That was the last time I spent Thanksgiving in Pierre. I ran the Turkey Trot along the Missouri River, drank wine in the Reinke’s sun room and ate lefse at the Fishers. At the time, those traditions seemed so repetitive from year to year and I desperately wanted more from life, like moving overseas and a wonderful boyfriend.
In the six years that have passed, I moved overseas (and back, twice) and met an incredible man. I seemingly have all those things I wished for as a lonely 25 year old. What’s ironic now is that those tried and true traditions of my childhood have faded as families have changed and life as gone on as it always does. In all of my Thanksgivings spent away from home, I’ve missed and idealized those moments, foolishly believing I could easily step back into them at any time. Pierre at Thanksgiving will be there any time I decide to go back, but it will never be the holiday that is crystalized in my memories.
While that’s a bit heartbreaking, the evolution of life is something to be grateful for. We can’t move forward and grow into new experiences without letting go of things that used to make us really happy.
Last year was my first Thanksgiving back in the U.S. after four in Africa, but I have decided it doesn’t count. I cooked dinner with my then-roommate and a friend (both of whom I’ve lost touch with in the year that has passed) and Skyped with my family who were all together without me, a unique kind of loneliness that I felt a great deal while in Lesotho.
This year, though, feels real. I am not going home, but rather to Ethan’s parent’s house in southern Illinois. It’s our first major holiday together and my first time meeting his parents. We are both so excited to be together that last night we kept looking at each other and smiling, in that obnoxious way lovey-dovey couples do. I will be in a house full of people with good food and, while I can’t be home, this is an excellent alternative.
It’s an understatement that I have so much to be thankful for because, at this moment in my life, I am the happiest I have been in years. Everything in my life – from work to my health to relationships to friendships – has just fallen into place. While amazing, it’s a bit terrifying because it’s likely not sustainable and anything can change in an instant. I want to recognize those blessings each day and enjoy them as much as I can, so that if something does happen I know that I appreciated them.
As I say every year, I aspire to be someone who is grateful every day and not just one in November. That’s not easy, for anyone, and it is a practice and the key to living a more fulfilling life. We won’t be perfect at it, ever, but we can try. I will start today. I will be as thankful as I can, and then tomorrow too. After that, one day at a time.
For now, though, here is what I am most thankful for:
- Running, whether along Lake Michigan or into the heart of the city.
- Writing. Even when I make mistakes and my message comes out jumbled, I am still creating.
- An apartment that may be tiny but is all mine.
- A job that challenges me and puts me close to a mission I believe in.
- That money, despite still having student loan debt, isn’t always my greatest worry.
- Health. I may be getting older and my body isn’t as spry as it once was, but I did run a marathon this year and my first dental appointment in an embarrassing long time only revealed two cavities. I consider that amazing health.
- Chicago. I love living in this amazing, vibrant city. Whether I am downtown amongst the tall buildings, in my quiet neighborhood with split levels and block parties or on the tree-lined Lake Shore trail, I am home.
- Friends. It took my about a year to find solid friends in this city, or at least determine that they were solid friends, but I am grateful for the friends I do have in Chicago. I used to think no one here knew me, but I do not feel that way anymore. I am also incredibly thankful for my friends spread throughout the country, including in South Dakota. I’ve been able to see many of them in the last year and even just a few hours at a wedding with them fills my heart. I really do know some of the world’s best people.
- My partner. Every day I am just a bit happier because he is in my life. He brings out my deepest giggles and he can calm my anxieties unlike anyone else. He is goofy and incredibly bright (I literally use him as a human Google). I am so lucky.
- My family. We have a family text group and sometimes it can populate 58 messages in an hour, but my goodness do I love those humans. We are not perfect, but we wouldn’t be our family if we were. And I am not the person I am without them.
There is so much more to be thankful for, but I have many more days to reflect on those things. Wherever you, I hope you have something. or lots of somethings, to be thankful for.