I turned 24 years old last week. Throughout the day I took some time to think about what I’m grateful for.
It occurred to me that we don’t stop enough to appreciate all the good in our lives. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what’s missing than it is to focus on what we’re already fortunate enough to have.
Down below is a simple list of 5 things I’m grateful for.
5 reasons I’m grateful.
1. Family & Friends
Since March I’ve relied on my family and friends for just about everything. They’ve given me food, shelter, and love. I couldn’t ask for more.
I’m grateful that I have a large family and that we’ve been able to stick together even through long passages of time without talking, seeing, or hearing from one another.
Now more than ever I realize how important a solid foundation is.
My uncle has these philosophical moments.
“Enjoy it, kid!” referring to my youth
He says one day I’ll wake up and be old and what took me 5 minutes now takes 15. I’ll start saying things like,
“Oh I remember when I used to…”
I think about time and how valuable it is. I don’t want to waste these years.
I want to be young and energetic before the day comes when everything takes an extra 10 minutes to get going.
3. Good Health
I’m grateful for the fact that amid the Covid 19 pandemic my closest friends and family remain healthy.
I’m fortunate to be in the position I am where I don’t worry about my health, safety and well-being. Not everyone’s as lucky.
I wake up, breathe, eat, drink and everything works smoothly. That alone is a treasure.
Back in late February I took a flight from Pico Island to Boston where I’ve spent the last 7 months living in New England.
Even with tight travel restrictions, and initial stay-at-home orders, I spent a lot of time between Massachusetts and Rhode Island and had the opportunity to go camping at Lake George in New York.
In late June,early July I visited my brother in North Dakota for the first time. Two years passed without seeing each other! I’m just happy we made it happen and were able to celebrate 4th of July together.
I have two darling black labs at home, Lucy and Diamond. I miss them terribly.
I was thinking the other day, how much impact animals had in my life for teaching me about empathy.
They’re a perfect example of teaching a child how to play, take care of, and love unconditionally.
Without pets- be it dogs or cats or snakes or hamsters- the world would seem much greyer.
Luckily while I’m here I get to play with Eevee and my Nana’s best friend, Princess Mica.
Pictured above is my baby cousin Giannis who I felt the purest joy to meet for the first time last week.
During our visit his mom told me that he recently learned how to climb.
He tries to climb everything now. Whatever he can crawl up to, reach, push and pull his way up, he’ll go for. It was pretty damn cute watching him maneuver into the sunken living room, going up and down from the couch, and reaching over me to get to his momma’s arms. It was also equally alarming to see him trying to climb upstairs!
Being 16 months old, Giannis is completely new to life. Maybe this is silly to say but, he literally can’t stand on his own two feet and walk around yet. Giannis is trying to climb upstairs and we’re trying to make sure he doesn’t. He doesn’t understand how dangerous that is. I mean, how could he? He’s a baby. He doesn’t think, ” What are the risks involved in climbing a flight of wooden stairs and how do my chances pair up with other toddlers who’ve attempted the same?”
Baby see, baby do.
And that’s how a baby does. From my understanding at least.
Along with Giannis, the past six months I’ve had the purest joy to babysit and play with my other two little cousins, Kailee and Amelia. They’re a bit older (3 and 5 year olds.) Kailee is this little brown eyed, dark haired, mischief-in-her-voice girl who calls out my name and says, “I’m gonna getchyu!” Amelia, on the other hand, is this strawberry haired, sassy but sweet, always-changing-into-Elsa -and -Moana girl who gives me the Meet The Parents gesture and says, “I’m watching you poopyhead.”
All three of them are fucking adorable, frankly put, and I’m in awe when I see them at play. I’m in awe because there’s something pure and innocent and creative and fundamentally important to learn from them. And its hard to put a finger on because as adults, we think and observe and analyse and get wrapped up in conceptualising everything.
What can we learn from children?
As I said above, children don’t think through their decisions. They aren’t concerned with potential outcomes, risk, and opportunity cost. They’re concerned with one thing and one thing only:
Kids are 100% committed to do what they’ve set out to do. If it’s to climb the stairs, theywilltry. If it’s to swing on the monkey bars, jump into the pool, or stack block on top of block and then knock it all down with a huge hooray, they will because it is simply fun.
Where children lack foresight, adults lack presence. They live spontaneously, we live by schedule.
In contrast to children, we adults concern ourselves with various responsibilities, some more severe than others. We’re always dealing with people and complex situations that compete for our time, attention and energy. The demands of work, family and social life use up our limited resources everyday no matter how depleted we feel from the day before. Adults adhere to a schedule because we must allocate our resources to what we consider absolutely essential first. Everything else is “downtime.” