Today is a day that we find ourselves reflecting on the things we’re thankful for, but this time of year also forces us to start looking ahead at the year to come; what we want to do, what we want to change, what we want to do better -- who we really want to be.
There are more things that I’m thankful for than I can even begin to list. I have a family that I love with all my heart, wonderful parents and a sister who I’d lay down my life for, a roof over my head and the comfort of a steady income, a job that I’ve dreamed of having since I was in elementary school and friends that have stood by me when I needed them most. I am by all accounts, lucky. And for that, I’m grateful.
But as I spend my first Thanksgiving away from my family, I’ve taken some time to reflect. This past year has been full of its share of ups and downs. It’s been a year of transitions, difficult decisions, heartbreaking moments and tough realizations. I guess you could say it’s been a year full of life lessons.
I’ve begun to realize that as each year passes, life hits you a little harder. You start to realize all the things you were shielded from as a child. You start to see that nothing’s guaranteed and life doesn’t slow down. If anything, time begins to move faster.
I spent the last year working more, and working harder, than I ever have in my life because I know that my dreams won’t chase themselves.
I basically gave up a big part of myself and put a lot of things on hold to try and become who I want to be, which has proven to be a decision that served me well, but it didn’t come without sacrifice.
I lost my grandfather unexpectedly during the summer and I didn’t make it home in time to say goodbye. It was something that set me back in a lot of different ways and left a hole in me that I haven’t quite found a way to fill.
I’ve felt the guilt and at times, loneliness, of being on the other side of the country, two plane rides away from my family, especially as finding the time to get home becomes more difficult.
In trying to build a life somewhere new, I let myself be vulnerable in situations that didn’t prove to be worth the effort I put into them, which hurt the most when things fell apart.
I’ve wondered if what I’m chasing is really what I’m meant to do, but I think that’s just part of the process. There seems to be a good bit of self-doubt that comes with self-discovery.
These things have taught me a lot about myself, and the world around me, though. I have started to learn who I am, who I really want to be and what I need to do to get there.
I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone and have done the things that scare me.
I’ve learned to let myself be vulnerable enough to know that it’s the only way the good ones will ever get through.
I’ve made sure to call my grandparents more often, to check in with them and swap recipes, let them know that I miss them.
I make sure to call my parents everyday and remind them how thankful I am for their constant love and support.
I have realized who is really important in my life, you know, those people you want in your lifeboat, the ones who always love you and want what’s best for you. And in turn, I’ve realized who isn’t worth the time.
I’ve made new friends that are in it for the long haul. I’ve surrounded myself with people who share the same creative dreams and push me to be a better version of myself.
And most importantly, I’m starting to learn how to put myself and the things I really want first, which for me, has been the most difficult lesson of all.
I guess what I’m really trying to say here is that this past year has taught me how fragile life can be and just how quickly things can change. You start to learn that more with every passing season. Life will continue to be filled with heart wrenching moments of sadness that you’re not sure you’ll ever be able to overcome, followed by the surprise of incredible bliss you didn’t think was possible. The most important thing is the way you react and how you choose to look at what’s ahead. I’m choosing to be grateful, not just today, but everyday. For the good AND the bad, the perfect and the imperfect. Because one way or another it has led me here and I have a feeling things are just starting to get interesting.
So tell the people you care about how special they are, start chasing the dreams you want to chase and take advantage of every second you are given on this earth, because it’s up to you to make the most of it. And most of all, remember to be thankful.
Ashley Hanna is a southern born, Georgia grad living in Los Angeles, California. She is currently a producer at an entertainment news show and spends her free time writing, doing improv and exploring her city.