Thanksgiving and my birthday of November 26th are often very close together, sometimes occurring on the same day. For that reason, I reflect on what I am thankful for at this time of year. As I complete my 33rd year on this globe, I would like to specify five things:
1. My Family and Friends: I have chosen to remain in my hometown to remain close to my parents. Once my grandparents passed, it hit home that my parents would not be around forever. I am able to see them multiple times per month or even per week. I’ve been able to show my father some of my favorite video games and visit museums together. I attend events for animal shelters and organizations with my mother.
My sister and I are very close and we manage to have fun regardless of what we’re doing. It’s hard to believe that we’ve shared a quarter century together. I remember us communicating on our Nintendo DSes when we didn’t want anyone else to hear back in the early 2000s. I have become a part of her friend group. We have discussions about politics, philosophy and other topics. I hope I’ve enlightened her as much as she’s enlightened me.
My cousins are accomplished professionals who are a lot of fun to talk to. I cherish our conversations about writing, history, politics and the like. They all are far better cooks than I and I love to eat their dishes whenever we get together.
While my friend group has changed, I’m thankful for all who have been my friend for any length of time. As theologian Thomas Aquinas put it, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.”
I include the family dogs Hemi and Spirit, along with other pets, as friends. They provide a lot of joy with their personalities and desire to go on endless walks. Through them, I am reminded that many things live on Earth, not solely humans.
2. Living in the United States of America: While I would agree that my homeland has some significant issues, there’s a lot to be proud of. Millions of immigrants, including my ancestors, came to the U.S. for a better life and achieved it. Quality of life is generally high, in the top third or quarter of the 197 countries across the globe. Besides the Civil War, the U.S. has not experienced widespread and sustained armed conflict, which isn’t the case for many other countries. Americans enjoy protections guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights that allow them to be citizens rather than subjects.
I’m able to pursue my hobby of writing because many of the basic needs such as infrastructure, law and order, education, transportation and whatnot are provided for me. I am thankful for being a U.S. citizen, and pledge to improve the country of my birth.
3. Living in Oshkosh and Wisconsin: I am pretty fortunate that the city of my birth is in the Fox Cities, which have a diverse economy, highly rated schools, easy travel, abundant health care, plentiful recreation options and affordable living, according to Livability. I’d like to add the great writing community around Oshkosh, which I detailed in “Writing Is Solitary, Yet Social.”
Wisconsin has an excellent tradition of environmentalism, conservation and innovation thanks to UW-Madison and the university system. As a political swing state, it’s less prone to hard left or right politics, allowing shelter to the endangered species known as political moderation.
3. My Health: Overall, I have no significant health issues. I could be lighter — my younger self would be so ashamed of the pounds I’ve gained — but I have no limitations in my day to day with most tasks.
Thanks to counseling, mantras and meditation, I have decent mental health as well. Thanks to my counselor, I have embraced the philosophy of mindfulness and aim to live in the present as much as I can. This ties into #4.
4. The Journey and the Destination: My younger self was incredibly focused on destinations and goals. I equated accomplishments with happiness. Then, I had a phase where I prioritized the journey and all its twists and turns. Now, I realize that I (usually) cannot have one without the other. The destination gets me started and keeps me motivated, while the journey provides me growth and intrigue.
5. My Education: As I’ve detailed in other posts, my family encouraged me to become educated. I knew that I could go to college if I wanted, without question. My dad worked long hours and my grandpa pulled from his savings to help pay for the costs of private my K-12 school, while my mom and grandma helped with many assignments.
With so much tragedy and suffering in the world, it helps me to think about what I’m thankful for. It doesn’t make the ugliness go away, but rather makes it somewhat easier to bear.