...and so I must give thanks.
I've been gone for about 3 months now, living this European dream and loving every experience I come across.
But, someone asked me a question the other day that really made me think. He asked me what I would do if I only had a month left to live. I thought about the typical answers: travel the world, go skydiving, etc. I laughed because, well, I'm already traveling the world. And it's funny because the only thing I would want to do is book the soonest flight home and be with all of my family. Being here has made me realize how much I love home, and how much I took for granted there.
And, upon reflecting on my time here, it's made me realize how much people tend to take for granted in general.
So, here's my two cents on life, for Thanksgiving this year:
Don't you dare, ever, take the taste of a homecooked meal for granted. Absence has certainly made my heart grow fonder, and I can't explain what I would give for a simple plate of chicken and rice, some banana bread in the morning, or some muffin-tin brownies. Don't take Taco Bell for granted. You never know when you'll have zero access to it for the next 8 or 9 months. I'm still coping with that one.
Don't take your hometown or home country for granted. Leave nothing untouched. I've met people here who have lived in Europe all their lives, and they know more about America than I do. Shame on me. I feel like I spent a lot of time romanticizing this continent (which, don't get me wrong, is phenomenal) that I never took the time to think about how great the U.S. is. I've never been to Mount Rushmore or Niagra Falls, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon. Realize that wherever you live has some pretty amazing things to offer - even if you're in Eastern Washington. Go out and take advantage!
Don't take for granted that feeling you get when your hard work and ambitions have been rewarded, when you finally succeed where it matters most. Never take the electricity of achievement for granted; you're lucky to experience that in the first place. Hard work pays off.
Don't take your freedom for granted. The freedom to create, the freedom of thought, the freedom to imagine. These are freedoms that nobody can take away. And be thankful for the people who protect the freedoms that can be taken away, the ones we take advantage of most, the ones that didn't exist 20, 50, 100 years ago. Realize you're entitled to speak, to vote, to assemble because someone long before you put in the grunt work. Realize that others might never see a day when they can express themselves in public. Understand that not everyone is as lucky as we are, and be thankful for what you have.
People should not be taken for granted - not the ones who raised you, not the ones who ground you, not the ones who love you. They have shaped and/or are shaping you into the best version of yourself. The stranger who chased you for a half-block to tell you you've dropped something, or the one who holds the door for you, or the one who asks you if you're feeling okay, or the one who asks you to dance, or the one who gives you directions with genuine concern that you find your way - don't take them for granted. Their actions are not expected of them, so be thankful for the nice people in the world.
Don't take your family for granted. Remember them always, think of how bland and unsatisfactory and meaningless life would be without them. Tell them you love them, every opportunity you get. I miss my family every single day. I'm going home in the summer, and I cannot wait to actually hug them and tell them how much I love them. Because I do. I love them very much.
Don't take the small things for granted: the sun, the rain, having a pair of eyes to look into, hands to hold. A warm bed to collapse into at the end of a long day, a pretty sky on a clear night. Embrace the people you can sit in silence with and the ones who make you laugh for hours with little effort. Someone once told me, "The small things add up to big things, the big things add up to everything."
Just, don't take anything for granted, okay?