While the history and origin of the Thanksgiving holiday is distorted and ignores uncomfortable truths, I believe that it is still an important time to reflect on what you have and what you have to be thankful for. We should practice gratitude year round, but since it is the holiday, I would like to highlight some things I am thankful for.
- We have the opportunity to make things right – America has a really complicated history. The majority of people who came to this country were looking for a better life. But, depending on who they were, we didn’t always welcome them with open arms. For a country that’s first settlers came here looking for religious freedom, we weren’t always so open-minded ourselves. And, you can’t forget how horrendously we treated the indigenous people who were already living here when we began to settle America. Or how whites enslaved an entire race of people simply for their difference in race and when they received freedom, we didn’t exactly set them up for success. Our country committed a lot of wrongs, and that is putting it mildly. I don’t believe we should live in the past, but we can’t just ignore it either. There are some wrongs we can’t right. But we need to learn from our mistakes. We are lucky to have that kind of opportunity. We can do better, and do right by the people we hurt.
- Access to education I was lucky enough to grow up in a society that values education for everyone. I know that many people hated school, and there were plenty of aspects I did not enjoy but this basic thing that everyone in America does is a dream opportunity to others. The last couple of years I have realized I am a lifelong learner and love to learn. The opportunities I had education-wise might not have been possible in other times or other countries. There are definitely flaws with the American education system – all you need to do is look at my student debt load. But I will always be grateful that I had such a wide range of opportunity to learn. While I would be very glad to never deal with math again, my education allowed me to hone my writing skills and develop a love of reading that I have never lost. Those seeds started to plant when I was in first grade. I remember being told I was reading at a fifth grade level in first grade. The love of writing began in elementary school, too. And it kept. For life. Even now, I tend to read for learning. I read a lot of nonfiction. I want to learn. I am grateful that I was born where it was possible for me to learn.
- Freedom There are some circumstances in life we cannot change. Where you are born is one of them. Being born an American is pretty much hitting the jackpot. I just talked about receiving an education in America. But being an American provides me with so many basic freedoms that are foreign concepts to others. The freedom of speech; I can criticize our government without fear of being arrested. I have the right to vote. I don’t understand why people don’t vote. Your vote is a say in who is running your country and managing your laws. Elsewhere in the world, some people will never have the chance to vote for anything in their life. Yes, voting is a responsibility and you need to educate yourself with it, but in the grand scheme of things that is really minor. You have a voice. As an American, you have the opportunity to create change. As a woman, I am even more grateful because in some countries, women have no voice on anything. Some people will use that as an argument against feminism or other equality arguments, but I actually think the opposite. Discrimination based upon gender and race are unfortunately too prevalent still today. But as Americans, we have the voice and opportunity to speak up about it. Freedom allows us to fight for what is right (within legal means).
22. Access to healthcare Healthcare in America is really flawed. There are problems that need fixed. I could write an entire blog post on that. But I still recognize that I am lucky to have healthcare. Mental health care is even more complex. Being able to receive treatment for it, despite all the hoops I had to jump through, is life-changing. Life saving. And generally, it helps improve my physical health too.
On the flip side, I am also really grateful for CVS Minute-clinics and other types of urgent care. I am prone to accidents and illness. Being able to go to CVS for an ear infection or bronchitis is much more convenient. And I’ve had more X-rays at urgent cares than I care to admit, although one time my foot did actually end up being broken.
- Technology Technology is a blessing and a curse. But I think it is so cool! How far technology has come in my lifetime is amazing. I don’t need a key to start or open my car. From my phone, barely bigger than my hand, I can search anything in the world. Knowledge is at my fingertips. Technology allows me to be connected to friends and loved ones I don’t always see. It allows me to connect with others from anywhere in the world. You can collaborate with anyone who has an Internet connection. For better or worse, it has changed how society interacts with each other. Definitely pros and cons to it, but we can do a lot of good with it. It also taught us just how small of a world it is. I did my entire Master’s program online. I think if you had told me that I would complete a Master’s completely online when I was in high school – and I only graduated eight years ago – I would have laughed. Online education was still developing, and I didn’t think I’d ever do anything like that. I don’t have to leave my house to do a workout class; I can find one through an app or or YouTube with seemingly endless choices. We have the potential to do so much with technology. I am utterly fascinated by it.
- Music and movies Sometimes you need an escape. Music and movies can provide this. Any emotion you want to try and feel, there is probably a song or at minimum a movie scene to help you get there. There’s those country songs that make you feel some type of way. Songs from musicals that make you want to join along and fill you with joy. Throughout college, grad school, and now anytime I need to focus, listening to Bone Thugs N Harmony oddly enough keeps me on track. Or, the Rocky soundtrack which always makes my workout better because it motivates me to go a little bit harder. Movies like the Muppets that are wholesome but still can make you laugh. Mamma Mia (particularly the second one) which may be a ridiculous premise and not perfect plot wise but boy does it make you laugh. Blazing Saddles and really anything Mel Brooks does because how does he think of this stuff? Major League, giving me hope for the Pittsburgh Pirates and the realization we could be worse. Movies like Million Dollar Baby which I have seen exactly once because of how it made me cry. Or Apollo 13 where I know how it’ll end but still feel relief at the end, and then the wonder at the fact this actually happened. Superhero movies which make you believe you can do so much more. And so, so many more.
- Sweaters and hoodies This one is really simple. I like to be comfortable. Sweaters and hoodies are generally really comfortable. It does not take much to please me at times. As much as I love spending my summers in tank tops and shorts and sundresses, I am so ready for sweaters and hoodies when the time comes.
- The seasons Although I can do without winter, or perhaps just not as long or without the possibility of falling on ice, I love the seasons. It really shows the wonders of world and what nature can do. I love fall the most, I love watching the leaves change color. I also like the beginning of spring when leaves and flowers just begin to bud and the cycle starts again. I will say that the snow can be very, very pretty. But it is better when I am not out in it. And summer, who doesn’t love summer? The worst thing about summer is the humidity. But we all have flaws.
- Bonfires and fireplaces There is just something comforting about sitting by a fire on a cool night with friends or warming up next to the fireplace. Also, s’mores.
- Swimming pools I was lucky enough to grow up with a swimming pool. The refreshing feeling of going into the pool on a hot day is a comfort like no other. It is relaxing. And I love floating on a raft enjoying the sun while being able to stay cool.
- Ice Cream and Chocolate I love food. Who doesn’t? But I really love food and sweets. Nothing better than chocolate soft serve ice cream. I don’t think anything else needs said here.
- Kindle This is my favorite invention. People argue about e-readers versus physical books all the time. I still read some books in physical form. But it comes down to this: With the Kindle, I have a library in the palm of my hand. Books can be heavy and awkward to hold. My Kindle isn’t much bigger than my phone and is smaller than my iPad mini. One hand. Boom. I don’t have to worry about ripped pages, bent covers, or losing my place. And on the Kindle store, the e-books tend to be cheaper. I read Chenrow’s Hamilton a couple years ago. That book is over a thousand pages. That is heavy. Not with my Kindle. Game changer. For someone like me who is always reading, it is amazing.
- Sunsets and sunrises It is a pretty basic thing. But there are sunrises and sunsets that will never cease to amaze me. Again, it is just so cool to see nature at work and how the world works. I will always take a picture of a pretty sunrise or sunset without a doubt. Life can throw some ugly things at ya. Appreciating the beautiful things, no matter how simple or ordinary they seem, can make things that much better.
- The Christmas season Tomorrow starts the beginning of my favorite time of year. I don’t start Christmas until Thanksgiving is over. I don’t want to oversaturate it if that makes sense. I want to fully enjoy my five-ish weeks of Christmas. I love everything about Christmas. There are just so many pretty things! The decorated houses! The trees! All the decorations! Watching Christmas movies especially my absolute favorite, A Muppet Christmas Carol. The ugly Christmas sweaters are also fun and creative. There’s plenty of crafting opportunities with Christmas. Christmas cookies. And I love buying people presents! I love thinking of what someone will enjoy and then seeing their reaction. Christmas is a time to spread love, kindness, and peace. How can you not enjoy that?
