Yesterday, my students and I watched a video about The Gratitude Project–a video I’ve seen on YouTube about a dozen times and it has made me cry every single time. I’d explain it, but then I’d ruin it, so I’ll just drop it here for y’all to take a look at:
Since I watched it for the first time a couple of months ago, I’ve taken the time to call/text/email/Skype/write letters to a lot of people in my life I’m grateful to, but today I would like to reiterate those thanks… I know that everyone is doing a “People/Things I’m Thankful For” list today, but I have so much to be grateful for today that the haze of depression didn’t let me see even yesterday, so I need to take some time to be grateful for (in no particular order, just writing as I feel it):
1. Depression itself. Without the now-twelve-year struggle, I would not be grateful for every day I am myself. I would not know how strong I am. I would not have such unshakable faith. I would not know who my true friends are. It is thanks to the time and energy that depression stole from me that all of my blessings have finally come into such sharp relief–and it is that stark contrast between how I felt yesterday and how I feel today that is helping me write this list.
2. GOD. This is the first Thanksgiving after I have decided for sure that I want to convert, and I feel so at peace with my decision and with this new relationship that I am pursuing with God. I am so very grateful that God has been so patient as I have changed my mind 456789876 times because I have been scared and nervous and unsure. I see His work in my life every day, and I look forward to continue growing in my faith.
3. Congregation Or Chadash. This group of people has welcomed me with open arms and has been so friendly and open and supportive in the short time that we have known each other that I am very proud to call them my congregation–my second family. I look forward to continuing this relationship and growing in it as I continue on my path to conversion.
4. My family, especially: Mamá Güela, Mami, Marita, Tante, and Oncle. Living with me has never been easy, but these people have been champs about it. My grandmother raised me along with my grandfather, and she continues to be the #1 person in my life. My mom and I haven’t always had an easy relationship, but we are communicating better than ever and I am so thankful that we’re both trying to make this the best relationship it can possibly be. I am thankful for my little sister, who keeps me going because I want to be the best possible example for her. She owns my heart.
Ma tante is my aunt Myrka, who has resided in Chicago near me for all the five years I have been here. She and my uncle Edwin, mon oncle, have been pillars of strength as I have navigated everything from finals to therapy to work to conversion. Even though he and I are not technically related, he has made me a part of his family and he has been such a wonderful part of my life that I am thankful every day for the fact that they got married almost exactly ten years ago (¡feliz aniversario, mis amores!). I’m also grateful for the fact that, before they move on over to NYC and leave me, they have gone through all the trouble to host Thanksgiving so we can spend our last holiday together. I’m looking forward to reciting Shehecheyanu before we say grace and dig in, since it’s the first time we host.
5. My roommates: Drew, Mike, Crystal, and Sarah. Drew and Mike are amazing and totally the cutest couple together and they’re also incredible people on their own. Like, I already knew Drew and then Mike came along as well and I just didn’t expect so much awesomosity in one house. I’m thankful that Mike’s such a gentleman and he’s so willing to help out and to inject humor into any situation, which always makes me feel better. And Drew’s just ridiculous(ly awesome)–I love that we can nerd out about Greek life and novels and writing and, just, life.
Crystal has been my roommate since last year, and I’m ridiculously grateful for having her as my roommate, my friend, and basically my adopted kid. She has been there to share the highs, carry me through some lows, and always talk with honesty and goodwill through any issues. I have no words to express how many times she’s saved me. And Sarah is the newest addition to the house, and she is as kind and thoughtful about the people she cares about as she can be blunt and vicious to those who hurt us. It’s an incredible balance, and I love being on her good side! 😉
6. My coworker R and my awesome boss. My job isn’t easy, but it goes much easier when these two have my back. R is a vision of who I could be in 20 more years–and I hope I’m half that. She has so much love in her heart it kind of kills me, and she has held me through more than one rough day when I start thinking about switching careers or marrying money. And my boss? She’s been there for a hug, a pat on the back, and administrative support when things get really rough. Not to mention she took a chance on me and hired me over someone who had more experience. I legit love being able to call them my friends as well as my coworkers.
7. My best friends Kat, Molly, and Alex. College was not always easy to navigate, and these three held my hand (and my life) more than one. We’ve all had our differences, we’ve even had some really rough times, but I love that we have gotten over those and that we have moved on. Kat’s been in my life for nine years and she hasn’t given up on me yet, and I will be eternally grateful for that. Her concern is always palpable and makes me feel completely appreciated, and I love that we’re pretty much sisters. Molly and Alex have moved from being “my college friends” or even “my best friends from college,” and they are most definitely my best friends, no qualifiers. Here’s to many more years of being thankful for each other!
