Today’s my 31st birthday, so in no particular order, I whipped up a quick list of 31 things I’m grateful for (besides each and every one of you of course).
31. The 8 hour old school hip hop YouTube clip I listened to while writing this list.
Because memories, amirite.
30. Dojos over daycare
One of my earliest memories is of dad bringing me to the dojo, putting a box of crayons and Sesame Street colouring books in front of me, and jogging off. Everyone was friendly and welcoming, and I was quite comfortable spending time there. When I took moments to pay attention to something other than Grover, I learned things like, those who are rigid in movement and thoughts will quickly find themselves landing hard on their ass. Thanks, pops.
29. Summers in Newfoundland
The beach. The bell. The food. The fam. Canada is great, but being raised in Newfoundland is a blessing. Go there once, and you’ll know.
28. Public Relations
PR has taught me that the success of everything in life, professional or otherwise, is completely dependent on the strength of relationships. And the fact that I get to build, enhance, and create new relationships for a living…well, I’d do it for free. And I do. Maybe too much…lol
27. PR people
We’re from a different planet. We’re just different, period. And it’s awesome. From mentors to students, being part of a group of people who can be wildly creative yet organized at the same time is incredible. I learn from them constantly, they keep me focused, and I can’t thank them enough for it.
Stevie Wonder was my favourite. So at age 6, my parents set me up with piano lessons. And I learned so much more than notes. I discovered that I had a short fuse, the importance of practice, that you learn classical and feel jazz, and that if a song sounds good on a piano, it will likely sound good with a full arrangement. It taught me to appreciate music in all its forms.
25. My piano teacher
She didn’t hesitate to snap a ruler across my hands, nor did she hesitate to give praise. She was as black and white as the keys, and if she hadn’t given me an ultimatum between music lessons and horses, I might not have become an avid equestrian. I’m grateful for her eight years of militant tutelage.
24. Hip Hop
I can’t remember the first track I heard, but I do remember turning myself inside out trying to rip the plastic off the Salt & Pepa Very Necessary cassette tape my mom snuck me as an early birthday gift. When you grow up with very little, aspirational messages mean so much more than the beat. It taught me to appreciate the English language, puns, complex, figurative language, double entendres, metaphors…it truly set me up for a career that relies heavily on creative writing.
What’s the first thing you drew as a kid? A stickman? Rainbow? For me, it was a “stickhorse.” I was obsessed at first sight. In fact, I can’t remember having many other childhood interests because I spent most days engrossed in books about them. I remember my first riding lesson as vividly as if it happened yesterday. After a major fall, my parents pulled funding in hopes that I’d quit. So I took a bus as far as it’d go, walked the rest of the way, cleaned stalls, did turnout, fed, groomed, and tacked up horses for lessons, just so that I could get ONE “free” ride. I did it as often as my riding instructor would let me. I learned that opportunities are abundant for those who work hard for them. And to this day, I’d rather work 16 hours at a horse show than eight in a corporate office.
Whether it was showing someone a music scale, how to judge distance (show jumping), or crafting a grammar lesson, I’ve learned that teaching is a privilege because you learn more from your students that they’ll ever learn from you.
21. O Sensei
Okay, not THE O Sensei, but a great Aikido sensei nonetheless. When I felt discouraged and didn’t want to go to practice, he drove to my house and dragged me to it. He taught me that there is no hiding from hardships, that you must face them no matter what.
It taught me about differences in culture, what white privilege is, to see through the façade of students on the ‘other side’ of the street, who dressed and acted a certain way because of mass media, but wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if…well, never mind. It taught me to see through to the core of a person, and understand that the pathway to a better life is to trust your instincts and work hard at everything you do.
19. The jobs
I’ve been a burger flipper, assembly line worker, packer, retail associate, customer care specialist, computer lab coordinator, stable manager, laundry person, and so much more. What am I grateful for (besides staying employed)? The assault I had at work a few years ago. When HR told me to report to work days after it was reported, it gave me the resolve I needed to choose a different path, and discover a career that I love.
18. The women’s shelter
When you decide not to spend one more minute of one more day in an abusive situation, and then find yourself homeless because of what’s supposed to be “the right decision” it takes a toll. What puts a situation like that into perspective? When you meet people who are going through it even worse than you. I met amazing people and experienced things that will stay with me for life. Like meeting kids who are grateful just for drawing them a picture to colour, or ‘sneaking out’ for a fun girls’ night out to escape from the stress of it all. It taught me that every situation is a blessing if you can find the lesson in it.
17. My ex fiancé
He tricked me into get my driver’s license. He encouraged me to pursue my passion for horses as a career. He’s an animal enthusiast. He was a baseball coach for special needs adults. He dug a huge hole in my mom’s backyard and designed a pond for mother’s day. I cooked for him, cleaned for him, did whatever I could to make him happy. He yelled a lot. We fought like cats and dogs. He cheated. He pushed me through a door. He put our mastiff’s choke chain around my neck from behind and yanked me to the ground. He choked me on the stairs. And I’m grateful, because if he wasn’t such an overwhelming waste of a human being, I might have settled and wouldn’t know what it’s like to experience a great man.
I never felt more cared for in my life than I did by him. No matter what was happening, he was that beam of sunshine that made me feel like a billion bucks. And that is what I choose to remember. I have nothing but love and respect for him.
15. My first car
The first vehicle I drove was a Celica GT-S. Love at first acceleration. It taught me to never underestimate the pure joy of a great sports car and a curvy road.
14. My first riding coach
“Oh you want shorter stirrups?” *takes stirrups off the saddle* “relying on your reins?” *makes you drop your reins…over fences* “Scared of falling?” *plays push-you-off-your-horse tag* “Janet, you’re fearless, so BE fearless.” My riding instructor had no time for weaklings. Fall down seven times, stand up eight, wasn’t just a clever phrase, it was mandatory. And it’s why I was able to get back on my horse with a broken arm and ride past students with a smile on my face in hopes that they wouldn’t be scared to do the same if it happened to them.
13. The Flights
Craziness, laughter, and lots of love, my mom’s family has always been there for my brother and I, no matter what. Going through dark times early in life, they’re a blessing neither of us will ever take for granted.
12. Learning to grin and Barrett
This side of the family taught me the meaning of fair weather friends and that the essence of family has very little to do with blood. They taught me how to be independent, how to do things for myself, to endure, that trust is earned, and that it’s okay to find inspiration, advice, and mentorship by following your own path.
11. Elementary school jerks
Kids are cruel. And when you don’t have much, are going through crazy things at home, and don’t have picture-perfect aesthetics, the cruelty is magnified. I found solace in books, and learning that making the jerks laugh was easier than being laughed at. I had to develop a personality to survive. But it was still hard, and I was miserable. Then one day, an individual who, for whatever reason, was hell bent on being my friend, and quickly became one by asking to borrow one of my favourite books. 21 years later, and she’s evolved from being a friend to being the sister I never had. Having jerks in life’s been great, they helped me develop a thick skin, and only pay attention to the people who matter.
From friendship bracelets to random cards in the mail to marathon Skype conversations to crazy adventures, life just wouldn’t be the same without the besties.
9. The boys
They don’t gossip, they talk sports, pay for drinks, listen, and when they do offer advice, it’s straight, true, and thoughtful. Love the men in my life. I learn something new from them every day.
My first puppy, I had her named before we met. She’s been there through ups, downs, and everything in between, with unwavering love and enthusiasm. She’s been the one constant in my life over the past 12 years, and for that I’m eternally grateful. She’s living proof of unconditional love.
This puppy plays to the beat of his own drum. He’s just happy, and reminds me that I should do and be the same.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” I’m trying, and am grateful for the journey.
As a kid, you want your family to stay together, to be a unit. And it was a wild time when my parents split. But now, I don’t feel like I lost a family, I feel like I’ve gained two more. And that’s pretty neat.
We have the same eyes, laugh at the same jokes, like the same food, watch the same cartoons, and that’s where the similarities end. He’s a character, and I love him to pieces.
A daily dose of Christmas in a cup, this stuff’s an instant pick-me-up. Comforting, aromatic, and delicious, I love you, Chai.
From the Bible to the Noble Eightfold Path, the teachings have taught me to look beyond who’s saying what and to focus on the context of the message. The overarching truth of love, promise, humility, and gratitude is way more important that who said what, where.
The only game I can beat my brother at, it also reminds me that obstacles never stop coming at you in life and that there’s no time to get comfortable. It gets harder, and the only way to move forward is to stay sharp.
Here’s to another 31 years of gratitude! ❤