- Photography I am one of those people who wants to take photos of everything. A photo captures a moment that becomes a memory. I have so many photos that I can look at and automatically feel better about everything. Photos immortalizes those moments.
- Robert Morris University I liked to joke that Robert Morris University was my Hogwarts. In October 2009, I chose RMU. Never would have guessed how much I would love that school. It might not be the biggest D1 school, but there is a charm to RMU that I believe is unique to it. It is its own community with a huge heart. Obviously, it still has flaws and does weird things – like when they literally sent out slabs of wood from our old arena without any context as to what it was like a nameplate or something. But, everywhere is going to have its quirks. I have many great memories there and met people who changed my life. I changed. I don’t think I could have gone to any other school and have been happier. I learned a lot, both in and out of the classroom. I had experiences I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. And I had some pretty cool accomplishments. I remember walking back to my apartment during my senior year one day and looking at the campus, thinking how much I was going to miss of all this when I graduated. And I was right. Luckily, I’ve still gotten to do things with Robert Morris as an alumna.
- Star Wars I know that it is no secret that I am pretty much obsessed with Star Wars. I have a tattoo that says “May the Force be with You.” But other than absolutely loving the movies, I am in awe that George Lucas created this entire new galaxy all from within his mind. Of course, there were other influences. But he took us on an adventure that soared beyond the Milky Way galaxy. It turns out he started in the middle of the story, which is kind of weird and makes things complicated, but whatever. The original Star Wars released in 1977 began a culture phenomenon. His story changed pop culture. Forever. Irreversible. It is just mind-blowing to me. There are so many aspects of Star Wars I love that it is not really worth naming them all. People always talk about how the newer movies which introduced characters like Padme Amidala and Rey and Jyn Erso as strong female characters that isn’t as easily found in other movies. Growing up, I never had a doubt of strong female characters because I grew up with the original – Princess Leia Organa. I think because of her in part, I never doubted what I could do. Because Leia didn’t give a crap. She took over her own rescue when she realized there wasn’t actually a plan. And then in the later movies, she was a general. A princess promoted to general. That is cool. As a writer, the storytelling element and creation of the Star Wars galaxy is just so cool to me.
- Pittsburgh I love Pittsburgh. It is my home and it will always be my home. I don’t think there is anywhere else like it. We have our own dialect with words that are absolute gibberish to others and we replace other words for some reason. We are extremely passionate about our sport teams and sometimes forget how lucky we are when it comes to the Steelers and Penguins. The Pirates are another story. Someone successfully created a company, products, and brand from our area code. Three numbers represent Pittsburgh. Has anyone else done that in another city? We are the home of Mr. Rogers and Michael Keaton AKA Batman. We have Batman. We also were Gotham, briefly. There is so much more. Yinz have a good time here, n’at.
- My pets I have a cat and a dog. They don’t get along. But because my cat is afraid of everything and my dog loves everything and gets excited about everything. So their personalities haven’t meshed yet. It’s been two years, but the dog will randomly go ape-shit excited when he sees the cat and other times not care at all. I wish they did get along because Ranger (the dog) and Gonzo (the cat) are both really weird, love cuddling with anyone, and love looking outside windows all day. They both provide entertainment day in and day out. Honestly, there are not many more things comforting than a dog or cat lying with it. When they try to use my as a bed, it is a little bit different.
- My mentors I have been lucky to have many mentors throughout all aspects of my life. They have provided me with knowledge, opinions, and opportunity. None of them had any obligation to take me under their wing, and some continue to mentor when the job might have been considered done. It is always nice to know you have people in your life that you can go to for advice on a plethora of topics. Some of them believed in me when I didn’t or no one else did, worked with me, and got me to believe in myself. Sometimes, another perspective can frame situations in ways you couldn’t see. And I’m grateful.
