Giving Thanks: A Reflection on Thanksgiving for Three

 

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By Collier Curran

Even as my desk is piled high with papers and textbooks and my laptop has seventeen tabs open, my mind wanders to thoughts of mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and family. As the semester–and midterm season–trudges on, my excitement for Thanksgiving only builds; I open my eyes every morning and immediately grab for my phone to check the number of days left until the 23rd. In this age of only seeing family and hometown friends every few months, I can’t help but reflect on how my relationship to this holiday, and to my home, has changed.

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a somewhat typical day. Sure, my mom had spent most of the previous day cooking, but roasted chicken (we don’t like turkey), mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce were hardly a rarity in my house. I am incredibly lucky to have been born to a modern-day Julia Child; if I ever had a bad day, or a good day, or even an okay day, my mom was cooking. We almost always had a sit-down, home-cooked dinner as a family, but every few weeks we would enjoy a feast similar to that of Thanksgiving as a treat. While I was always grateful for the delicious food in front of me, I had somewhat grown used to it.

My Thanksgivings were also typical in terms of the company. I cannot remember a time where I ate Thanksgiving dinner with someone who didn’t live in my house (or next door, when my grandparents lived one block away). For one reason or another, my mom always cooked the Thanksgiving meal, and my very immediate family always enjoyed it. In this way, an artfully prepared meal with the members of my household just felt like another Thursday. Sure, the Macy’s Parade was on TV in the background, and my dad I ran in our town’s 1.4 mile Turkey Trot (I will admit that me running meant it was not a typical day), but once those festivities ceased, we engaged in typical family time.tumblr_lus03cg5181qav5oho1_500

After leaving for college, Thanksgiving took on a whole new meaning. My first year at school, I lived off of subpar meals from the dining hall, and now, I mix take-out with semi-homemade dinners that would even make Sandra Lee cringe. A meal homemade by my mom is something I miss every day, almost as much as the company.

I’m always saddened when I think about how little I appreciated the beauty of Thanksgiving when growing up. I was fortunate enough not only to share a bountiful meal in a welcoming home, but also to eat that meal with the strong and beautiful women in my life. Though the makeup of my household has changed slightly throughout the years, I have never had a shortage of inspiring family members, despite the small number. I currently live with my mother and my grandmother, both of whom challenge and motivate me every day. I know now that I will never again take for granted sharing a table with them, and coming home to experience everything I love about my town and the place that unrelentingly supports and encourages me. I am who I am because of these small family dinners, and even if we do not fill up my dining room table, I would not trade them for anything.Chast_2010_11_22_0071215-Thanksgiving-Slideshow2

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Alone or Lonely?

 

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By Willa Cuthrell-Tuttleman

It’s Thursday afternoon and I’m sitting on the steps across from Milbank. It’s sunny but chilly outside, and I’m sipping a hot coffee. There are students around me; some of them are talking in groups, some in pairs. Another girl, alone, like me, is sitting on the step above me, eating an orange and looking at her phone.

Before I entered college, people told me that I was going to have some of the best years of my life here. An important part of that experience, they said, was the lifelong connections and friendships that I would make, the late nights, the wine parties.

I kept this in mind all throughout last year, especially during NSOP, when new students were scrambling to make as many friends and meet as many people as possible. People went from being best friends during NSOP to acquaintances when classes began. I think about several people who I’d become “best friends” with within the first couple days of orientation, and how quickly they fizzled out and amounted to, at most, a smile when passing each other on the way to class.

Last year, socialization was important to me. I hated being alone, so I filled my schedule with lunch dates, outings, movies, etc. I made plans like crazy. But I felt on a deeper level that these social interactions, at least in the first month of college, were superficial. But I was happy, because at least I wasn’t ever alone.

Because all the freshmen lived in close-quarters and had similar eagerness to “get involved” in the social scene, clubs, organizations, etc., being constantly social was easy, and it was something that I got used to.

I’m a sophomore now, living in Plimpton. No more communal bathrooms or kitchens, no more walking out into halls of people heading to the shower in a bathrobe. Often, I’m in my room. I don’t like going out as much; things are too far away. Introducing myself to new people is harder now, since I’m not new to the school anymore, and I don’t technically have an incentive to branch out. Yet, at the same time, I am a bit lonely; looking at what everyone is doing on social media is disheartening. It’s easy for me to feel isolated, or to feel as if I’m not doing anything, as if I’m wasting my college experience, and I’m feeling more and more these days like a loner. For a while, this was very difficult for me– at times, it still is– but I’ve learned that being alone isn’t always a bad thing.

