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Thursday, March 30, 2023

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” — Heraclitus

One of the most enduring struggles we as students must encounter this Thanksgiving is that of going home to our families. We’re well aware of the existential fugue state we all enter not only when we return to our hometowns, but also to the homes themselves. You feel out of place, uncomfortable and oddly distant from a place that had once seemed so familiar to you. Quite simply, time changes things. Like Heraclitus’ river, a hometown is not the same place you left. Like Heraclitus’ man, you’re no longer the same person.

Moreover, the inundation of family members is overwhelmingly stressful to some. With perhaps the most controversial election of our time only two weeks in our collective past, we’re all gearing up for the heated family debates. We all have that one uncle/grandfather who mutters questionably racist things, and we all know that this Thanksgiving his language will be far from questionable. We all have that one cousin who gets too drunk and starts instigating family drama. (“Remember that one time dad spit out mom’s new recipe?”)

These two offenses would have been enough, but throw in a well-intended but incredibly annoying grandmother who only asks school-related questions (including what you’re studying, when you graduate and what you want to do with that degree after you graduate). To our Jewish readers, that conversation always ends with, “I hope you do well. By the way, my friend Barbara’s son is a lawyer/doctor/accountant. Let me spend 35 minutes telling you about that as an attempt to subconsciously get you to change career paths.”

So we here at the Alligator are going to share some of our Thanksgiving secrets with you, hoping it’ll help you survive this coming Thursday.

It’s important to recognize that you have power here. You’re not a helpless entity thrown mercilessly into this whirlpool. Moreover, you have knowledge here. You know all of the members of the family and, hopefully, know where they stand politically, what their social attitude is and whether, quite simply, you enjoy their company. Keep this in mind when you sit down somewhere on the couch for football or around the dinner table to get that good food.

If someone starts going off about his or her gluten allergy or veganism, shut your mouth. Sometimes these allergies or diet habits are serious medical concerns, and sometimes they’re total bulls---. It’s not your job to let them know which one it is. Instead of filling your mouth with choice arguments, fill it with booze and whatever food you want.

And then, of course, there is the nuclear option. All hope seems lost when you have one uncle shouting in your left ear about #CrookedHillary and a mom shouting in your right ear about your useless philosophy degree. Never fear, dear reader. Simply bring your phone and a beer to the bathroom and take five minutes to collect your thoughts. Enjoy your adult beverage while browsing Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other social media platform of your choice. At the end of it, you should feel ready to go back out, grab a drink and repeat this process over and over.

Hopefully these tips will help you as much as they have helped us here at the Alligator. Please keep them in mind when that existential dread starts seeping into your mind as you travel from our Gainesville sanctuary to wherever your home is. And remember, while your home may not be the same home you left, you’re also not the same person you were when you were last there. You’re stronger now.

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