Every time this holiday comes around, I'm invited by an abundance of family and friends to join their Thanksgiving gatherings. It's thoughtful and sweet, and I appreciate the open-arms gesture. The idea of it makes me nauseous though.
No, I'm not a Thanksgiving Scrooge. I'm not filled with hatred, and I don't avoid the social interactions and family time. Truthfully, I miss that and adore that I was considered to join such festivities this year. The reason I distance myself and avoid the atmosphere is simply the food, more specifically the green beans and turkey.
It's been two years since I've had a Thanksgiving turkey, and I don't plan on breaking that streak anytime soon. Just writing this makes me sick to my stomach thinking about it.
Thanksgiving 2019 will be one I can't forget because it's what started this whole holiday protest. I had an emergency surgery that year's holiday while visiting my family in Johnson City, Tennessee. I haven't celebrated it traditionally since. Does it get lonely? You bet. I miss seeing my family, making up for lost time and stuffing ourselves until we pass out on the couch watching a holiday movie or sports. However, the holiday is about more than football, stuffing and getting annoyed by the younger cousins.
One of my goals in life is to hike all the U.S. National Parks - there are more than 60. National Parks preserve our country's natural environment, which is something I'm most thankful for, having a Native American background.
The first year I skipped the holiday, in 2020, I ran away to hike all three of Florida's National Parks: Biscayne, Everglades and Dry Tortugas. It was an amazing trip. Never had I seen such clear water or "hiked" on parks that were mostly water. Biscayne National Park itself is 95% water, which entailed paddle boarding in lagoons to see the Earth's natural wonder.
Seeing something unimaginable and grand like those three parks made me thankful to be alive and reminisce on all of life's giving moments. That's what Thanksgiving is about: appreciating life and all the wonder that it gives.
There's nothing wrong with skipping Thanksgiving because you can give thanks anytime. I think we all learned that amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
I'm thankful for a lot: my family and friends, being able to put food on the table, my job, my ever-growing support system and the capability to explore and hike. Although I don't show that gratitude the way most families do, especially as many get back to gathering again, I still have an abundance to give thanks for from afar.
It's sad to say that I won't be traveling to anywhere spectacular this Thanksgiving, but I will still be appreciating life's wonder from home, away from the traditional celebrations. Heck, I may even run away to the North last minute to breathe in that good mountain air, which I'm thankful is only a two- to four-hour drive away, depending on which mountain I'd climb.
For those who follow the annual tradition, enjoy a slice of turkey for me.
Shelbie Goulding is a Sumter Item reporter and newsletter editor.
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