As Thanksgiving draws nearer, Americans across the nation will start to look at their lives in retrospect and reflect on the graces they have been blessed with so far.
Some will consider their year to have been a particularly favorable one, while others a more unfortunate one. But in the spirit of the holiday, most will gather a small pool of riches they are grateful for: friends, family, a dog, a home.
The same, however, can’t be said for a large majority of college students. Busy with midterms, class registration and Thanksgiving break plans, their bustling lives will leave them with little time for actual Thanksgiving.
In fact, most college students these days are more inclined to practice the direct opposite — they prefer complaining instead.
“Gen-Z complains the most in the workspace” according to a New York Post article. This is unsurprising considering what we currently see on American campuses. From grievances towards fairly standard cafeterias to classes being too far from each other on campus (God forbid we reach our step counts before noon) to classes that are genuinely challenging (we were hoping for free rides to graduation) to having 8:30 a.m. classes (which seem to be killing the U.S. college student population, slowly but surely), the complaints never end.
Some students, bless them, are too proud to complain — they just skip class instead.
Then again, some might argue that the reason for all this complaining is that generation after generation of young adults are eased into adulthood far too gently. With food always on the table, dad’s credit card at the ready and high school classes curving tests so steeply as to reward even extreme slackers, older generations are well willing to argue that we youngsters should get a taste of the Good Ol' Days. And maybe they are right. An easy life does not teach a child to be thankful for it, but to expect it.
Thus, as the years pass, we are straying further away from the original purpose of the American tradition. In other words, our modern, privileged lives do not promote Thanksgiving but discourage it.
Anyone pointing their finger at me, saying that, hey, if they’ve ever seen a privileged life, it is mine, would be right. Well, I have a confession: I used to be a complainer too.
However, as life goes on, you live and you learn, and alongside many others, I eventually realized that while complaining adds nothing valuable to our lives, being grateful does.
There are two main sources of complaints from college students, namely, things they can control and things they cannot. For instance, grumbling about the school cafeteria is entirely pointless (unless “daddy will hear of this”), but feeling resentful towards 8:30 a.m. classes can be productive in the short term. This is a problem that has two solutions. First, we can realize our anatomy is not especially different now that we’re in college, and we are just as capable of waking up at 7 a.m., as we were all four years of high school. Second, we can know ourselves and simply avoid taking those early morning classes as much as our major allows us to.
Then, after this, there can really be little to nothing to complain about: We have resolved the issues in our control, and we simply have to accept the issues out of our control. There’s no doubt that complaining can be a stress-reliever for college students and even older adults. However, being grateful can do the same. We are young, intelligent individuals that attend one of the best schools in the country. We are pursuing an education in something that we love: our futures are in our hands. In comparison, an 8:30 a.m. class on a Wednesday becomes a trivial detail of our lives.
As a rule of thumb, this is exactly what gratefulness affords us: a better perspective. By pinpointing what is most important to us, daily battles feel relatively insignificant. It can be easy to get caught up in the stress of midterm exams (which seem to be never-ending here at Duke), GPA calculations or class registration, but just one thought of the young soldiers who were drafted and pulled out of college at our age during WWII will be enough to ground us: Receiving a B+ on a Calculus exam isn’t so tragic after all.
At the same time, finding grace in even the small things can bring us happiness in a different but equally powerful way. We students take so many things for granted. Correct me if I’m wrong, but today’s lunch looked especially yummy. Did you have a productive workout at Brodie the other day? Look around you: Campus is so beautiful in the fall.
Blaming Life for our unhappiness, or tiredness or lack of success can relieve us of our responsibilities. However, thanking Life for being so wonderful should become one of our daily habits too.
If only we saw that a five-minute walk between two classes on a fall morning is not a pain but a gift, we would all be a little happier.
Anna Garziera is a Trinity first-year. Her column typically runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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