On Friendships | Thanksgiving Edition

Thoughts

It’s somehow Thanksgiving time again, and I’m finally taking a moment to pause, breathe, reflect on the last three months. This fall has been one of the the most confusing, heartbreaking, difficult seasons that I have ever had in my life, and yet I’m coming out of it still somehow in one piece.

I say “somehow,” but really, I know how: in the last three months, I have been reminded again and again of the incredible support system around me. And so today, on this day of thanks, when the world feels a little less whole and a little less right and yet the sun is still beaming outside – I have to take a moment and just be in awe at the different friendships that I’m lucky to call mine.

– Friendships of growth, ones that challenge me in so many different ways to think differently, to be better. They’re friends who care enough about me to speak the truth, even if that’s not what I want; friends who remind me not to be so hard on myself, that it’s okay to take a moment to feel the feels; friends who are passionate about causes and ideas I’d never even considered. Through these friends, I’ve realized that you can be a “lifelong learner” without even picking up a book.

– Friendships of hospitality, my friends who have opened their homes to me, without hesitation, offering me refuge even before I would admit I needed it. I’m thankful for the food, of course – homecooked meals of Chinese food and pancakes and cookies – but more thankful for the safe comfort of warm spaces to have conversations on anything and everything.

– Friendships of distance, and at the shared times that grounded these friendships so deeply that they could survive the distance. Not even just “survive” – they’re friendships that continue to thrive despite the distance, whether it’s across the country or across the globe. I’m thankful for these friends who can so easily put a smile on my face through just a text or a call, reminding me that maybe the world isn’t quite as big as I thought after all, reminding me that I am never alone.

– Friendships of circumstance, a circumstance we never wanted. And yet here we are, so easily settling into this pattern of texting each other when we’d really only tangentially known each other in years past. It has been so easy to love each other because of how much we love her, and it is in turn so easy to see why she loved every one of you.

– Friendships of forever – I’m talking about you, Meg. And you, Nirmam. I am learning day by day that I have not lost you, I will not ever lose you, because your words, your actions, your friendship lives on in so many things I do or aspire to do. And while of course I wish more than anything that I could actually talk to you, I’m taking a step back today to just be so damn thankful of the laughs we shared, the words you spoke, the unforgettable way in which you’ve touched my heart.

I could go on with more friendships I’m thankful for – new ones, rekindled ones, everyday ones, not to mention family (does family count as friends?) – but for once in my life I’m not too concerned with accidentally leaving out a person or a category. I think that’s what gratitude helps you do: you focus on what you have, and how amazing that makes you feel, and just soak in that moment without worry for anything else.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone – my heart is feeling more full right now than it has in a really long time, and my stomach is hoping to follow suit very soon. I’m so thankful for all of you!

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On Vacation

Thoughts

About a week ago, I was just wrapping up a five-day vacation in Cancun. I was lucky to have a friend getting married there (and I got to be one of her bridesmaids!), which of course gave us all an excuse to go on vacation at a beautiful resort.

I wanted to blog almost immediately after coming back, but I forced myself to give it a week or so to digest the thoughts that overwhelmed my mind. Everyone kept asking, “How was Cancun?” and it was easy to give the generic answer: “It was awesome. It was so beautiful. It was relaxing. It was amazing.” But the thing is, this vacation was so much more than that, and so much more than I had expected. I came back not only physically and mentally refreshed; I also came back with my heart overwhelmed by gratitude for my life.

That might sound kind of dramatic (consistent with my personality), but let me explain. While we were at the all-inclusive resort, our every need and want was catered to and waited on. The people of Mexico were kind, cheerful and so hospitable during our stay there, whether it was at the hotel itself or on a tour bus to the Chichen Itza. For all the great service we had during our time there, however, there was also a nagging thought at the back of my mind: B and I were totally conscious of the fact that the standard of living for some of the people there was so far in contrast to the luxury we were enjoying during our all-inclusive vacation. We saw it in the men, women, and children walking up and down the beaches trying to sell us purses and bracelets; we saw it in the tour guides and performers who hoped graciously for tips; we saw it in the street vendor at Chichen Itza who had so much competition and was desperate for a sale.

It tugged on my heartstrings a little bit and almost made me uneasy – I felt guilty bargaining with the street vendor when a $5 difference probably meant much more to him than to me. But I was humbled to see the cheerful spirits of most people we came across; for all my worries about a “lacking” standard of living, my arrogant pity at seeing the tour guide change into a frayed shirt after his job – I realized that these people shone with positive attitudes, embodied on happier faces than many I see in my day-to-day life in New York City.

Even though I don’t know whether or not these people were actually happy – for all I know, maybe they were just really good at putting on a positive front – the happiness of those who I perceived to have “less” than me, in turn, made me so grateful for what I have in my life today.

So that’s what I came back with: renewed gratitude for what I have in my life, as it is now. Too often, I’m complaining. I’m dissatisfied, I’m annoyed, I’m jealous. I’m all these negative feelings that are completely unwarranted. They say that one habit of people who are happy is that they remember to be thankful, and I think that’s the reason I’ve felt so refreshed and genuinely happy after my Cancun vacation: it reminded me to be thankful. I’m thankful for my family and my friends, for the love that they give me even when I’m at my worst. I’m thankful for my education, my job and the opportunities that have come with both. I’m thankful to be living in such a cool city, one that people come from all over the world to visit. I’m thankful for my hobbies, my upbringing, my life.

I would say this is the best souvenir I could have brought back. Thankful for this vacation and especially thankful for my friends Chrissy and John, whose beautiful wedding and steadfast love just filled my heart with so much happiness!