8. My island friends: Lexy, Heidi, Cory, Heri, and Ray–distance and differences aside. Lexy and I became friends almost accidentally, through mutual friends and having all our classes together, and we got close through shared secrets and awkward questions, and many rough moments we held each other through. Heidi and I bonded over the unexpected, and even through her mission and our busy lives, I have always felt her love and her support when things got rough. Cory and I met through Ray, and she was close to him, and then we got closer and our friendship grew stronger. We haven’t seen each other in years and we haven’t always had time for each other–but I’m thankful for who she has been for my life and I always miss her.
Heri is… a complicated story, but the fact of the matter is that I will always love him and thank him for all of the advice and the hard-hitting questions over the last eleven years. I miss him, and I hope that we’ll have a chance to sit down and talk at some point soon. And Ray. Well. He’s a story all on his own, but I will say that it takes one hell of a man to recover after your break your engagement and remain a source of strength and support through hard and easy conversations alike. Interestingly enough, he’s the best ex-fiancé a girl could have, and I am incredibly proud of the man he’s become. I’d like to think I had a bit of a part in that. 😉
9. LJC–and the community that grew it, where I also met Sara and Nitya. These eight people have changed my life, and the summer of ’09 will forever remain my greatest adventure. Becca, even though we haven’t gotten to meet in person, is always in my thoughts and I’m always excited to see she’s going places. Z continues to be pretty much my soulmate, regardless of the distance, the questions, and the moments when we were not always truthful.
And then the six who took a crazy trip with me: Toni, Tash, Ricky, Holly, Pri, and Kim. I haven’t seen the first three other than that trip to NYC, but I miss them and I’m so grateful I have had them. Holly has been a huge part of my life and I love how we went to Memphis during one of my spring breaks and how she came here during a fall break, and how we’ve Skyped and called and texted and Facebooked ever since. I’m definitely running off to Utah to see her. I used to see my fellow Illinoisan Kim a bit more, but then life got crazy and she went off to college and grew a life. We ran into each other in Evanston, completely randomly, and I miss her and wish I had told her how grateful I am for them. And Pri… Pri is a ray of light, and I miss her immensely, and I’m forever thankful that she introduced me to Ari and Cat–except now I miss all of them.
Sara is my Scandinavian love, and she has been incredible and honest and totally loving. We haven’t had as much time as we would like recently, but she is always in my mind and I’m always grateful for how much she’s taught me and how often she has been there with words of encouragement and support. And Nitya has been there to say nice things, always, to encourage me to get in LeakyCon shenanigans, and generally to be entirely awesome. I’m so glad to be able to call her a friend.
10. My writer friends: Kiki, Gia, Rebecca. After years of dreaming about writing a novel, I decided it would never happen–right around the time depression got a capital D in my life. But Kiki and Gia have always treated me as one of the group, as another writer who’s trying to make her novel happen, another crazy cat (and dog) lady. Kiki also introduced me to all the incredible people in her family, and I’m so happy to have been a p art of all of those moments we’ve had. And then Kiki introduced me to Rebecca, who has become an awesome new friend over coffee and tea and life stories. And, while I may not finish NaNoWriMo this year, I feel awesome about how much progress I’ve made on my novel and how much I love this story–and I have these three ladies to thank for it.
11. Twitter and its incredible peoples: Aaron, Meg K, Meg W, Casey, Andrea, Nat, Kim, Sarah, Angie, Erika, Dannie, Mandy, Alexa, Becky, and Michigan!Missy in particular. Twitter has changed my life, plain and simple. I have gotten to be part of so many things and connect with so many people–which led to getting to walk with the Stanley Cup at Chicago Pride and receive a birthday tweet from my absolute favorite, Keith Seabrook. I’ve also gotten to meet a ton of people that I have gotten to hug in real life as well! Aaron has been in my life for a while, and getting to hug him recently was spectacular. It’s thanks to him that I’ve gotten to know Meg K better and appreciate her more, and I’m super excited to see what the future holds for us.
