One week ago, I turned twenty-five. A quarter century! I wanted to write something big to commemorate it. Something epic and meaningful. Something like this.
But honestly? I’ve found myself in a bit of a slump lately — with my writing, my work, and my travels. I used to laugh at warnings of the mythical quarter life crisis, but recently, reluctantly, I’ve accepted that I myself might be clumsily stumbling around in one. The good news, though, is that I’ve spent the past few months thinking about what path I’m taking next, and I’m excited about the future.
One thing I’ve been focusing on lately? Living with gratitude. For the past month or so, I have made an effort to once a day say to myself very consciously, “I am grateful for this moment.” Sometimes that was gazing back at Koh Tao from my perch on a paddleboard, sometimes it was in the midst of a warm hug with a close friend, sometimes it was driving my motorkbike down the road when the sun shone through the palm trees at just the right moment.
And so, to start the next quarter century in style, a list of twenty five things that I’m grateful for today.
1. I am grateful for the privilege to see with my own eyes twenty seven countries and seventeen states — and counting. For the memories I’ve made, lessons I’ve learned, and people I’ve met in each of them. I’m thankful for recognizing my passion for travel so early in life.
2. I am grateful for a family that always calls me home. For a mother who has imbued me with creativity and kindness, a father who has taught me to be both successful and generous, and for sisters who inspire me, who make me laugh and who hold out a hand when needed. For aunts, uncles, grandmas and cousins who make up the rich fabric of family. I am ever so grateful that despite the fact that my parents are separated, we all remain a family. Sometimes I am overly critical of or impatient with my family, and I want to work on that. There is no one or no thing I care about more.
3. I am grateful for a cold Diet Coke on a warm summer day, and a warm apple cider on a chilly fall one.
4. I am grateful for a passport from a country that gives me the green light to travel almost anywhere the world. I often take this for granted until I see the red tape my friends from countries with more “difficult passports” have to work through.
5. I am grateful for a body that is capable of bringing me up mountains, under the sea, and all over a yoga mat. I am grateful to find a natural enjoyment in physical activity, which makes at least one half of the staying in shape equation easier. (Though, you know, if I would magically develop an immunity to carb bloat, I wouldn’t be opposed to that too.)
6. I am grateful for what I’m convinced is the most amazing group of friends in the world, spread out all over the planet. I am grateful for the ability to accept them for who they are and what they are willing to give to our friendship, and for their patience and understanding of my endless wandering. I feel a deep connection with them even when I am physically very far away. It makes feel like I’ve done something right in my life to deserve these friends I have.
7. I am grateful for what my sister Olivia and I call The Church Giggles™ — those times you laugh so hard you totally lose control and tears spring from your eyes and you feel you’ve had a slight workout after. I feel lucky to have a life that is full of them.
8. I am grateful for those rare books, movies and songs that leave me lost in thought.
9. I am grateful for the fact that, glaring exceptions aside, life has put a string of funny, interesting, big-hearted guys in my path. I’m kind of seeing one right now.
10. I am grateful for the ocean, and all the beautiful time I’ve spent living so close to it.
11. I am grateful for having access to comprehensive health care, a family of experts helping me navigate the system, and the privilege of not having to base my health care decisions on my bank account. (Gotta get this one in while I still can — I roll off my parents’ health insurance in a year and I suspect I’ll be singing a different tune then.)
12. I am grateful for teachers who inspired me, nurtured my creativity and challenged me. From my Montessori educators to my public high school teachers to my Pratt professors, I owe a lot to the people who molded my little brain. (And I’m so proud that’s what my baby sis has been doing for the past two years!) I’m so grateful there were people out there fighting for my education before I was wise enough to realize how important it was for myself.
13. I am grateful for my sense of taste, which lets me savor ripe mangos, delicious avocados, and endless flavors of ice cream.
14. I am grateful for access to a family car that gets me wherever I need to be when I’m stateside.
15. I am grateful for a childhood bedroom that still feels like home in a town I’m proud to be from. For couches, spare rooms and floors I’ve been offered by family, friends, and acquaintances all over the world.
16. I am grateful for sunsets, which always remind me that nature is my favorite artist. And mush my brain enough to give me a free pass on all kinds of cliche statements.
17. I am grateful for the kindness from complete strangers that so often makes my day on the road.
18. I am grateful for two amazing dogs who have brought immeasurable joy to my life, and taught me the meaning of unconditional love.
19. I am grateful for the confidence to travel alone and the predisposition to wildly enjoy it. I am so thankful to enjoy my own company as much as I do.
20. I am grateful for strong holiday traditions that I grow more appreciative every year to have grown up with. I look forward to carrying on and continuing to create these traditions for the rest of my life.
21. I am grateful for rediscovering my love of singing. It was a goal of mine to get up and sing at an open mic night while I was in Thailand and once I got over my stage fright, it felt good. It has reminded me how much I miss creating — outside this blog, of course — and I’m even hoping to pick up a paintbrush again soon.
22. I am grateful for being debt free, and the frugality and financial values my parents instilled in me. For the financial freedom my career gives me to treat myself occasionally to cheap Thai massages, fancy cocktails, movie tickets and all the other little splurges I enjoy so much.
23. I am grateful for days when I am productive and end the day proud of my work. For blogging, which has connected me to fantastic like-minded people the world over. For the fact that my lifestyle and career mean that days when I wake up to an alarm are few and far between (I’m a naturally early riser anyway).
24. I am grateful for the pain I’ve felt and the times life has truly tested me — they have shown me who I am and how strong I can be, taught me to appreciate periods of peace and joy, and prepared me for whatever comes next.
25. I am grateful for how easily 1,300 words of thankfulness came. I recognize that there are many people in this world for whom a similar list would be much shorter, and that reminds me to never take these things for granted.
I’ll wrap this sap-fest up with one of my favorite quotes, from American Beauty. Most of all, I’m grateful that when I read through the list I just wrote, tapped out on my iPhone over the course of a few thoughtful days, I feel exactly like this.
It’s hard to stay mad, when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst… And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life.
Thanks for being a part of my stupid little life, y’all. What are you thankful for today?