It’s been a while since I’ve had trouble expressing gratitude – it’s such a natural process for me, and suddenly, here of all places, with paper and pen, with thoughts of gratitude that are overwhelming my heart and my body, I’m facing difficulty.
Planes often make me evaluate my life, because of this imminent fear that clutters our minds about crashes and deaths, and because being in transition, I suppose, always makes one think backwards and forwards and hope for some closure, or understanding, or growth.
If all goes according to plan, (and so far it hasn’t, so who knows?), I will be celebrating ten years post-high school, graduating with a B.A., two years from today. In the eight years that have passed, I’ve learned more about many things, and life became more and more gray-that is, more and more colorful, not black or white- it became complex yet simple, difficult to extrapolate yet clear, so clear, but so confusing. I’ve done 180 degree turns (and 87, and 53, and 136, and 172) in ideologies and in actions, but all of them have pivoted on several core axes: the importance of internal work, the importance of being with people and with oneself, the undeniable belief that the human experience is nonviolent in its fundamental state, and the strive towards justice – universal, global, communal, and personal. But facts and figures have revealed themselves differently over the years, and with them, my political beliefs and theories of change and social actions have shifted. My patience and my thirst for knowledge, for hearing subjective truths through narratives, for creating and innovating a breakthrough via cultures and psychology, have created in themselves more and more space for love, for active listening, for setting aside judgment and seeing a different perspective on reality that can easily scare most of us.
Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of work to do and a long way to go, but I’m creating space for questions and for their potentially surprising answers – and that is one of the first steps on this journey towards conflict resolution, towards peace, towards creating a new reality, a new human experience.
I‘m young and getting younger and more “naïve” every day, because kids ask questions and my truths, the answers I was taught before I got the chance to ask, have been on shaky ground for quite a while now. On this turbulent plane ride I see a metaphor of my changing understandings, only sure of two things:
1. I will never be sure of anything, and
2. In the end, we are all made of the same stardust – we are all flesh and bones and souls that breathe oxygen into our lungs and blood into our veins.
And that’s all that matters.
Eight years post-high school, millions of changed cells later, after a short visit back at high school, I am overcome with profound gratitude and understanding of the effect some of my teachers have had on me, and , in turn, I hope, one day, on the world, as a result of the little steps I am taking to make it a better, more just one. I suddenly see the support and trust – even more, the faith and the awe, the vision – that some of them (of you) have given me. I write these words and my body reacts: my heart beats faster, my eyes feel the tears of gratitude await their turn, my knees weaken, my breath quickens. How blessed I am to have been seen and to have been pushed forth, and how silly I was for not noticing it deeply in the moment, as it was happening. But that, too, I suppose, is no accident.
I feel it necessary to say (write) two unconventional feelings/thoughts/streams from the bottom of my heart, because one never knows when one will be taken and it is important to say such truths:
1. I am so deeply grateful and humble for all of the aforementioned processes and the people who have been a part of them, and those who will continue to be a part of this process, knowingly or un. I’m grateful to those who have imprinted in me the stamp for social actions and human rights and justice, and wish to let them know how deeply they’ve touched me and propelled social action to go forth: teachers who recognize me and picked me out to attend leadership seminars at such a young age (middle school); teachers who taught me about the detrimental power of silence and who sent me to learn and meet young leadership; teachers who provided the platforms for young social change and activism as a teenager, and pushed me forward more than they probably imagine. There were others, teachers and guides and friends, there still are and always will be, who created my strong personality and instilled in me independence with a soft foundation to fall back on – my parents, of course, (both sets of them), some of their friends who were like aunts and uncles for me, teachers who pushed me academically and artistically, the social worker who helped me overcome what felt like severe suicidal depression, my friendships and the ridiculously difficult situations that life dealt us, women who inspired me just by being themselves- strong powerhouses, unapologetic, always pushing forward through obstacles into positivity and faith, women who taught me generosity and gratitude, people who taught me the kind and caring ways of travelers and locals who took me in, people who broke my heart- even if just for a brief moment, and even if for a bit longer- but returned my faith in love, friends who shared my definition of friendship, unofficial teachers from whom I’ve learned the “field” and who’ve become friends for whom I harbor an intense amount of love, managers at work who’ve taught me endless things about life and professionalism and who let me initiate and trusted my ideas and plans, and people who share my passion, and people who’ve left along the way and taught me disappointments, and people I’ve left along the way who taught me to save my energy – all this, and I only just turned twenty-six.
So thank you all, those who saw and supported and those who didn’t and through that, -taught me hardships and independence.
2. It is taboo but I’ve let down my guard almost completely and I feel the need to yell out loud my thoughts about death (which, to me, comes hand in hand with gratitude), whenever it may be – tomorrow, or in 80 years, or somewhere in between, or before or after. My recent visit to my old home has created much conversation about fear for my safety because of my work and what I feel is my life’s mission, the path that I strongly and definitively walk on, and that has led me to some thoughts, along with this plane and all the things I wrote in the beginning.
I wish for it to be a happy one, for you to know that every moment, even the darkest of the dark, I am grateful for every breath, for every person, for every feeling in my body. And that makes my future death acceptable and even, if I may, celebratory, as I spend my moments living, growing, fulfilling my destiny and potential – doing what I love, or accepting the struggle and adding a dash of gratitude and faith into what I must do but love a bit less (school). And loving the dark times just as much as the bright ones, even deaths and sicknesses, having faith and trust – even when I don’t trust, I trust that I shouldn’t be trusting, that this, too, is a part of the path. So this part is really a favor I ask of you regarding my death – make it celebrating, please, no matter the circumstance. I live fully, so in death we should be happy and fulfilled, even if it is a tragic or unnatural one. (Nothing is unnatural, though, if there is a path, and I believe there is one, to a certain extent.)
My words don’t mean to be morbid; they are sincerely happy and gracious, from the depths of my blood and my breaths.