Expressing Gratitude in the Hardest Year of Our Lives

 

It seems like every article I write I begin by addressing some way that the pandemic has changed my life. Now that I’m nearing the end of the semester, I’ve realized how tired I am of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but the narrative that this year is just a “bad year.” 

 

To be honest: yes, this has been a bad year. We have all made sacrifices to try to stay safe and healthy. People have lost jobs, homes and loved ones. Overall, the world has been experiencing massive amounts of grief with little space to process the trauma of it all. I have been drained of empathy time and time again as I hear tragic stories of sickness, racial injustice, climate catastrophe and humanitarian crises. Some days it seems like my shoulders never get a break from carrying the weight of the world.

 

It’s easy for me to suppress the negative emotions that come with remembering all that has happened this year, but as the Thanksgiving holiday rolls around I want to be mindful about planting the seeds of positivity in my mind and in yours. What are you grateful for despite the tragedy? How do you express your gratitude to the things that bring you peace and comfort? 

 

I am grateful for my education. Despite the disappointment of senior year and Loyola's commencement being online, I look back on what I’ve learned in my four years and am extremely proud of myself. Not only for the papers I’ve written, the tests I’ve taken and the group projects that I carried to completion, but the person that I have grown to be in doing it. This version of myself is more wise and more compassionate with herself. And she is only beginning to tap into her potential.

 

I am also grateful for my relationships. I don’t know where I would be without my two roommates by my side everyday, meeting up between virtual classes to share an iced coffee in our kitchen. I can only describe them as the type of fireworks that explode with gold sparks and slowly float down through the sky. That’s because they both have an infectious and youthful spirit, and they can make any situation entertaining. I know they’re my forever friends because they have lived the most important moments of my life with me thus far, and the word grateful doesn’t even begin to describe how deeply I feel about that. 

 

My deep gratitude extends to my parents, of course. Amidst my chronic stress about graduating and managing all of my tasks on top of that, they are my constant foundation of support. Not only have they put me through school, but they made sure that I was always able to succeed in it. I fully recognize my immense privilege in getting a higher education, so I remain grateful everyday that I have had this opportunity, and I owe it all to my parents.   

 

I have a million more things that I am grateful for — too many to put in just one article. But I want to, lastly, take this chance to publicly say that I’m also grateful for myself. The pandemic has stirred up so many insecurities and mental health challenges that I never wanted to deal with. If you know me then you know that I am a huge mental health advocate, but just because you believe in healing doesn’t mean you can’t struggle. And I’ve struggled a lot this year. 

 

But through the struggle I am reminded of just how far I’ve come. I’ve gone through eating disorder recovery treatment and countless therapy sessions to get to where I am today. I remember about a year or two ago, my therapist told me to write a letter of gratitude to myself. I was absolutely reluctant to do this since my negative self-talk couldn’t come up with one thing to thank myself for, but I began writing anyway. What I came up with has stuck with me since. In my letter I wrote, “thank you for choosing yourself”. In choosing to get help, I chose myself over my disorder, so when I went abroad I got these words tattooed on my arm to always remember them. Now, I hold that gratitude in my heart and on the inside of my arm forever. 

 

I hope that you too can find something to be grateful for. If not forever, at least until the holidays. If you’re reading this article, know that I’m grateful for you. Thank you for taking time out of your day to listen to my thoughts. It means more than you know!

 

Our humanity has been tested in this “bad year,” so let’s make a mindful choice to connect through love and thankfulness and all things good. Gratitude has a funny way of making us remember life’s silver linings. If you can notice them and hold them close to your heart in times of distress, I know that we can all get through this together.