biking, but because of what she posts on Facebook, I simply see her as Anti-Abortion Rally Girl and not as the person who taught me all the words to Cantaloop during P.E.

It happens all the time, and it feels unfair of me to label people like I do. I’ll spy a former chemistry lab partner across the bar and think to myself, “Ah, Mitch. Sports Guy. Is there a football game he hasn’t commented on in the last five years?” Or, “Hey, there’s that former cheerleader who talks about NOTHING but her kids on Facebook. Maybe I should avoid her in the checkout line.” I’m sure people do the same thing when they see me, but despite all of this, we continue to make half-assed conversation and exchange pleasantries as though we still have something in common other than graduating from the same high school. But most of the time, we don’t.

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