Thanksgiving. On this glorious holiday of over-indulgence in the form of turkey & mashed potatoes, families across the country gather to eat, watch football and dodge questions from aunts and cousins about careers/future plans. As the gun shootin’, pick-up truck drivin’, tobacco chewin’, boots stompin’, cold beer swiggin’ red-blooded American that I am*, it is my civic duty to profess all of the things and people and experiences I am ever so thankful for. Pretty sure that’s written in the Declaration of Independence somewhere.
About a week or so after Thanksgiving 2013, I left an extremely toxic and destructive relationship. It’s been a somewhat difficult year since then — a roller coaster of a year filled with 2 moves, reconnecting with old friends, arguments, several great travels to new places around the world, potential quarter-life breakdowns, new jobs, time spent with family, and the meeting of interesting new people. It’s been a year of lessons that needed to be learned, and though sometimes it seems the only way I learn is the hardest way possible, I’m thankful to have evolved from the person I was one year ago to the person I am today.
I could sit here and ramble on about my blessings for a long time, but I’d eventually get really emotional and start crying and calling everyone I know. Instead, here’s a list of 10 things I’m grateful for this Thanksgiving.
1. I am grateful to have had the opportunities to see 14 countries and 16 states — with a handful of trips planned/in the works. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met over the years, the connections my heart has formed with others, the beauties I’ve marveled over, the cultures I’ve tasted, the memories I’ll never forget. I’m grateful to have recognized a love for exploration and travel so early in my life, and I’m grateful for the passion I house inside me that perpetually drives me toward to next great adventure.
2. I am grateful for a motley crew of a family — a colorful collection of characters now spread out across the United States. I am grateful to have parents who actively support and invest in my life, dreams and future. For siblings who not only share interests and humor with me, but have acted like built-in friends since birth (half the time) (maybe a quarter of the time). For grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles and Facebook! for keeping our lives connected even while miles and miles apart. And for the future — for the excitement and love we feel for the new additions to the family.
3. I am grateful for my home — the house I’ve lived in my entire life. The house where countless friends and family have trampled in and out, making memories as they passed through. Where we spent Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter with cousins year after year. Where we loved our one and only pet (RIP Jeffrey </3). Where growing up we threw the couch cushions on the floor and danced to country music from the 90s. I’m grateful to have a place that will always be waiting while I’m away exploring. (And forever grateful to have called State College and London homes for awhile too!)
4. I am grateful for a body that has yet to let me down. A body that has carried me across oceans and up mountains, through foreign cities and uncomfortable hostel beds. A body that can handle a good kick at the gym and appreciates a restorative healing across a yoga mat. My health is something that is so easy to take for granted, and I’m so grateful that all body parts work just the way they’re supposed to.
5. I am grateful for my all encompassing freedom. Being an American automatically opens the doors to so many things that millions of people around the world just don’t have — it means having a passport that allows easy travel to most countries; it means choosing a life path for myself that I want and that I am in control of. I am grateful for the people who serve our country and keep us safe, and I am grateful for the things they protect back at home. I am grateful for skyscrapers and back roads and country music and the national parks and being able to say whatever the hell I want to say. America isn’t perfect, but I’m grateful for the immense privileges that we have just for having been born here.
6. I am grateful for the nutcases that I have the insane pleasure of calling my friends. From my best friends of almost two decades to those acquired in the college years, I am constantly blown away by the number of people I can count on for an always-appropriate heart-to-heart or a casual jaunt across Europe. These people are always my go-to, whether I need to release some tension/frustration, share something that has inspired me, or shut down a bar or two (just kidding, Mom). There really aren’t words for the love.
7. I am grateful for words. Books. Lyrics. Movies. Art. Quotes. A 3-hour long texting conversation in the middle of the night with a person you just met who makes you feel like maybe they just really get it. Like I said in my Words page, “the power of words is intense, vulnerable and liberating. I love stumbling upon a sentence or paragraph or song lyric that is electric – something that is full of ingenuity, where the passion of the writer’s soul pouring through the words is tangible.” I’m grateful to have the freedom and ability to be ever-seeking these types of words and emotions.
8. I am grateful for guys (!). This time last year, boys
probably definitely would not have made it onto a list of gratefulness. Now, though, I am grateful for those ex-boyfriends tucked deep into my past who have shown me their ugliest sides, and whose memories exist now solely as reminders of what to steer very clear of in the future. I am grateful for that feeling when the possibility of someone amazing walks into your life. I am grateful to have the freedom to choose who I want to love, and that dreaming of someday having a happy little home life shared with that person is something that will very possibly come true.
9. I am grateful for a college education. Though I’ll be in debt for decades to come, a lot of people who want to go to college just don’t have the access. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended a university with a strong sense of community, pride, spirit and world-renowned academics. I’m grateful for the opportunities my degree has provided me with, I’m grateful for the chance to have studied abroad, and I’m grateful for the countless laughs, cries and drinks shared with unforgettable people over those 4 amazing years. (Also: yes, I realize that none of these photos depict any learning happening & no, I don’t regret anything.)
10. I am grateful to have a strong sense of self. I try to live an intentional life — a life spent with the people I love doing the things I love. I feel more certain than ever that my pursuits aren’t naive or unrealistically optimistic, and I’m currently on the path to achieving some fantastic dreams. I’m grateful to have spent this past year independently struggling to find that my personal goals might be more difficult to accomplish than if I were to resign myself to an office life in the suburbs (for example…), but I’m more grateful than ever to have been given a life where they are most definitely attainable with some serious heart and determination.
Most of all, I’m grateful for how easy it was to come up with more than 1400 words of thankfulness after a year that had me unhappy and fretful for a large portion of it. I’m grateful that getting stuck in traffic on my way to work in my car (that I was able to purchase for myself) is often the biggest annoyance of my day. I’m grateful that I can appreciate my tiny succulent garden, bike rides with my dad, the lights of the Philadelphia skyline. It all reminds me to focus on the good, and that a lot people would love to trade my “problems” with theirs in a heartbeat. For all this, and more, I am grateful.
*CLARIFICATION: I’ve only ever shot a gun once & it was way out on my friend’s land in the country, I have only ever driven a pick-up truck IN MY DREAMS, I will never chew tobacco (but I did stick some up in my gum once after a few drinks — in London of all places — and it was the most disgusting experience of my life)… I do love me some boots & nice cold beer, though. Love ’em a lot.