Thanks Everyone

Oh, gee.  Thanksgiving.

 

Thanksgiving is a made-up holiday for Americans who want to overeat.  So we don’t feel bad about stuffing our faces while bad things are going on for those less fortunate than ourselves, we look outside ourselves to the world and say thanks.

 

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While I don’t believe in ignoring the bad things in the world–I, for once, say nay to the bitter Thanksgiving Grinches out there.  Thanksgiving isn’t about stuffing our faces, and it’s not about Pilgrims and Native Americans.  At least, that’s not what Thanksgiving is about anymore.

 

Thanksgiving is about two things: family and saying grace.  This, I’m sure, we can all agree on.  And, to make things more perfect, Thanksgiving is a holiday of American invention.  For some reason, our little country decided that there would be one day a year everyone should join with their loved ones, eat food, and be thankful.  Not only does this concept make me feel more prideful about America, but it makes me feel more confident in the world–and in all the people around me.

 

My mom was very into saying thank you.  I mean, she herself didn’t do much of it aloud… but when you live with someone for so long, you begin to learn their secrets no matter if they admit them to you or keep them buried.  I happen to know that each morning my mother made a habit of listing ten things she was grateful for.  At the end of the list, she would sigh and close her journal, take a sip of her coffee, and pick up Bill’s book.  

 

My mom wasn’t grateful by nature, and she knew it.  So, like any good parent, she taught me to be better than that.  If I had a dime for every time I said thank you as a child, you, rest assured, would have no dimes at all.  But as I grew older, and moved farther from my mother, and moved farther from my past, I began to suffer from the pride that accompanies adulthood.

 

You see, I’m learning very quickly that in the land of adulthood–in the land where the world expects you to make it on your own–saying thank you is the social equivalent of admitting you couldn’t have done this without help.  Saying thank you means you need something you can’t get.  And this all means that saying thank you means incompetency.  We won’t say thank you if no one around us is doing it.  If the guy at the check-out counter is a little too slow, if your mother says I love you, if you say goodbye to an old friend before a college break.  

 

If you stop saying thank you, how will you remember you’re grateful in the first place?

 

It’s not technically Thanksgiving yet.  Not for me, while composing this post.  But I’d like to start my list now anyways.  The things we’re really thankful for, after all, are not so fleeting that they might change overnight.

 

Things for which I am Super Thankful:

1. My family and friends

2. My faith and hopes and dreams about the world

3. That I can make people smile

4. My ability to be grateful.

Dear Me

When I was younger there were a lot of things I thought I’d be doing with my life at twenty-two.  I once wrote a letter to my future self; at the time I was a mere nine-years old, my first experiences with peer pressure and bullying still fresh and stinging.  The friends I’d made early on in elementary school were, like me, showing their true colors.  It seemed like everyone was running to someone new, to a cool new candy store on the avenue, to the most popular game on the playground.  Though I never witnessed a single game of kickball take place at my school, the most perfect way to describe ages 9-13 of my life is to say that I was the kickball field: I could see everything that was happening, could feel every footfall, and felt strongly that everyone was my friend—but no one knew I was alive.

And so I came up with the letter.  One day I looked around at my life, at the few people I could call my friends, and at the handfuls of people who I wished so badly would listen to me when I spoke, and I realized that to them I would always be the girl who was too poor to afford jeans, who was too overweight to be pretty, who stuttered too much to be funny.  And little me said, “I need a life plan.”

The letter reads, “Dear me.  This is your past self.  I hope you are doing well.  I hope you are skinny, tall, funny, long hair, famous, talented singer.  Love, me.”

Little did I know height would never be a thing I could control.  (I’m still thinking about the possible control I have over self fame.  After all, the Kardashians, you know?)

Though, while reading this letter I am sure I was trying to communicate with a future version of myself, I’m always struck with a sense of confusion while reading the letter.  Which future self exactly was I trying to speak with?  And will I ever feel like my future self—or will I always just feel like my present self?

Identity.

I’m twenty-two, the same weight I’ve been since high school (though a bit taller, and more fairly evened out), with the shortest hair I’ve ever had, and absolutely no singing career—though I do dabble in writing.

I’m not who I wanted to be, whoever it was that my nine-year old world made me dream of becoming.  In high school I continued down the path of dorkdom, until one day I emerged into college where I was labeled a freethinker, the epitome of individuality.  And I’m not sure if I aged into the World of Cardigans, or if the fashion trends brought  on the World of Cardigans, but one day I woke up in the World of Cardigans and in that world I was the coolest of cool (having worked on my cardigan collection since high school).

I’m turning twenty-three in two weeks.  I envy anyone who can experience a birthday and not find themselves haunted by all the versions of themselves they’ve left behind or burned through.  I envy all the people who don’t have letters from their nine-year old selves requesting popularity or plentiful, flowing locks of hair.

But I also feel a little sad for them.  Well, not necessarily for them, but for the old versions of them.  For nine-year old them.

I like to think that, though I’m not famous—and though I’m not one of those people who vowed never to sacrifice who they were under peer pressure—that nine-year old me would be proud.  I didn’t hold out, wait for the world to turn around for me; I didn’t ask for jeans and Poke’mon cards for Christmas.

But I never stopped being the kickball field, the playground, either.  I just invited new people to the game.  I invited the people who mattered, the gems I found following whatever path I found myself on, all the people who ever gave me bruises worth bearing—but most importantly, I invited myself to the game.  All of myself, all the versions of me—however that sounds, that’s okay.

That’s the point.  It’s my game.

And, of course, you can play too, if you like.