Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite celebrations of the year. I get a tingle in my heart being surrounded by family on any occasion but there’s something special about gathering together in the spirit of thankfulness for all that you have and gratefulness for one another. Every moment I experience in life, I know I am privileged to be a part of. There are countless moments where I close my eyes and say to myself, “Remember this. You are so lucky to be here.” It’s moments like those where I smile and know that I live a life that I have every reason to feel exceptionally blessed about. As I sit here and write this post at Simon’s Cafe in the George’s Street Arcade in Dublin, Ireland, those words are on repeat.
Much like the pieces of a puzzle, there are many different aspects that contribute to the bigger picture. I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am if it weren’t for my parents, my friends, my family, my health or the country I live in. Each of these people and things shape my undying thanks every single day.
To the people who are there for me through every stage of my life, my amazing parents…thank you. You just might be the number one thing I feel grateful to have in my world. You have both given me more support than I ever could have dreamed. Through my struggles you provide laughter and relief. I can count on each of you to give me the perfect advice and help me to uncover the answers I already knew deep down. Through my moments of great achievement, you’re both sitting front row. There isn’t an accomplishment or performance of mine that you both haven’t been there for with proud smiles. There’s never been a moment where I’ve felt like I can’t call you in tears for a shoulder to lean on, ask an opinion without feeling judged or talk to you about taking on a new life adventure. I know that you’ll always show me support and love with whatever I decide to do and wherever I decide to go. In fact, you’re often encouraging me to live large, take risks and discover through success and failure. It’s a gift I know a lot of people don’t have and I don’t know where I would be without it. You’ve been selfless and giving and I know that you want me to be the happiest I can be. You’re the two people who have raised me to be the woman I am and continue to teach me by leading such a flawless example of the people I want to live up to. Through both of you I’ve learned to work hard for what I want and even harder to get to where I want to be. I’ve learned to be self-aware and kind to everyone around me. I know that it’s okay to fall down and experience high’s and lows because that’s truly what life is all about. You learn and grow from every end of the spectrum. Thank you for knowing me, for taking the time to know me. I am grateful that as I get older, my relationship with each of you becomes deeper and even more wonderful. Thank you for letting me be independent and for letting me soar and for giving me the world. Really. It’s been one year now since I decided to leave school, move back home and then jet off for a trip around the world and not once have you lead me away from these choices. You’ve only pushed me to keep making them. When people ask me how my parents are taking all this, I honestly can’t stop talking about how amazing they’ve been through it all and how much that means to me. Of course I could write pages but I’ll spare them the tears. I just want to say that I love you and thank you for everything.
I’m thankful for my friends and family. Coming from divorced parents, I have a family tree with many branches. I’ve always loved holidays and family functions because they’re only ten times richer when I have four sides to visit! I feel lucky to have aunts, uncles and cousins that I feel so close and connected to. I love that I can be the baby of the family on my Dad’s side and the older role model on the other. They’re people I feel loved and supported by and I’m so lucky to have them.
My friends could be classified under family too. There’s no question. Friends are the family you choose. I feel like the people I surround myself with have played such a huge role in who I am today, especially over the past few years. I’m lucky to feel so deeply connected to such a large group of people and know that every one of them would pick up their phone at 3am if I ever needed their help. I’m so happy to have friends who support my every move, who I can laugh with until I’m in stitches and act like a complete goon around at all times without feeling judged. I have friends who can so lovingly put me in my place when I need a kick in the butt because they really care and I thank them for that. They know that I do which is why they don’t hesitate. I’m thankful that everyone I’m close to is smart, beautiful, driven and passionate. I am grateful to have some pretty fantastic and powerhouse woman role models to look up to in the Artistic community. They’ve been there as mentors and friends as I’ve taken each step toward loving and practicing a new art and having them has been a dream. Having examples like them in my life only helps me to reach for even higher heights and goals. I made some pretty strong choices last year and I would be lying if I said they were all made alone. I would run out of fingers and toes if I had to count the friends who chatted with me on the phone or over Skype for hours while I cried and debated about where to take my life next. Yes, I knew in my heart what was right and when it was time to leave that chapter behind, I was the one took the steps. But it was their guidance, love and soothing words that held my hand as I did so. I am grateful for every one of you that continues to leave their handprint on my heart. You’re all rock stars to me.
My country has become a part of my identity while I travel. “How’s it going Canada?” is something I hear so often from my backpacking friends. When you meet people from all over the world, names slip from your mind the second you hear them. I’m not kidding. I’ve hung out with people for a whole day and still don’t know their name by the end of it. Whoops. But I do know where they come from and that’s often how we identify each other. My eyes have been opened lately to how little I know about where I’m from because I haven’t traveled outside of Ontario. I know, it’s embarrassing and every time someone asks me where they should go when visiting I just smile and say, “well…I’ve heard the West Coast is nice…” My next trip is definitely going to involve traveling West to East. It needs to be done. I have, however, realized even more than I already did how lucky I am to live in a place like our home and native land. As a Canadian, I’m able to travel to all of these countries for at least 30 days without having to purchase a travel Visa which has been a blessing. If anyone is having trouble finding work, I wouldn’t complain too much. In Spain, restaurants and shops can’t afford to hire more than one or two people at a time right now. We had waiters serving and cooking for an entire restaurant on their own many times. We can live safely and freely amongst some pretty rad people. I’ve always loved our stereotype. How can you not be proud of a place where the people who live there are known for being nice and saying sorry a lot? Mostly though, I feel grateful for the roof over my head and the opportunities available to me because of where I am proud to live.
Which leads me to my appreciation for this entire planet. I have an opportunity that I haven’t taken for granted once. I know that traveling the world is something we all feel a strong pull to do at different stages of our lives. When I felt mine pulling, things just fell into place at the right time and I was able to take that dream and run full speed ahead while it wrapped itself around me. Seeing four countries so far in the past three months has been an unbelievable experience. There is so much exquisite beauty out there showing itself in big and small ways. I’ve been immersed in it and a part of it and man, it’s always just as breathtaking every time I come across a new gift of the culture. This is an education that you can’t get anywhere else and the lessons I learn here will do great things for me and for my career. I just want to scream at the sky every second, “Thank you! Thank you so much for your diversity and grace and colour and deep beauty! What can I possibly do to repay you?” The world answers back, “nothing at all. Just live it.” And I am. I can. That makes the thankfulness pour out of my soul at a rapid pace.
I’d like to send a thank you up there to my Great Grandfather Donald Stark who without, I would never be at this cafe in Ireland. I wouldn’t have gotten lost in Venice, scuba dived in the Greek Mediterranean or walked across a country. Thank you for your gift and I’ll only continue to send love as I head to Scotland where your soul probably floats around happily.
As I finish the last of this post, I sit happily in front of a fireplace in an Irish family home. Jessica and her father Tomas are two amazing people I met on the Camino. They live in a little town called Trim in Co. Meath, Ireland and have allowed me to stay for as long as I need, wash my clothes, drink tea and showed me around the whole county this afternoon. Tonight we cozied up by a gorgeous homemade Thanksgiving dinner cooked by her amazing Mother and they so generously celebrated with me. There are no words for an experience such as this. They make me thankful for something very important. The present. There’s nothing more beautiful than right now.