Plenty of Thanks to Go Around

Thanksgiving: a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, on the fourth Thursday in November (or the second Monday of October, in Canada).

A day to give thanks for what we have, and eat a lot of food.

One thing i am thankful for: gainful employment, to which i must now adjourn…

 

…more to be thankful for later…
*     *     *
Okay so it’s a day later, rather than later the same day.  The gratitude of yesterday kept snowballing so i rolled with it.  If i’d stopped to record it for posterity, some crucial thankfulness may have gone unnoticed.  But now it’s post-holiday life-as-i-know-it.  A good time for reflection, or a stroll through the chronological park of Thanksgiving 2012 to find all the things that are worthy of thanking.
As you can see from above, i had to work yesterday.  Normally this is something i would not find the positives in, considering it was a holiday especially.  On a positive note, the place i work operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  It’s because of those hours of operation that i was able to return to school and work on earning my bachelor’s degree and still maintain full time employment.  So i’m definitely thankful for that.  You might not think so, given my penchant for grumbling about how challenging (i.e. pain in the ass) it can be at times.  In regards to yesterday, i’m thankful that my shift was in the day, instead of the usual night time shift.
Going to school is certainly something i’m thankful for.  After i graduated high school i went straight to college at Ashland University.  That was the first time i’d been away from home, on my own, same as it is for so many kids, and i loved it.  i’d be lying if i said i was homesick.  And it was a big change from the Catholic school education i’d received up until that point.  There was no uniform to adhere to.  No mandatory religion classes that i had to sit through, faithlessly wondering “does everyone else in here believe this stuff?”  No withering looks or statements in the morning like “you were out late last night.”  Everything was new, including me.  That was maybe the first time i felt like i could just be me in every way, and no one had any preconceived notions about me.  No one knew me, so i could be whoever and however i wanted.  That only lasted one school year though.  When i came home for the summer after my freshman year, i was told i wouldn’t be able to go back because it cost too much, and there wasn’t any way to pay for it or get a loan because my mom had lost her job.
Naturally, i was bummed, pissed, and angry.  But i am thankful for the experience, for what it was worth.  From that point, i bounced around quite a bit.  Got an associate’s degree from the community college, matriculated to Kent State University.  Right away at KSU i had to choose a major, because all the general requirements were fulfilled through the associate’s degree.  It was Big Decision time, so i got a copy of the course catalog out and started going through it from front to back, narrowing down my choices like i was ordering dinner at a restaurant.  Finally, i got to Journalism.  The description of the major said something about how it prepared students for a real life career as a professional writer.  That clinched it for me and i didn’t make it past that entry.  At the time i was heavily into Wizard magazine, a publication dedicated to comic book news, and that was where i intended to work after graduation.  On a road trip later that year, a friend and i got tremendously lost trying to find their offices in Congers, NY.  We never found it, but we did visit the Big Apple for the first time, confirming what i suspected would be an immediate love affair between the Capital of the World and me.  And we did a fan’s tour of Redbank, NJ where we visited the Quick Stop made famous by Clerks, and other landmarks from the View Askewnivese.  i’m thankful for that trip, my first road trip.
A few years later, i abandoned my college career because of youthful idealism.  In one of my journalism classes, the professor explained what i now understand is agenda-setting.  This is the concept that the news “doesn’t tell you what to think, but what to think about.”  At the time, i thought to myself “sounds like news isn’t so objective after all.”  For whatever reason, that just really rubbed me the wrong way, and as youth is wont to do, i rebelled against it by dropping out of college.  That’ll show ’em!  Fast forward about a dozen years and here i am telling you about it while i’m back in school working towards the same goal i was then.  Except now i’m a much more neurotic, anxious adult who realizes that piece of paper is the real goal and it’s worth it to do what you gotta do to get it.  At least i think so, right now.  i hope so.  i’m thankful for the opportunity to find out.
Working in the day yesterday meant i was home on a weekday evening.  Another thing to be thankful about!  In fact just driving home, weaving between the cars of people returning from holiday celebrations, probably stuffed with bountiful food, maybe heading to their favorite watering hole to recover from a day spent with the family, i gave thanks as i always do.  It’s already dark.  The sun has already set – no final fading rays shimmering on Lake Erie when i round the bend of the Shoreway and feel the pull of home go taut in my heart.  i hit the ramp just next to Cleveland Browns Stadium and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, thinking to myself for the umpteenth time that the museum enshrining music history looks a little too 80s for my taste, a little too art deco, a little too Nagel.  Maybe that’s what they were going for.
i’m thankful for where i live, in Lakewood.  Since i was younger, a teen, probably years before that even, i always wanted to move away from where i lived.  The idea of growing up and settling down in the same town was (is!) anathema to me.  That’s certainly the impetus for the adventuresome streak of my 20s – buying one-way tickets to Europe, moving to Big Bear in California, and so forth.  And while, yes, i’ve snapped back to the Cleveland area like a reflex action each time, i am so thankful for migrating to the city’s west side at least.  It’s very different over here, and feels more like where i’m supposed to be.  It’s the first time in my life that i’m proud to declare the city i live in.  Where i went to high school, as far as most people thought, i might as well have said i lived in a DMZ when i told them i lived in Euclid.  i remember talking with someone one day in high school.  i mentioned that i’d taken my dog for a walk the night before.  His name was Gibson, a Shetland Sheepdog.  My brother and i named him after Jean-Claude Van Damme’s character in Cyborg.  My stepdad thought we named the dog after him (Gibson was his middle name).  Anyway, i’m done with my dog-walking anecdote, and this is the take away from the audience: “You live in Euclid? And you went out at night?!”
 
