I Am Thankful for the Tension

Ashlie Blaske on How Family History Shaped Her Thanksgiving Tradition

Editor’s Note: the below profile was written by Gravity employee Ashlie Blaske and is part of our on-going effort to highlight and celebrate the people who make our company great. In our frantic and busy lives, it is easy to look past one another and ignore our shared humanity. By profiling individual employees and allowing them to share their stories, we hope to correct that thinking.

 

My family is rather unconventionally comprised. I have siblings from other countries, half siblings, adoptive parents. and birth parents. Fifteen years ago, when I was fifteen years old, I connected with my biological father for the first time. He did not raise me and was not part of my life growing up, but since connecting with him, I have developed a deep and meaningful relationship with him and his extended family.

Ashlie (first row, second from right) on Thanksgiving 2016 with her childhood family plus two sisters-in-law.

On top of gaining relatives who love and care for me, I’ve been able to learn more and more about the deep history on that side of my family. My biological father’s family is registered Eastern Band Cherokee and has deep roots within the tribal, collegiate, and political history of the state of North Carolina. My relatives are activists, war heroes, athletes, poets, professors, and artisans. Their legacy is rich and humbling.

Processing this family history as an adult is both exciting and sobering. So much of it is fraught with persecution and profiling that I’ve never experienced. I get my dark hair and eyes from my dad, but my pale complexion comes straight from my mother’s Swedish roots.

My tribe originated from a larger tribe of Cherokee who hid in the Smoky Mountains to escape the Trail of Tears. We are a proud, tenacious people who overcome setbacks and persist through difficulties.

Now that I understand this history, this time of year is full of conflicting feelings. I cherish the memories of Thanksgivings spent with the family who raised me–eating delicious food, sharing stories and laughter, and simply being present in each other’s company. At the same time, it feels immensely disrespectful to my heritage to celebrate a holiday historically surrounded by pain, betrayal, and genocide.

And so exists a tension–one where I’m pulled between who I was and who I am becoming. How do I honor both the memories of my childhood and the history of my ancestry? How can I responsibly “celebrate” the personal traditions that have shaped me, while bearing in mind the dark reality from which the holiday originates?

Ashlie (front row, second from left) with her biological father’s family.

The more I wrestle with this tension, the more settled into it I become. There is beauty in tension. In not having “The Answer.” It keeps me present and constantly questioning my perspective. It keeps me open and growing. It forces me to confront my biases and move through tough situations.

This year, for the first time ever, my biological family will join my childhood family for our annual Thanksgiving dinner. My two worlds will be brought together, and let me tell you, the inner tension is palpable and anxiety inducing . At the same time, it is exciting and hopeful. We are anxious about the unknown and how the knowledge of the past should affect how we exist in the present; We are hopeful for the new love and memories to be shared.

Through all this, I’m learning to embrace the unrest that comes from the unknown. My life is complicated and beautiful, not perfectly packaged, and full of loose ends that don’t always come together in neat and tidy ways. While I don’t have an answer or a resolution to my conflicting thoughts and emotions, I am thankful that those I love will share time and space together. I am thankful I have the opportunity to challenge what is comfortable. I am thankful for the tension.

By Ashlie Blaske, Business Analyst

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