Joel and I were having a discussion the other day on the ethics of donating money to someone living on the streets.

There are two common schools of thoughts in this area: 1) that you shouldn’t give money to someone who’s homeless because they might spend it on the “wrong” things, and 2) that you should give them cash without any judgment of what they might use it for.

I’ll try not to get too political here (I know this is a touchy subject for most people), but it really got me thinking about the nature of my own life vs. someone else’s.

Although I could tell you that I’ve worked hard to earn everything I have, I don’t know if I truly believe that. Of course, my life would be very different if I had decided early on just to never try at anything, but most of the good in my life is a result of chance and luck—a play at the genetic lottery, if you will.

The choices we make are a micro-fraction of reasons why we become who we become. The rest is caused by the environment we grow up in and an infinite list of influences that we can’t even begin to comprehend.

I wasn’t planning on posting anything today, but I felt a little cheesy waking up this morning and wanted to document all the things I was feeling so grateful for.

Although there are a lot (and I mean a lot) of things that I’ve lucked out on, there are four areas that outshine everything else by a large margin:

My physical health. I’m a bit of an anxious person and very much an over-thinker, and I’m always amazed at how I’ve made it this far in life without any significant impairments. I’m walking on two legs, seeing clearly (well, with contacts), I can hear just fine, I don’t have to worry about the foods I eat, I can lay at home instead of in a hospital bed, I bear no major disfigurements, I have all my vital organs intact, and I live an almost entirely pain-free existence.

My mental health. As someone who’s experienced various psychological and neurological deficiencies in the past (both in myself and in those close to me), I’m grateful to be (mostly) healthy in the mind. I have no crippling addictions, no overly neurotic tendencies, and have an innate desire to live fully.

The family I was born with. They’re not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but they’ve loved and supported me all my life, and that’s more than a lot of people can say. I’m lucky enough to have a mom and dad and to have a home that I can always come back to when life gets a little unkind.

The family I chose. I moved around a lot when I was younger and considered myself a bit of a loner at heart. I was always the person who was surrounded by a million acquaintances, but had trouble forming deeper relationships and connections. Friendships get stronger overtime, and I’m grateful that I finally have a small group of people who I feel close to. And of course, Joel is a big part of that—we’ve been dating for almost 4 years now and I can confidently say that relationships get so, so much better the longer you nurture them.

And now for the rest:

  1. A roof over my head. Especially with all the tragedy that our state has experienced lately, I’ve never felt luckier to have a home to come back to at the end of the day.
  2. And furthermore, waking up to blue skies today! The smoke has officially cleared in East Bay and we can safely leave the house again without inhaling a metaphorical cigarette or two.
  3. My dad visiting me for Thanksgiving (his first time here in 13 years).
  4. Living in California, where the weather is beautiful and the people are less likely to support Trump (el oh el).
  5. Getting a higher education at a well-respected institution.
  6. Getting a secondary education in a well-respected school district.
  7. Feeling supported growing up whenever I wanted to try something new. My mom always said “yes” to paintbrushes, cameras, or anything else that would enable my creativity—I honestly believe that talent is mostly a product of practice, and I can’t imagine where I’d be without the stacks of old sketchbooks I have hiding in my room.
  8. My American passport. For all the hate we think America gets, being a U.S. citizen is still a major privilege. So many people don’t have the same access to the countries that we do (or even the ability to leave their own country).
  9. Having relatively clear skin.
  10. Coffee on early mornings.
  11. Choice of career. It peeves me that it’s trendy nowadays to hate on “9-to-5 cubicle jobs”. A lot of people would kill to sit behind a desk all day, rather than breaking their backs in a factory, at a construction site, or on a farm. An office job means your safety intact and a steady paycheck. I feel so lucky to even have the opportunity to pick what I want to do with my life in the first place.
  12. Access to healthy food and knowledge of healthy eating habits (not that I eat perfectly by any means). I spend a weird amount of time studying nutrition (especially the obesity epidemic in America), and a lot of health problems are caused by much more than a simple “lack of willpower”.
  13. Technology and the internet. I’m currently watching the Macy’s Parade from 3,000 miles across the country, while typing out a blog post that will be accessible to anyone with an internet connection around the world, and preparing a few Thanksgiving side dishes based on recipes that some strangers wrote in their kitchens at another end of the globe. It’s wild.
  14. Having a good relationship with money. I’ve always been good with budgeting and saving, but also never let that stop me from enjoying myself. I know the dangers of debt and I find it easy to live within my means. These habits also allow me to do things like getting free flights and hotel stays.
  15. English as a first language. Although I do want to learn more languages in the future, it would be naive to downplay the importance of not only knowing English, but having a fluent and native ability to speak it (especially if you plan on traveling internationally).
  16. The library. I know a lot of people don’t use it anymore but can we stop and appreciate for moment how freaking awesome it is that there are these buildings filled with free books for us to consume?

I could go on and on, but in the spirit of the holiday, I’m going to end this list here so that I can spend more time with my family today.

Even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you’ll take a moment today to sit down at a meal with loved ones, and to appreciate all that life has given you.

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