It’s that time of year again, Thanksgiving. Where Americans take one day out of their lives to stop complaining about everything that’s wrong in their world and concentrate on how lucky they are. I am as guilty as everyone else, fixating on what could be better rather than basking in the fortunes already bestowed on me.
This is now my second Thanksgiving abroad, the first one that I will be spending family-less (last year my brother was living here and we had pho.) and I will of course do the whole “soul searching and figuring out what I am so thankful for”
I’ll fire off the obvious ones, like I always do:
1. My family. I ramble on and on about how amazing they are. I won’t bore you again, but my appreciation for them is immeasurable. While I have always known this, recently, the importance of family has been much more apparent to me. My bonds and desire for proximity have increased. I hate spending the holidays without them.
2. My job. I have one. It may not be what I want to do for the rest of my life but I have a job when so many people don’t. And my job is interesting, unpredictable, it allows me to challenge myself, explore options, and provide a nice life for myself.
3. The people I surround myself with. I have amassed a collection of extraordinary people from every corner of the world…some from childhood and some as recently as last week…all of who inspire and enlighten me on a regular basis simply by being the wonderful and dynamic individuals that they are. I have learned something from every single one of them and I feel so loved and blessed.
4. My life is an adventure. In the past year I’ve been to the US, UK, Thailand (all twice) not to mention my various travels throughout Vietnam, and I have an upcoming trip to Sri Lanka planned. The year before that I was in the US twice, Bali, Cambodia, Laos, Japan, and Singapore. I’d say that’s pretty awesome.
5. My health. Today I found out that a good friend of mines sister was recently paralyzed. What she and her family are going through right now is unimaginable. I got the news while walking to work and all I could think about was how much she’d give to walk again, and I shouldn’t take it for granted. These things we just do, like walking, we don't even think about. But we should, because it's a blessing. For any of you who are long time readers of my blog, you may remember last year when I was diagnosed with psoriasis. I took it pretty hard, mainly, I’m ashamed to admit, for superficial concerns. But the more I read about it, the more I realize it is actually more serious than just aesthetics. While there is no cure, I am grateful that I am in a position to recognize what this is, that I have information and resources to help me manage symptoms when it attacks, and that (so far, knock on wood) my experience with the disease is mild and minimal. I can still walk, see, taste, hear and live.
Another thing I am thankful for is the fact that I have a choice. Last year, I wrote about realizing that food, water, and shelter were not givens, but actually luxuries… and being able to have a choice is a luxury as well.
Everything I do is a result of a decision that I made. 99% of what happens in my life I have control over. If I don’t like something, I can stop. If I want to move or leave, I can. I am not bound to anything unless, in some way, I choose to be. I can say what I think, do what I want, and be who I am, and I can do this all freely. My world is a world filled with endless options and I take this for granted every single day.
I read the news and watch documentaries and feel outrage and despair when I read about tragedies all over the world, however until very recently, I’ve never stopped to view these against my own life. There are people, millions of people, who in some form, are rendered prisoner. Perhaps not physically behind bars, but in the sense that they don’t have options. Maybe they are from war torn countries, or are into forced labour or prostitution, are being blackmailed, or are just in a position where they are helpless, where they can’t change, where they are completely stuck and have no way out.
In these aforementioned documentaries and articles, we gain awareness of what’s going on. We can list off dozens of world issues we’d like to fix, people we’d like to save. Very rarely do people actually do something. I’m not saying that’s wrong or terrible to go on with our lives, it is difficult to be able to change or fix the world…but what’s not difficult to change and fix is our own perspective. While ingesting all of these horrors from the safety or our sofa, instead of just thinking, “That’s so horrible, those poor people.” We should also take heed of how it applies to us. Mainly that it doesn’t. We were fortunate enough to be born into an existence where these problems are beyond our realm of imagination and we should be eternally grateful for that. We should hear these stories and genuinely cherish how lucky we are.
So this Thanksgiving I am not only going to revel in my #1-5 but I am actually thinking about what it means to have a choice, and I am going to go beyond this holiday season and continue to appreciate what I have. This isn’t to say that I am never going to complain again, that is impossible, but I think it’s important for me to recognize that most of the things I find dissatisfaction with that I actually have some ability to fix or modify. As long as I have that I am better off than so many, and so are you.