Those are some of the bigger ticket items to be thankful about.  The larger scale stuff.  On the other end of the spectrum are tens, hundreds, thousands of little things that make me grateful.  They’re all the things that shape my philosophy about outlook, about negatives and positives.  So much of my life has been mired in the negatives, either responding to it externally or struggling against it internally.  So many of the people in my world growing up seem to have the idea that life is a competition of who is more miserable.  You stubbed your toe – they broke their foot.  You had a rough day at work – they got fired.  Traffic made your commute take 20 extra minutes – theirs took an hour, and their car broke down.  Perhaps they believe that sympathy means letting the other person know that your situation is even worse.  One day, it struck me that for a lot of humans, their way of connecting with other humans is through shared negativity.  Here’s an example:
i was taking the trash out one day.  i’m riding the elevator down from the 9th floor and it stops on the 6th floor to let another guy on who is also heading down to the dumpster with his trash.
“Did there used to be a compactor in this buildling?” i asked.  “The map of the floor plan shows one.”
“I’ve lived here 10 years,” the guy replies.  “Hasn’t been one since I’ve lived here.  It’s a pain in the ass to take out the trash, huh?”
“No,” i said.  “Not really.  It’s a chance to stretch my legs at least.”
By now we’re in the parking lot together, heading towards the row of dumpsters, including the one dedicated to recycling.
“Sucks to have to separate your trash,” the guy said.
“Well, you don’t have to,” i reply.  “And i’m happy to see they have recycling.”
“I hate coming out here, especially when it’s cold,” the guy makes another appeal to my negativity.
“It’s not such a big deal,” i said.
The guy then scowled at me, shook his head, and walked back to the building briskly to avoid me.  For a moment i stood in the parking lot, mostly to give him a chance to get away from me.  Where the hell do i get off not sharing his dislike for every aspect of taking out the trash?  It occurred to me then, maybe that’s how he relates to the world and makes connections with people.  If he hates something, maybe other people do too, and they can talk about it and feel more secure.  It dawned on me then – seems like there’s a lot of people for whom that may be true.  For whom the dichotomy of good things and bad things leans heavily toward the latter.
i look at it like this: in the whole history of the world, there have always been good things and bad things happening constantly, everywhere, all day and night.  In fact, it’s not even really a dichotomy, as these things overlap and depend on perspective (e.g., what’s good for one could be bad for another).  Some people tend to only look at the positives, and they’re often considered naive.  Some only look at the negatives, and these are cynics.  The best way lies probably in the middle, as it does with all things – in moderation.  But when it comes to making connections with other beings, i’d prefer it be through mutual recognition of the good things in life.
Wow, even i got lost there.  Where was i going with that?  Oh yeah, the little things to be thankful for.  Like insights into human behavior gleaned from taking out the trash.  Or the unlimited space of the Internet that let’s me ramble on ad nauseum about…whatever.  Or the feeling that you’re never too old to try something new, change something about yourself, change your mind, change your world.  Okay maybe not such little things after all.  But everyone has their laundry list of things to be thankful for, so i’ll spare you mine.
Instead, i’ll tell you what i am most thankful for, that surpasses health, home, and higher education.  Heart.  Yep, when it comes down to it i’m a big softie, sentimental, a tad on the sensitive side.  The thing i am most thankful for everyday is love.  i don’t need a special annual event to remind me about giving thanks for it – it’s the first thought i have every day when i wake up and the last one i have before i go to sleep.  It’s the thing that makes me realize how lucky i am every moment.  It’s the thing i’m most proud of, and the thing that is most challenging, and the thing that is most valuable.
More specifically, i’m thankful to have my terrific girlfriend Melissa in my life.  We’ve been together for almost 8 years now, the best years of my life.  She is my best friend, and probably the only person i’ve ever known with whom i can truly be myself in every way.  She is beautiful, and honest, and funny, and smart.
Sometimes, when we’re getting ready to go out, we’ll end up dressing very similarly.  She’ll say we look too alike, we look like male and female versions of the same person.  Well, duh!  Maybe that’s superficial, what we look like on the outside, but i think it speaks to something deeper than that.  She’ll say jokingly “you’re just trying to be like me.”  Unconsciously, that might be true.  On the other hand, striving to be so wonderful is not such a bad thing, right?
We don’t share too many of the same tastes in entertainment or things like that, but at our cores i feel like we’re one soul in two bodies.  What we value, how we see the world, our goals, and ambitions – those are the things we share.
On occasion we have our rough spots.  Of course, i understand that is perfectly natural.  i don’t think anyone in a relationship goes any length of time without them.  But i’m happy to say that one of our greatest assets is the communication between us, so we never resort to angry words and nastiness.  Because what’s the point in that?  i’m so thankful that we’re both so willing and able to talk clearly about what we’re thinking and feeling that allows the other person to appreciate a new perspective, and grow, and become better people.  In the final analysis, it’s how you deal with those rough spots that makes going forward more positive.
Overwhelmingly, those rough spots are outweighed by all the passion, laughter, and love.  The connection between us.  The little notes we leave each other, hidden throughout our home.  The way we miss each other after moments apart.  The surety that “this is someone i can trust with my life.”
She’s my sweetie, my soul mate, the great love of my life.
That’s makes every day a day to give thanks.

Update: one more thing to be thankful for: over 1000 unique visitors to The Long Shot!  i started doing this just shy of two months ago and i don’t have a clue where exactly it’s going, but that made me feel pretty good to see.  So a special thank you to the 1000th visitor, whoever you are, and to everyone else who stopped by before and since.

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