1. Food (remember I said this was not in order of importance, if it were food would totally be way further down the list, at like 3). But seriously I licked my plate on Thursday with this feast. It was also the first Thanksgiving I ate at an actual table since we it was only my immediate family (we had to go to DC because my sister could literally go into labor any day), and not my giant, extended family bonanza it usually is. We more than made up for the lack of people with an over-abundance of food. I made mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and cranberry sauce (I like carbs).
2. This little monkey. My two year old niece is the most brilliant, funny, cute, insane two year old on the planet. I love her more than life.
3. My future little monkey. Any day now I will have a nephew. And I am seriously excited to luxuriate in all the babyness. I love being able to play and talk with my niece, but sometimes I miss those early days and months, when she was so tiny and cuddly, when she would fall asleep in my arms and make gurgly little baby sounds. I am so excited to experience all of that again with my little nephew.
4. My immediate family. I'm not going to get all corny and sappy, which I could. I'll just leave it short and simple. I have a great immediate family. I enjoy hanging out with them. I love being in the same city as my parents and brother and just a couple of hours away from my sister and her family. And I know not everyone would say the same. We're not weirdly obsessed with each other. My parents aren't who I call about my love life (seriously, grossest thing ever). We get in arguments from time to time. But at the end of the day, I don't just love these people. I like them. I like being around them. And I am so grateful for that.
5. My extended family. I had a great, quieter, more intimate Thanksgiving this year, but I have to say I missed the crowd and the hum of chatter of forty some people gathered in one house. I've spent almost every Thanksgiving and Christmas (and every other major holiday) of my life with a gaggle of aunts and cousins and second cousins and great aunts and every other kin folk you can imagine. I don't have to fly across the country to do it or even get on a highway. They've just always been there. And I'm so lucky to have that.
5. My boyfriend. I also won't get sappy here, because I'm one of those people who reads any sentence starting with "my baby" on Faceboook and wants to throw up if that person is not literally referring to a child that came from their womb. I'll just leave it at this. He's pretty darn great, and I'm thankful for having in my life.
6. My marathon medal. What? I am not above this. That sucker is hanging right where I can see it. If I could I would wear it constantly, maybe even in the shower.
7. My body. So ew, that sounds weird. I'm not going all magic of womanhood here. I'm referring specifically to the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, cartilage, bursa, nerves, blood vessels, and bone that make up my legs, hips, and butt. Those things are why I have my beloved medal (aka my precious). They found a way to carry my weird, spastic, out of alignment self for FIVE hours of running (not to mention the hours and hours and miles and miles of training). And they suffered for it. My knees are not in the mood yet for real running. They may not be for a while. But that's okay. They've earned a vacation.
8. My apartment. Sure, some of my neighbors are almost definitely drug dealers. The air in the building carries a near constant aroma of eau de pot (with undertones of eau de cigarettes and cancer). A fun pastime of my neighbors is to smash big glass doors and windows (never walk barefoot outside on Monument Ave). The entire building has 4 trash cans, which means that within 24 hours of trash pickup the cans are full, within 48 hours there are trash bags all over the sidewalk, and within a week, we are technically a landfill. There is always a torn up old couch or mattress outside. I am really not exaggerating. Even with all of this, I am thankful for my apartment. I am moving out in a little over a month. But I'm grateful for this year, for my first apartment of completely my own, no roommates, no parents, just me. I painted on my own, squashed bugs (so, so many of them) on my own. I am officially an adult.
9. Coffee. Possibly the most important reason I haven't failed out of nursing school.
10. My classmates. There are only 28 of us left. Which is still insane to me, coming from a college with 12,000 people, to now know the first and last name of everyone in my college class. But it's really nice. It feels like high school, but in a good way. And I don't just know everyone. I like everyone. These men and women are the only people on earth who know what I'm going through in terms of school. They're the people who hyperventilated with me through our first days of clinical (and those first bed baths). They've been there through all the infuriating exams and long lectures, through the sad patients who have made us cry and through the victories, the first successful IV starts and the days when we feel like we actually helped someone. I love all of these people and know I will always feel tied to them.
11. My best friends (and this picture is missing a few :) ). Whether I've known them since college, high school, elementary school, or preschool, I have the best friends in the world. We sadly are not all in the same city, but when we do get together it doesn't matter how long it's been. They're my people, my anchors, my family.
12. My work. I get paid to write. Sometimes I forgot how awesome that is.
13. Charleston. I don't live there. It's been (silent sob) 6 months since I was there last. But it's still in my heart and soul. It's my grace, my quiet, my peace. I don't even have to be there for it to be those things. Charleston is and always will be home to me. And even as I miss it, every single day, I'm grateful for that beautiful city, every single day.
14. Richmond. Because while it may not be Charleston, it's still pretty cool.
15. Good TV. This may seem trivial, but after a long, exhausting day, sometimes there is nothing happier and more reviving than sitting down to a new episode of Top Chef.
