Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving this year was spent in Westport, Connecticut at my aunt and uncle’s new house. The house was only completed a couple months before last year’s Thanksgiving, so that was the “breaking-the-house-in” Thanksgiving, so to speak. This year’s holiday was much more relaxed in comparison to last years, considering the house has been lived in for more than just a few months. With family and friends gathered around the dining room table, (piled high with the traditional recipes – turkey, stuffing and ratatouille) it was nice to be spending a calmer Thanksgiving with those closest to me.

It’s always a rare occasion to get everyone together for the holidays, and the fact that we hail from Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Maryland, Connecticut and Virginia doesn’t make it any easier. But this year, all but one of the cousins (who happened to be in China traveling- lucky guy) was accounted for.

After plenty of hordervers, a heaping plate of food, some homemade pumpkin pie, a couple of home videos, two or three friendly games of billiards, and the chance to meet some new friends of the family, it was off to bed. It’s true what they say, turkey and good conversation really do make you sleepy. Even leftover turkey is having the same effect on me as I lounge on the couch, yawning intermittently as I type away at this piece. But after my Thanksgiving meal, as I lay in my makeshift bed, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that I should be thankful for.

There are a couple different categories of things that I think we should all be thankful for in life. The basics are, of course, good health (mental, physical and emotional) for ourselves and our family, and happiness that we all share together. I think the friends and family that we have are extremely important as well, whether they are surrounding us at the dinner table or are thousands of miles away.

Most of the other things that I am thankful for are more individualistic in a specific sense, but the overall ideas still pertain to most everyone. Often when I think of the past, I think about where I am today and I am thankful for the journey I’ve taken to get here. From starting my schooling career in Pennsylvania in 3rd grade, and now being close to done with my 3rd semester of college, a lot of time has passed from then until now, time that has been filled with memories and adventures from elementary school to well through high school.

Along this line, I am very thankful for where I am today. I’m thankful for the college I am a part of every single day, even when I’m not in class or even on campus. I’m thankful for the knowledge I have learned at school, which has helped me get to where I am today. As a hospitality major, people think that all we learn is how to hold doors for people (perhaps a slight exaggeration). In reality, the knowledge I have gained from these classes has helped me succeed in class, in obtaining internships, as well as in my everyday interactions with new people and new situations. With the future being a common topic around the Thanksgiving dinner table, I’m glad I have a plan in the works for mine.

Plans sometimes don’t always work out though. We often forget that the unexpected is always lurking around the corner, easily able to turn a seemingly flawless plan into a disaster. But those failed plans can always become equally as fun memories, another thing to be thankful for. The experiences I’ve had from failed plans are something I always hold close to my heart. Over the summer, I discovered a quote from the famous author/composer who goes by the name “anonymous,” that said, "In a world where all is, in the end, ash, the only real moments of glory we have are in the moments of experience." When you think about the world in this way, I think it really rings true to the fact that our lives are what we make of them. We are not defined by the things we own, but by what we do with those things.

Life is precious, it really is. Each day that we have on earth is a gift, and it’s our job to accept that gift and make the most out of it. Thanksgiving is a very special idea, a holiday that gives us a set date and an excuse to think about the things we are thankful for. But in reality, every day should be treated this way.

Only a few minutes before I began writing this article, at the top of my Facebook page was a post from an old friend about the unexpected passing of his grandmother. I knew his grandma well. She was a substitute teacher at my high school for a long time. She was strict to those she wasn’t familiar with, but once she got to know you, she was a very kindhearted and sweet lady. I can only imagine that the life of a substitute teacher must be an interesting one; a different class every day, a new adventure every morning.

This is exactly how she lived her life though, like it was a new adventure every morning. Each day was a new page in the book of life for her, and she was very thankful for every one of those days. At the end of the Facebook post, my friend wrote, “To everyone else who reads this, do yourself a favor and live each day like it's your last because there's no real way of knowing when that day will come.”

That day could be today. That day could be tomorrow. That’s the excitement of life; you never know what it may bring. Sometimes the thought scares me, but other times it energizes me. We are only guaranteed the present, the future is merely a thought in our minds. If today was your last day on earth, would you be happy with what you had accomplished in life thus far? Would you be happy with the choices you’ve made and the choices you didn’t make? Or would you be filled with regret, wishing you could go back in time and change the path your life would have taken with a simple “yes” instead of a “no”?

So, to everyone who reads this, do yourself a favor and live each day like it’s your last, because there is no real way of knowing when that day will come. Try to make the right decision the first time, and if you don’t then try to learn from your mistakes. Be thankful today and every day for what you have. Life is a gift, accept it and reap the benefits of every single day.