Friendsgiving celebrations have helped me cope since moving oceans away from my family

November is my favorite month. The weather is just right, the year is almost over, and it’s Thanksgiving time. I love the spirit of Thanksgiving as much as I love Christmas; the intimacy of sharing a meal with your loved ones is incredible. This Thanksgiving, however, I will not be with my family.

Instead, I will be almost 9,000 miles away, chasing my dreams and missing them fiercely.

I moved back to the U.S. after living in South Africa for more than ten years. On a quest to see more of the world and find out who I am, I dropped out of university there and started again in the States. The first two months here were wonderful, and I’ve already made so many personal strides.

When November rolled around, though, people started talking about going home — and I began to feel so displaced.

I somewhat impulsively chose to move back to the U.S. I was choosing to live in a state that I had never visited and where I knew nobody. Some of my friends in South Africa thought my decision was foolish, but I saw it as the freshest of starts. I felt like I had created a new world for myself, but when people mentioned Thanksgiving plans, I felt helpless.


I was faced with the plain truth that I had no family here, and that I had nowhere to go on Turkey Day. Asking friends seemed too brash and outlandish, having known them for only two months — but flying back to South Africa was not an option. The logistics of the day felt overwhelming, and I had an anxiety attack that left me crying until my new friends peeled me off the floor.

Once I got the courage to ask if I could join friends for Thanksgiving, I was overwhelmed by their kindness. I received invitations to so many different homes with lovely families that I was spoiled with options. To say I was surprised is an understatement.

I was being offered an opportunity to spend a holiday with my new chosen family, and that moved me more than I expected.

Despite never having difficulty building relationships, I’ve always been afraid of getting too close to people. I feel like my friendships have to be appreciated from a distance, in case I scare people away. Everyday, I’m working on how to feel like less of a “burden,” but kicking that mentality is a process.

Luckily, I live in an incredibly supportive community of freaks, geeks, and everyone in between. I made friends who didn’t care that I started every sentence with, “In South Africa…” I found people who held me when I missed my mom. I’m excited to spend this year’s Thanksgiving with my chosen family because, when it comes down to it, they are my people.

My chosen family is more than people who happened to live on the same floor as me. They are people I’ve deeply connected with. They are wholeheartedly accepting of me and my flaws, and it is a pleasure to be their teammate. We carry each other in ways that I did not know anyone needed. We grow together. Most importantly, everything we do is rooted in love.

If that isn’t family, I don’t know what is.

I’ll miss my family this Thanksgiving and the next, but I wouldn’t trade my new one for the world. This Friendsgiving will be just as loud, chaotic, and full of love. There is no way to thank the people who have become my family that will convey my gratitude. But, like everyone else lucky to spend the holiday with a loving family, I cannot wait. Family is forever, chosen or otherwise.

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