I miss Meg W and her French-ass self, and I’ll never forget Cup-stalking with her while she wore my dress (better than I ever could). Casey intimidated the hell out of me when I met her in person–and now I fawn over her cat and we have real legit convos and get into many shenanigans. I’m incredibly grateful for her love and support. Andrea and I have shared several fandoms, and I love having someone that I can have such incredibly deep conversations with at any time. She’s one hell of a woman and I love being in her life. Nat and I also met off Twitter, through awkward conversations and fandom squeals, and total shenanigans. We have shared a bed and had our troubles and generally learned that caring about each other isn’t conditional or limited–and I’m totally grateful for that.
And there’s the hockey ladies–the ones that were all hockey in our relationship at the start, and then it was oh-so-much-more. Kim became my other adopted kid, and I have gotten to give her advice and receive a lot too. Sarah is… ridiculous, really. We talked and talk and I came to visit for spring break and she came to stay for a draft and then took me to a draft. We have talked about the mundane and the painful and I’m just glad that we have had those chances. Angie and I have had our ups and downs, but we’re totally ‘Rican sisters and meeting at the draft was AWESOME. Also at the draft was my other half, the ridiculously amazing Erika–getting to hang out and hug and look at our matching tattoos was awesome, and I am incredibly grateful that we’ve managed to keep caring about each other even though we’ve gotten super busy and crazy. Dannie has been awesome and cool and I love that she’s really great about offering constant and quick support whenever I have needed her even when we didn’t know each other much. I love everything about that.
Same with Miss Mandy–whom I met super randomly and bonded with over the Rampage and then she came over to stay at my apartment and lead me on AHL adventures. Can’t wait for our next set of shenanigans. And Alexa, whom I haven’t seen in a while, but I’m grateful for because she always has my back. Becky, who has heard me out and shared with me and attempted to teach me how to skate (with Casey) and totally laughed with me, not at me. And then there’s Missy–we met at the ICE bowl in 2010 and liked each other so much that we got over our Original Six rivalry and never looked back. We haven’t seen each other’s face much since, but Skype is awesome, phones are great, and the distance means nothing when I have her love and support.
12. HOCKEY. Hockey has, quite literally, saved my life. It has introduced me to so many incredible people and led me to so many places–I mean, I’m not known for being spontaneous, and then I ran off to the NHL Draft this year. But during 2010 and part of 2011, hockey was literally my entire life. I spent months and months telling myself that, if I had no other reason to live, I had to watch the Blackhawks, Bruins, Penguins, and Kings play their next game, no matter who the opponent was. In a summer full of haze and pain, the Hawks’ Cup win sustained me and reminded me to find joy. The hockey community also carried me through some of the toughest times, and I have become such a hockey fan that it’s one of the things I use to define myself.
13. My therapist! When hockey wasn’t carrying me through on its own, I had Dr. S talking to me about everything and anything I could possibly need to talk about. She has given me the tools I need to be able to do a lot of the managing myself, and her honesty has helped me face the things I’d like to run away from. Through the highs and the lows, I have been lucky to find a therapist I really love talking to and learning from on my very first try. And it’s awesome to have someone who understands how much I love my job and doesn’t fault me for it, yet still insists that I have to make space in my life and time for me.
14. My teacher friends, especially Matt, Alison, and Madisson. These two also get the love for work–and they have a lot of the same questions and issues and feelings that I do about work. Even when were still in college, the late nights (or all-nighters) and the crazy amounts of coffee kept us together as we navigated our degrees. I will forever be grateful for Matt and our all-nighters with poetry and coffee and naps in the IC. I am thankful that he helped me meet Alison senior year–even though we did not have a lot of time, we have managed to connect on an awesome level, and I cannot wait for her to come visit from the Ukraine so we can talk about teaching ESL and all of the shenanigans that we need to have. I am also going to be thankful for Madisson for the rest of my life… for strike hand-holding, dinner, Ulta, and all of our future plans. I am excited to see these two soon–hopefully together, and definitely for shenanigans.
15. My students. There are days, such as last Friday, when I am reassessing my entire life and wondering if I want to change my career and my life and just move along. But at the end of the day? They make my job worthwhile, and I love them even when I want to punch them, and even on the rough days I have students who will ask what’s wrong, offer comfort, hug me, remind me that I’m doing well and doing what I need to do. I am grateful for every single bit of improvement, every single day when someone tries harder and learns. For every moment they exasperate me or keep me up at night, they also reward me and remind me that my job is hard so that the people who care are the ones who do it well, who last.
So thank you, God, for every single person and thing on this list. I have more blessings than I can count, and I am grateful that it took me so long to finish this post because I had to be grateful for so very many things.