- My fire department I grew up at a fire station. My dad was chief of our volunteer fire company when I was a kid. I was there a lot. At 14, I joined. That was twelve years ago. It is a challenge mentally and physically. I wouldn’t want anyone else to work with. The fire department and its members have impacted my life in a variety of ways, and I am grateful. Peers, teachers, friends. People like to say it is a brotherhood. I agree. I just say that I’m a sister in the brotherhood. I have had some of the most fun times of my life with these guys. The support is real, both in and out of our firehouse lives. It is a pretty cool thing.
- My sorority Delta Phi Epsilon came to me at the most prime opportunity. When I joined, it was exactly what I needed at that time of my life. I joined during my first bout of depression. Needless to say, things weren’t going well, and I was struggling. DPhiE offered me more. It kept me busy, when previously my free time was spent staring at a wall. DPhiE changed and saved my life. Some of the sisters I gained I would have never met otherwise, and they became my very best friends. My life would be so different without them! I can’t imagine life without some of them. It is always great to reunite with sisters I don’t get to see as often and to meet new sisters and see what the chapter continues to accomplish. I will forever completely love DPhiE and be obsessed with unicorns. Some of my sisterhood friendships have grown stronger since I graduated. It was, and continues to be, a truly wonderful experience.
Also, fun fact, Delta Phi Epsilon organization at the international level offers scholarships, and I got one for my first semester of graduate school. So that was pretty cool.
Another tidbit, my sorority was founded by five Jewish women because they couldn’t join any other sorority due to their religion. So they started their own and swore not to discriminate. They created something amazing as a result of a negative.
- My friends and family A good bit of my friends fall under the sorority or fire department categories. But this is just general, encompassing all of them. I have some seriously quality friends that I am so blessed to have. Some friends from as long ago as kindergarten and some who live as far as California or Ireland! I see some almost weekly, I might go years without seeing another and just pick up where we left off. I do have a high number of nursing and actuary friends, which is kind of random. Some friends I knew in high school but really didn’t talk to until after. My family is pretty awesome too. I don’t see some of my cousins and aunts and uncles nearly as much as I would like, but I love being able to keep up with them through social media. And when I do see them, it is always a great time to get together. It is definitely entertaining. There is nothing like family.
- My brothers Three brothers. I’m the second oldest. I wanted a sister at some point. Never got one, got these three knuckleheads instead. My brothers who are far more alike than they ever will admit can also be so different, and that is what makes it fun. Sometimes, I have no idea what to expect from them. Other times, I’m able to guess exactly what they are going to do. I am truly grateful to have each of them. I like that I have a different relationship with each brother because I am glad I can enjoy different things with them individually. I can say, it really is never a dull moment with any of them.
I know one of them will definitely read this post. I’m curious as to if the other two will. I also wonder if they’ll read this sentence and wonder which one I meant for what.
- My parents I mean, duh. They gave me life. I exist because of them. I have doubted many things in my life. I can say 100% that I have never doubted if my parents had my back or would support me. Like, that concept just does not compute to me with them. They’ve been through a lot throughout their 31 year marriage. I feel like I caused more, not exactly trouble but challenges I guess after I graduated high school than as a teenager. Overall, I think as a teenager I didn’t do much to concern them. Other than taking AP classes and losing my mind. There’s a trend there. But over the last few years, I have faced many challenges, and, there they are! I know how lucky I am. They’ve been there for the serious stuff, but also have amused me when it comes to other things. Such as, watching Star Wars a lot. Or taking me to a midnight release of Harry Potter and we didn’t know how it worked so we ended up not leaving until like 2 AM. The next time I went to a midnight release, it was my dad and I because my youngest brother had been born just a few weeks before. This time, we knew better and got our number in the morning and were out a few minutes after midnight. That one stands out. Going to find the Nittany Lion during a rain/snow storm because I really wanted a picture since i was there for graduation and it was supposed to get worse out as the day goes on. I know I have more examples, but you get the point. I wouldn’t be who I am without them. I think overall, I’m doing okay so I’m pretty glad for that. Thankful for them.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends!