Sunday, November 30, 2014

There's so much to be thankful for.

I stole my title from a Josh Groban song on his Christmas album--because yes, I am already listening to Christmas music, and no, I am not ashamed of it. Moving on.

I know it might be a bit overkill to make a post during Thanksgiving break about what I am thankful for, but I decided to take a page from Merrill's book and take a moment to look at life. Especially in terms of recent events in the past few months alone, I'm realizing more and more how truly lucky I am for all I have.

First and foremost, I am thankful for family. From my immediate family, to my sweet grandmother, to my cousin who will be married this April and everyone in between. For better or worse, these are the people I'm stuck with (just kidding guys...sort of...). They're the ones who have helped shaped me as a person and supported me to become who I am today. They were here in the beginning and they'll be here my whole life, just as they always have, and I think that's amazing.

I am grateful to have known all four of my grandparents, and one great-grandparent.

I am grateful to have both of my parents, still together, as a strong presence in my life. Their support, despite frequent differences in opinion, is perhaps the sole significant factor in what has most enabled me to explore and live the way I've wanted to. Though I've put up with plenty of "black sheep" jokes over the years, I know they're proud that I'm their...uh...unique younger daughter.

The Kopchik family on Thanksgiving, circa 2011. 

I am thankful for the girls of #TH214...though you definitely already knew that by now. I could (and have) go on about them all day. All I can say is, senior year won't be the end for us. Before I start crying real tears, I'm moving on.

They're my kind of crazy.

Over Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to return to my old high school during school hours for the first time since I walked out of those doors on the last day of classes my senior year, way back in 2011. I visited my old history teacher's class, where I spoke to his African Studies students about my semester abroad in Morocco. This caused me to reflect on a few things:

I am thankful for the teachers in my life, all of whom instilled in me a love of learning and healthy sense of curiosity. From my own father, who taught for over 30 years, to my favorite school teachers throughout my childhood and young adulthood, to my professors and mentors, and all of my informal "teachers" who have proved invaluable along the way--every single one of them showed me the importance of not only knowledge, but wisdom. And all of the other good things (eloquence, for instance...#oops).

I am thankful, time and time again, for Morocco. I am thankful for experience, opportunity, and travel, and I've had a lot of all of those. But I can't think of a better way to express that gratitude than to reflect on the time I had in Morocco, which was the epitome and culmination of all of those things and even more. I am thankful that I was welcomed with open arms into a country I hardly knew anything about before arrival. I'm thankful the the hundreds of strangers I met along the way who helped me with simple good deeds, who smiled when they saw a lost girl who just needed a little kindness, and of course who listened patiently as I tried to explain what I needed in a mixture of grammatically broken languages, bad accents and hand gestures. I'm thankful to my host families, my friends from around the world, and the cats--the CATS!

I'm grateful for Fatima and Lina, who I met in Morocco and who I still talk to on a regular basis. Though there is more distance, our friendship only grows stronger.

I'm grateful that my host family still stays in touch, and that even those who can't speak English still let me know they're thinking of me and communicate by sending me pictures of the kids or silly Facebook stickers. I'm also grateful that they seem to know exactly when I really need them. When I'm having a bad day or feeling particularly nostalgic, I open my inbox and without a doubt, there they are.

And just when I feel like some things are slipping away, or I get sad because I look back on Morocco and wonder if I'll ever experience something like that again, something happens to bring it all back. Like a former teacher inviting me to talk to his class about it. Or the time Peggy Imai asked me to speak on a panel to parents of students who want to study abroad. Or when I give a tour, and the students are particularly interested in discussing it. All of those memories suddenly come rushing back, and though it's a bittersweet experience, every time I am thankful that I get to share my story with others.

Readers, I am thankful for you.

Some other unsung heroes? I am thankful for two guys in #TH217, who vehemently refuse to make the hashtag I created for them a thing. They, as well as a bunch of other kids on campus, have been great friends since freshman year, and college would not have been the same without my extensive SMC family. I am also thankful for Sheila, who I have known since high school and have gotten so much closer with in college. She has been there for so many important moments, and there is nobody else I'd rather do my senior seminar project with this year.

She's a gem! <3

I'm also thankful for the incredible people at the Champlain Senior Center, a community that I only joined very recently but I've already grown quite attached to. While conducting research and doing interviews for a film project and for senior sem, I've gotten to know some incredible ladies who have remarkable stories to tell. My visits to the Center have easily become a highlight of every week and the warm welcome I've received there has gone unmatched to any experience I've had other than Morocco.

Last but not least, I am thankful to Elizabeth ("Iz", as I like to call her), who I have known since the 7th grade and have therefore gone through every awkward phase in life with. As someone I don't get to see very often these days, I've come to realize her importance more and more as time goes on. As my grandma used to say, "absence makes the heart grow fonder." Iz, my heart is as fond as humanly possible right now, so it's about time we had a girl date this coming break.

There are so many other people and things in life that I am thankful for, but I think you guys get it. Like my buddy Josh said, there's so much to be thankful for.

Best wishes,


(PS, I'm also thankful for music--currently listening to "Need a Little Sunshine" by Augustana, one of my favorite bands...who I am very grateful to have seen in concert at Higher Ground recently with my housemate Cait. Dream come true!)

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