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Maybe you’re a product of a divorced family and don’t want to pick a side this year. Maybe you live on the other side of the country from your loved ones and travel expenses didn’t work out. Maybe you’re working and can’t get the day off. Maybe you don’t have family to celebrate with and going to a “friendsgiving” isn’t in the cards. Regardless of the reason — whether it be by choice or circumstance — there are many, many people out there who will be spending turkey day alone.
It definitely can be difficult if you’re spending the holiday by yourself, but trust me when I say it doesn’t have to be as heartbreaking as it sounds. In fact, I’ve spent the last three Thanksgivings on my own. I even spent a few Christmas days in complete solitude. Take it from a pro, it doesn’t have to be all that bad.
I’m not here to give you a “how to” guide for surviving Thanksgiving alone. The internet already gets oversaturated this time of year with survival tips and tricks for various holiday problems, so if you want that I’m sure there’s plenty of wisdom out there. What I am here to tell you is that you’ll be great if you make the day yours.
What do I mean by that? Well, don’t do something just because you feel you should on this particular day. Don’t want to eat turkey? No need to. Last year, I opted in to macaroni. This year? Mexican food. Feel like going to the park or hitting up the gym if it’s open? Go for it! After all, Monday will just be all of your coworkers talking about how “they need to go on a diet now” and that they “still feel soooo incredibly stuffed.” Maybe you’ll end up being the fit envy of your bloated office. Who knows.
My point is, Thanksgiving for one can be whatever you want it to be. Wanna get drunk at a local pub and play pool with a stranger? Hell yeah. Want to be “that person” who hits up the mall later that night because you want a new TV at a great price? I support you. Want to spend the day watching movie marathons? Absolutely, you should!
Also, you don’t have to feel pressured to be drafted in to another family’s Thanksgiving dinner if you don’t want to go. A few years ago, I was invited to spend Christmas Eve with a friend’s family since I wasn’t in town with my own. As kind as the gesture was, the situation oddly ended up making me feel more alone than actually being alone. If you don’t feel like accepting their offer, don’t.
Here’s the number one piece of advice I’ll give you if you’re riding solo this Thanksgiving: Do something kind for someone or something else. That’s it.
I’m not telling you to run in a 5k charity race or even volunteer at a soup kitchen. I mean, you definitely can! And that’s awesome if you choose to do that. But even a tiny act of kindness can make a world of difference in someone’s life. In a Starbucks line? Handle the coffee bill for the person behind you. Notice that your neighbor’s car is looking unkempt? Wash their car for them. See some trash on the sidewalk? Pick it up and throw it away. See a lost pet in need? Try and find its owner.
Maybe you think my advice is cheesy or sappy, but at least I’m not telling you that you should write a list of everything you’re thankful for soooooo you’re welcome (even though, full disclosure, I love doing that too). Look. Thanksgiving is not about comparing your “thankful” list to others’; it’s about looking at what you have and seeing how you can share it with others.
Now here’s a mini soapbox that’s meant for another column: Try not to be self-righteous if you opt in to my advice. The most egregious misstep of giving back is a selfie of someone volunteering with a hairnet on with the caption “#humble.” If you feel the desire to contribute to a wonderful organization’s efforts, social media will be ready for you when you’re done pitching in — not during. Giving back doesn’t exist so you can Instagram your good deed and gain a holier-than-thou status with your internet friends, nor is my advice something I give because it will make you feel better about yourself or make you feel heroic.
I give this advice because I genuinely believe that small acts of kindness are the catalyst to a bigger cascade of goodness in the world. After all, people aren’t in need exclusively during the holiday season and we could all use a little more positivity in our lives.
I have zero regrets about spending various holidays alone. Some years, I will drive to the beach alone and just spend hours with my dog playing fetch in the sand. Other years, I will volunteer and then unwind by getting drunk and decorating a Christmas tree. If you’re spending any holiday alone, I tip my hat to you. Personally, it’s taught me to enjoy my own company and grow very comfortable in my solitude. You might think that’s sad, but I think it’s pretty fucking powerful.
In all honesty? Spending Thanksgiving(s) alone might just be the best self-reflective idea that I never even meant to have..