16. Wine. Do I really need to explain this one?
17. The beautiful places I've been. I love traveling, because you don't just live that experience for however long you're there and then end it. When I travel, where I go stays with me. I leave a piece of my heart in every new place I visit, and every time my heart beats it reverberates with all of its pieces throughout the world. I feel it beat in Malawi, Thailand, India, Haiti, France, and Belize. I feel it beat in Spain, Italy, and Ireland. I feel it beat in Malaysia, Laos, and Indonesia. Every place I go makes me feel more tied down to the Earth, more connected. And I am so thankful for these countries and these cities and these towns. They mean everything to me.
18. Black beans, quinoa, avocado, tomatoes, hot sauce, and cheese. Perhaps the perfect meal.
19. Dark chocolate Hershey kisses. I keep them in constant supply in my apartment. For emergencies.
20. Learning to become a nurse. And loving so much of it.
21. Oysters. Because they're salty and briny and delicious. And also because they remind me of Charleston, of all those oyster roasts on chilly nights, of standing around talking with a beer and a shucking knife, of cocktail sauce and saltines, of the smell of brackish marsh tinged with fresh ocean air.
22. Netflix and Hulu. Because being able to watch the entire series of Friday Night Lights whenever I want is just a gift from God.
23. The fact that Rafael Nadal is finally hitting a tennis ball again.
24. The fact that the last time I had it checked, my BP was 90/50 and my heart rate was 52. A medal wasn't the only perk I got from running a marathon. My heart is pretty stoked about it as well.
25. Take out pho.
26. For books. New ones (I've read so many great ones this year I feel spoiled-The Emperor of All Maladies, The Art of Fielding, Glass Castle, The Tiger's Wife, State of Wonder, Belle Canto, and so many more) and the old ones I can read again and again (Harry Potter, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, The Great Gatsby, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius). I love stories in all forms, but my first and truest love of stories are when they come in books.
27. For trashy tabloid magazines. I would not go to the gym with anywhere near the frequency I do if it weren't for the fact that I can read about Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez as I sweat.
28. For my mental health practicum. As a class we've complained a lot about this, and I've joined in on many occasions. A full semester of mental health clinicals is a lot if you don't want to be a mental health nurse. And we've wondered about the utility of a practicum where we're taken to a mental health facility, pushed through the locked entrance door, and literally told to "go hang out."But still, I'm thankful. This practicum has torn my heart up. The people you see in mental health facilities are so often these raw, vulnerable nerve endings. And it can be painful to be near them, to listen to their stories, to witness their suffering. You want to help them, to somehow protect them from themselves and the world, and you can't. And there have been so many times when I've come home from that practicum and cried. But I'm still grateful for it. I'm grateful because I've seen things that I never expected. So many people in these facilities have been kicked around by life. They have these illnesses that leave them in a constant state of chaos, whether they're hearing voices or feeling manic or stuck in massive depression. Because of their illness, they've lost jobs and had marriages fall apart. So many of them are abandoned by their families, who see their illnesses as shameful, ignorant of the fact that mental illness is not a choice but a disease as real as any cancer. They've been homeless or in group housing. They've been arrested or locked up in psych wards again and again. And you expect this to make these people mean and closed off. Because wouldn't you be? Wouldn't these experiences make a human hard and shut down? You expect that, but what I've seen so often is the opposite. I see these people who are so open and so willing to share the inner details of their life. They're willing to open up, completely, to strangers they just met. And what has touched me most, what has broken my heart in an entirely different way, is the compassion I've seen between patients. They're kind to each other and they help each other. They're in so much pain and anguish and they still try to help the person next to them. This practicum has allowed me to see human beings in this way you rarely see them. And I'm thankful for that. I'm humbled by the strength I've seen. People with diseases like schizophrenia fight a battle every single day just to function, to tune out voices or delusions. They suffer as much as a person with a physical disease. But where someone with cancer or heart disease receives support and compassion from the world, people with mental illness so often find fear and shame. They're sick and they're made to feel guilty about it, to feel like they're criminals. I'm thankful for this practicum because it's emphasized all over again how badly our society treats people with mental illness. And it's renewed my belief and my hope that we can change that attitude. I'm not afraid of any of the people I've interacted with during this practicum. I'm inspired by them, by how hard some of them fight just to hang on, to wake up every day and live. I will spend the rest of my life humbled by what I've seen during this practicum. And I will root for these people, always.
29. For rare, lazy Saturdays where I can stay in my pajamas as late as I want, do whatever I want, and actually breathe.
30. For turning 27. 27 doesn't scare me. It doesn't make me feel old. I'm grateful that I have yet to feel panic or anxiety with a birthday. I like feeling older. I would never in a million years go back to 16 or 21 or 24. Not because I didn't have a great time at those ages, but because I've liked myself progressively more with each birthday. I'm not wise but I'm wiser that I was a year ago. I'm stronger than I was a year ago. The experiences of 26 made me a better, more complete person at 27. And I hope to feel the same way about 28.
So there it is, my 30 days of gratitude in one post.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.