So, as is the custom in our country, I thought I would take a moment to recount some of the many things that I am particularly thankful to have in my life this year.
1) My family, as small as it may be. Unfortunately it got smaller by one this year, as I lost my 3rd grandparent. It reminded me how important family is though, because I had to be there as much as possible for my mom, as she was losing hers. I had to get this one out of the way first, because even now as I write it it's hard to type without swelling up. I do know how incredibly fortunate I am to have been born into the family I was given, and not in the more common sense of wealth or legacy, but in the never wavering love that they've always had for me.
2) Bacon. Ok, back on track to the fun things. You know how there are some things in life that always provide you with a smile, a pick-me-up, or just make you forget everything else, if at least temporarily? For me it's bacon. No matter what's wrong, bacon is the answer. Some people say it's a fad, that it's overused today, I say begone from my presence naysayers. There is a reason so many people use it, because it's magical. If you ever want to get on my good side, this is the easiest way possible.
3) Friends, near and far. Some of you I see all too often, some of you never enough. To have such a great range of people that I consider friends is rare for an age where social interactions are limited to whatever gets you what you want with the minimal amount of effort. It's not easy to make true friends, but it's easy to keep them once you've got them.
- My old high school buddies: If we're going to start at the beginning, I guess it should be here. From time to time I'm lucky enough to still run into these guys, despite our distance. It's such a treat to find out what's going on in the lives of the people you grew up with, and I'm incredibly proud of many of you. We all had relatively humble beginnings, but we've made quite a life for ourselves, haven't we?
- My ex-gamers: If there's one thing I was ever truly good at, it was blowing shit up in video games. While that might not be tombstone worthy, you've got to know your talents. It's actually rather remarkable the bonds you can form by spending 10 hours yelling at each other because someone moved in the wrong direction. It's nerdy, sure, but everyone's nerdy about something. At least mine resulted in some lifelong friends.
- My rugby mates: Damn, I miss you guys. If there was anything that would ever convince me to move back to North Carolina, it would be this bunch. I'll never forget the stuff we went through, the times we had, and how some of you helped me through some really absurdly stupid life choices. We also built a professional mud wrestling pit in my backyard, which to this day is the single greatest party I've ever attended. That alone is worth being thankful for.
- Former coworkers: There are so many of you! I admittedly have career ADD, I just get bored so easily. I'm glad that Facebook has allowed me to stay in touch with so many of you. The stories we recount, and how quickly we can get right back into getting along, is a true testament to a great work environment, wherever I've been in NC or DC.
- My DC folks: There are too many to name or count, but you've all been influential in some way in making my life better. I hope that if you've gotten to know me, it's always with a smile. I don't do grudges, and I don't do petty. I strive to make sure everyone around me is having a good time, if there's anything I can do to help it. This city is so transient, so it's pretty damn cool to be able to have such a collection of people to be close to.
- All of my pals in the food, beverage, and service industry: You all take such good care of me whenever I see you, and I try to return that in kind every chance I get. You can't know a city without knowing the people who play this vital role in creating its life, and I've been pretty fortunate to get to know so many of you for so long. I wish that I could come to all of your bars and restaurants every night of the week, but even when I don't see some of you for months it's like I've never left when I walk through that door. I'm actually a pretty excellent home cook, and I know my own way around a bar rather adeptly, but it's specifically because of you guys that I choose to come out and spend my money away from home.
- The random friends that I seem to meet all over: You are possibly the most fun of all, because our relationships are genuinely formed in the "organic" way that people romanticize over these days. One thing I learned from my now departed grandfather is that everyone has a story, and if you just talk to them they'll likely share it. I relish random encounters, because they come without pretense.
4) Travel. I've been so lucky to get to see the things I've seen in my short time thus far on Earth. I did not come from a family of travelers, aside from the yearly beach trip, so I had a lot of making up to do. If there's one thing I'm looking forward to more than anything as I get older it's seeing even more of the world.
5) DC. I truly do love the city I live in. We are blessed with a wealth of culture that many take for granted, myself included sometimes. The history here is incomparable within our nation, and the people you meet every day from all over the world only add to it with their own experiences. It may not have the best fish tacos, deep dish pizza, or Tex-Mex, but guess what? It's not San Diego, Chicago, or Austin, so it's not supposed to. I am thankful for what we DO have, which is representation of almost every global cuisine imaginable, if you know where to find it. I am thankful for free jazz in a renowned sculpture garden on beautiful summer days. I'm thankful for an arboretum filled with orchids. I'm thankful for a skyline that doesn't have to be garish to be impressive. I'm thankful for autumn, my favorite season, made wonderful by the brisk DC air. I'm thankful to live in a spectacular neighborhood that feels quiet and safe like suburbia but is a stroll away from the best ramen I've ever had and a pub with one of the most solid pints anywhere in the District. I would be more thankful if we actually got a real vote in Congress, but we're working on that.
6) Creative expression. Many people do not appreciate the luxury that is "free time". That we have the means to spend time doing other things than working, eating, and sleeping, and habitually repeating that cycle, is marvelous, in the true sense of the word. There are children who run 10 miles every day to get fresh water for their homes, men who spend every waking hour on a boat to feed their families, women who fight just to be considered first class citizens, let alone have time to paint, photograph, or blog. I crave the outlet that is writing, because it puts me back in touch with the other part of my brain that my job doesn't require. I love to capture images that help me remember all the wondrous things I've seen in life. The picture of a delicious dish can instantly remind me of the smells and flavors. To have such time available to do these things is something I do not take lightly, and why when I do them I do them with the spirit that someday I may never be able to again.
7) Lastly, I'm thankful that life provides more than just second chances. It provides you as many as you're willing to go out and earn. If you want to better yourself, and society isn't preventing you, then you can do it. You can do a 180 degree shift in your career path, or even get over life shattering break-ups, if you're willing to try. I don't know how many different chances I've had in life, but it's certainly more than I thought I would ever have needed by this point, and I'm beyond thankful that I took every opportunity to seize them when they came along. One of them graced me with a magnificent women who's as loyal to me as I am to her, a trait too often under-appreciated.
She regularly wows me, and that's not an easy thing to do. I'm thankful that we have set ourselves up for a life of success, through her diligence and my intuition, and that together we allow our strong points to complement each other rather than combat. I did not foresee myself being this happy after a period where, frankly, I was not. But life goes on, and more importantly, it goes where you tell it to go.
So whether you find yourself gathered around a table of loved ones or friends this Thanksgiving, at a bar alone with a beer and a shot, or overseas somewhere wondering what the hell this "holiday" is even about, take some time out to appreciate the things that make your life special. Cheers to the good life, may it find you well.