Happy Thanksgiving!

Here it is, ladies and gents: the obligatory ‘Thanksgiving Post’!

In the spirit of this great holiday (which is the only holiday that is truly all about food! gosh, I love food.), I’d like to take a break from all the political, world-saving, problem-solving posts I’ve been doing lately and just take a minute to be…wait for it…thankful!

In our time–which will no doubt be given some kind of flashy era-name by historians so that kids can study it in school–so many things could have gone really, really wrong for me that really, really didn’t. I personally have narrowly avoided being directly affected by things like 9/11, the London bus bombings, the Iceland volcano explosion a couple years ago, the recession in general, and the London riots this past summer by virtue of sheer dumb luck. I have a cousin in the Army who has been back and forth to Afghanistan and Iraq several times and has always come home in one piece. I’ve managed to finish one degree and start another, both in foreign countries, without (knock on wood) any major trouble about immigration or funding, and for all of that I am truly thankful.

I have a job–a good job–doing something I truly enjoy. I’ll leave it at that in terms of details, but I am not ignorant of the fact that there are a lot of people who would kill to be able to say they have any job, let alone a good job that they enjoy.  So I’m thankful for my job.

I’m so thankful, especially lately, that I get to live in Devon. It truly is a beautiful place, and Exeter showcases it so well. Walking down the High Street, in the middle of the city, there are still gorgeous views of rolling hills and sheep. There are cows that live opposite the library on the University campus. Greenery is everywhere you look, and I really believe that being here has helped me to feel less stressed about life in general. Even when I’m running late, speed-walking with all my might to get to class on time, wracking my brain to make sure I left the house with all the necessary books and papers, I come around the bend on New North Road and get to see the hills that rise up behind the Imperial, and my day always gets just a little bit better.

I’ve also learned recently that my Mom’s family traces its line back to John Gould the Crusader, who was from this part of England. Now this really freaked me out, because I’ve always had a feeling of being ‘at home’ in England; in fact, when someone asked me last year why I wanted to go to England, I replied ‘because it feels like home to me’. To learn that I actually do have a historical, ancestral connection here blows my mind, and I’m so grateful to have found the same strong connection to my maternal lineage that I’ve always had on my father’s side. I love that I get to live and study in my ‘ancestral home’, as it were.

I’m in love with the work I’m doing here as well. If you’re connecting here from Facebook, you’ve probably seen my obligatory ‘Thanksgiving status’, in which I express thanks for having the opportunity to play the Duke of Milan (Two Gents), Cassandra, Don John, and Viola all in the same month. Despite the huge range of characters here, my work on each of them is part of research into a larger question about Shakespeare’s plays. In my own research, I’m diving into the rabbit hole of racial representation in The Tempest, looking into movement as poetry, learning the art of dramaturgy, and analyzing Restoration adaptations of Shakespeare’s texts. I’ve also rekindled my love of punctuation and picked up an interest in original practice, so I’ve been delving into the twisted briar patch of Quarto-Folio-modern edition comparisons and learning to work from a cue script. In the next six months, I’ll be a dramaturg, a director, an actor, an assistant director, a teacher, and a facilitator. Never in my life have so many opportunities to learn and grow thrown themselves at my feet all at the same time, and I’m extremely grateful for each and every one of them (even when I’m complaining about having too much on my schedule…).

I’m thankful to have married parents (23 1/2 years!!!) who fully support my academic pursuits in every way. When I started down the road to a career in the arts and academia, I had no idea it would take me to England to study Shakespeare  (in fact, a certain high school English teacher might remember a time when I hated poetry!). My parents have been both my reality check and my continuous encouragement throughout my academic career thus far, and when I brought up the idea of a PhD a couple weeks ago, my dad said, ‘That’d be so cool!’ No, Dad– you’re  so cool.

I’m thankful for the rest of my family as well, from siblings straight out to the third-cousins-twice-removed we see once in a blue moon. I have such a huge support network that sometimes it’s overwhelming, but I know deep down that I would never want it any other way.

I’m especially thankful this year for all of my teachers–past, present, and future– because I’ve been learning that the education I received was not by any means standard. It’s slowly becoming my mission in life to do my part in making sure that all people have access to education–high-quality education–regardless of what country they grew up in or which university they attended.

If I got the big side of the wishbone on the turkey today and got to make a wish, I would wish that we could all be thankful for the good things in our lives, however big or small. Even if all I had was a roof over my head and a loaf of bread, I’d be doing better than an awful lot of people in the world today. As Hamlet says,  ‘there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’, and I hope that I will always bear that in mind, whatever my blessings or hardships.

Now bring on the turkey and stuffing and Christmas music! Happy Thanksgiving, America!

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