I'm going to say a blasphemous thing: I've never been one for Thanksgiving food. I know, sound the alarm and take me away in a straight jacket...I'm crazy. I just don't really like it the way everyone else does.
What I do enjoy though, is the meaning behind the holiday. I am not referring to the pillaging of the Indians who were the sole reason the Colonists survived, but more the modern day interpretation.
I like the fact that loved ones gather together for a positive reason, to reflect on how fortunate they are and that there are no presents involved. It really forces us to recognize the opportunities and advantages we are given, and how despite some turbulence in our lives, there is positivity and things worth being appreciative of.
We get so caught up in the have-nots, the "I wants", the "I wishes" etc that we don't look around and say, "This is what I HAVE. How lucky am I?" I am guilty of it myself, but am trying to make a conscious effort to focus on the good and see the world in a more rose colored way than thinking about all that's lacking from my life.
Moving out here as given me a great appreciation for life and the way I grew up and all of the opportunities that were handed to me. I took them for granted, accepting them like I was entitled to have since learned that I was not, and that everything that was bestowed upon me was, in fact, a precious gift.
Without seeming trite, I wanted to compile a small list of the things I am especially thankful for this year:
1. My family. The older I get and the more I'm exposed to, I realize how incredible my family is. I am the product of loving and wildly supportive parents (and family), parents who were a driving force behind my move out to Asia. Parents who always encouraged me, supported me both financially and emotionally, who truly instilled that my quest for happiness is one I should go on, that it's okay to deviate from the "normal path." Parents who are proud of me even in unexceptional times. And parents who I can count on for anything. My whole family is actually this way, and growing up in an environment where I felt incredibly loved is not a blessing I will ever take for granted.
2. My friends. When I moved to Hanoi, I panicked that I'd be missing out on life back home, that my friends would move on and forget about me. That, upon my return, I'd be irrelevant. In reality, this couldn't be further from the truth, as my friends in the US and Europe have shown me that being apart does not mean growing apart. Another joy in my life are the friends I've acquired here. People grow close very quickly out here, and while the relationships aren't as established, they are still solid. My friendships out here are what turned Hanoi into a home for me.
3. The life experiences I am accumulating while living out here. I hate to sound cliche, I really do, but removing myself from my old environment has given me a new perspective of the world, the people in it, and a major insight to myself.
4. The luxuries we usually take for granted. I've never thanked anyone for having running water and electricity. It's always been a given for me. I am not naive enough to believe that it's the norm for everyone. I've read and traveled enough to remote and developing countries to recognize that many people live without these "basic" amenities. However, it has struck a much deeper chord since I started LIVING in a country where these amenities are not always included in the locals lives. I've "suffered" blackouts and the water being turned off, and while I cursed and complained, it dawned on me that a LOT of people live EVERY DAY like this.
5. My health. Hypochondria aside, I am in good health (so far) My problems are trivial and I've never had a really worry.
Thanksgiving is an important to day to connect with family, friends, and our inner gratitude, however perhaps we should adopt the Thanksgiving mentality and apply it to our lives more often. To focus on what's good rather than obsessing over what's wrong, what we'd like to change. To think about the people in our lives who we adore and whose presence augment the good our world. To recognize the little things like running water, a stable job, health, the ability to travel as what they are...luxuries.