When I was hyper-social last year, I felt good about having a full schedule, a rich social life, a group text, etc. However, I often felt compelled to keep up relationships and people that didn’t make me feel good. I felt anxious all the time, desperate to be liked, wondering why someone didn’t answer a text that I’d sent a day ago. The worry that came with all of these things was exhausting. While I still experience these feelings, I’ve found that taking time for myself has been helpful. Being alone on my own volition took mountains of social pressure off – I’m beginning to enjoy walking by myself, studying by myself, having dinner by myself, without worrying about what I’m supposed to be doing, such as having dinner with five friends every night. This semester, I’ve learned the value of having just a few really great individual friendships; I’ve learned the relief of not having to belong to a group, and most importantly, I’ve learned to love alone time.
That’s not to say that I still don’t sometimes experience episodes of loneliness on campus, FOMO, sneaking suspicions that that one friend doesn’t actually like me that much, the feeling that I’d made someone mad, etc. I still experience these things, which I think, I hope, is part of the larger experience of existing as a social being, but something that I ultimately learned this semester is finding value, enjoyment, and serenity in being alone, and that being alone shouldn’t and doesn’t necessarily equate to being unhappy.

Journalism. For or Against?

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Jaime Kedrowski / Missourian

By Ruby Samuels

It was late afternoon, right in the middle of midterms and the red-eyed students in my sociology class were just getting into the topic of the day: mass media’s negative influence on social movements. We were not talking about “fake news,” Breitbart or Alex Jones radio. We were talking about the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the four other “corporate” media companies that we were informed have been purveyors of skewed information both nationally and internationally for over a century.  

As I sat back and listened to my fellow classmates, some of whom are social activists themselves, speak about the media as a rabid and biased generalized other, I was taken aback. They described unwelcome “swarms” of reporters descending on protests that they participated in. They spoke about how even the most openly liberal and anti-Trump reporters are empowering the president by shining a spotlight on his misdeeds. They spoke of how the Women’s March, the largest single-day protest in American history, only reached front page news because it was all about Trump, the man whose name and hair gets people to read articles. Therefore, they said, protests that don’t explicitly resist the president are not covered. They spoke of how the widespread negative coverage of the antifa movement halts progress against white nationalism. Lastly, they said that journalists cover protests as though they are isolated events, which limits the information that readers can absorb about the political and social context that gave rise to the movement in the first place. usa-new-york-daca

A lot of the points that were made in class this week are valid, but I am still grappling with how journalists could be so mistrusted by college students in an era full of headlines that seem to be on their side (in opposition to the current administration). Media may be somewhat inherently  biased– after all, reporters are human beings too– and everyone should learn to be a critical consumer, but I’ve always thought that journalism was a noble and necessary part of democracy. How else can everyone else, who spend most of their waking hours working in their own fields, be made aware of the political, cultural and economic events that shape, however abstractly,the world they live in?

In class, we have also read about zines and citizen journalists with their own publications and distribution methods, who are openly biased and seek to inform the public of their cause. But we still need people whose whole job is to report the news, who are trained in a professional setting to research, report and write about events that their personal ideologies aren’t already tangled up in. Don’t we?

Yes, we have fantastic, well trained, full-time reporters like Amy Goodman from Democracy Now! and Rachel Maddow, who take an activist approach to journalism. But we still need sources that ride the line between parties, that will be listened to by more than the liberals in the preacher’s choir, that can’t be called fake news so easily.

The book we were assigned to read for class that day is called “The Whole World is Watching,” named after the chant of anti-war demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. The author, Tom Gitlin, mainly talks about just that– Vietnam protests and the way that major news organizations allied with the Johnson Administration’s pro-war agenda to frame the anti-war protesters as a bunch of riotous hippies. I never got the sense that Gitlin intended to convince his readers that media is the enemy. He just seems to have wanted readers to realize that whatever they read, it’s not the whole truth.

In any case, times have changed. Journalists are still part of an elite intellectual class, which they supply with one version of the truth. As Gitlin wrote: “Simply by doing their jobs, journalists tend to serve the political and economic elite definitions of reality” (pg. 12). But these days, at least, journalists also uncover stories that politicians and certain members of the elite would rather not be shared. Journalists, however, can’t take sides, even when covering injustice and the movements that hope to be the solution. As the New York Times wrote in May:

“The question is which approach is more effective — when The Times looks as if it has joined the resistance, or when it excavates facts without prejudice? In the legal system, it’s the difference between an investigator and a prosecutor….Some readers, alarmed over a Trump presidency, want the newsroom in full combat mode”

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I think that recent events show that journalists are not turning their cheek to social movements. Six reporters, for example, were charged with felonies and arrested (four of whom acted even after seeing the consequences faced by the first two) for covering inauguration day protests in January,  under the premise that they were violating a Washington D.C. law against rioting. Just a few weeks ago, reporters repeated again and again the date of the deadline for DACA recipients to renew their two-year period of legal status. And what about coverage of the protests that have nothing to do with president Trump?

I’m still left with questions about how to go about doing journalism in a way that maintains the reporter’s role as the white helmet in a war of words. How do journalists cover the news in a way that reveals the structural inequity that leads to protests while also revealing the truth of the other side? How do journalists remain truly unbiased, or reveal their biases without losing readers?  What I do know is the less  that social activists trust the press, the less free the press can be to uncover the stories that those activists  and everyone else need to know. 

One Week in The Social World Has Me Rethinking the Basis of My Identity

 

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By Sinead Hunt

This semester, in a dual attempt to a) become a much more well-rounded student and b) fulfill Barnard’s “Thinking About Social Difference” requirement, I enrolled in “Introduction to Sociology: The Social World.” Although it is still early in the semester, this class has already managed to challenge my most fundamental conception of my identity.

As an economics major, I’m used to grappling with difficult mathematical concepts, to stripping people of their humanity and viewing them as the mere sum of their economic transactions. If economics is cold and calculating, then sociology is the diametric opposite. In order to understand the forces that drive individual human behaviors, sociologists fully integrate themselves into people’s daily lives. They infiltrate churches and schools, hospitals and boardrooms, camouflaging themselves in order to produce writing that is both academic and intimate.

sociology.pngThis week, as part of our examination of the development of the self, we studied the work of George Herbert Mead, who is best known for his theory that a person’s identity is developed through their social interactions. At first I was rather resistant to Mead’s idea of identity formation through “social experiences and activities,” mostly because I have always tended to avoid social interactions. However, one thing I have learned thus far is that regardless of whether or not you subscribe to certain social norms, they nonetheless govern your life. Just because I was an anti-social preschooler doesn’t mean that I am the rare exception to Mead’s theory. Even as a four year-old, my fierce independence was fueled by the self-aggrandizing delusion that I was somehow above my peers, above my teachers, and most of all, above the patronizing institution of pre-K.

2f242f718d575fbc3adf7e286cb47095Mead believed that play is integral to children’s formation of identity, as it allows children to take on different roles, thereby adopting the perspective of others. I remember distinctly that one day I was playing with a friend of mine, Amanda, when she imperiously announced that she would play the role of a princess and I her servant. I               still remember bitterly choking down tears as

I began to feel an acrid mixture of rage and resentment. I also remember feeling unbridled glee when I turned the tables on Amanda by channeling my pent up feelings of injustice into revenge. Play allowed me to experience of wide range of perspectives, all from the comfort the comfort of my home.

Mead posits that at a certain point, children’s conception of “self” is transformed by what he refers to as the “generalized other.” This is to say, when you are a very young child, your sense of self is predicated upon how your family members and caretakers perceive you. As you move out into the world, however, and begin to interact with those outside of your family circle, your identity is increasing influenced by how you think others perceive you. Your sense of self is increasingly predicated upon what you believe society expects of you.

In class, our professor asked us one simple question: “Who do you think you are?” She instructed us to summarize our identity in one word and write it down in our notebooks. As those around me diligently obeyed her directive, I couldn’t help but pause. The first thing I thought to write was “smart.” For about as long as I can remember, I have identified as “smart,” predicating not only self-worth, but the very essence of my sense of self upon my intelligence. When I was very young, I had no conception of my own intelligence or abilities. I felt no ambition, no desire to achieve, no impulse to prove myself to anyone: I simply just existed. Mostly I was content on fulfilling my own preschool version of hedonistic desires, which mostly consisted of fruit snacks.

It wasn’t until second or third grade that I began to internalize what my teachers thought of me. My teachers expected me to achieve, so in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy, I began to achieve at high levels. My mother once recounted to me a horrifying story about her coming home, only to discover that nine-year-old me was stressing about an upcoming state science exam. When she asked me why I felt so anxious, I responded that I had heard the teachers talking about me, and they had expressed a certainty that I would get a perfect score. Suddenly, I felt not only an obligation to perform well, but to perform perfectly. My intelligence, my achievement and my sense of self became inextricably and dangerously linked.

The moral of the story? Sociology will fuck you up.

 

New Yorker Cartoon linked here

Edited by Ruby Samuels

 

Natural Disasters Don’t See Red or Blue

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      AP Photo/David J. Phillip

By Grace Armstrong
Most of my memories are from Houston, Texas. I wasn’t born in Houston, but about a year after I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, my family hiked it to Houston for my mom’s new job. I’ll never forget the time we had a class field trip to the Alamo; the pure joy I felt that one December when it slightly snowed for four seconds; seeing a police officer pursuing a car on horseback. But the things I remember the most are the hurricanes. Read More »

Letter From The New Editor

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By Ruby Samuels

Allow me to introduce myself: I am Ruby Samuels. I enjoy writing, running, boxing, talking to strangers and long walks on the beach. I also enjoy being part of the Barnard Bite, which I am proud, excited and nervous to announce has elected me Editor-in-Chief.

Whether you worked a 9-5 internship, traveled the world or started a lemonade stand over the summer, the school year has inevitably returned and the Barnard Bite is ready to write all about it. As the new Editor in Chief, I can’t wait to post new articles, meet new writers and reach a bigger audience than ever before.Read More »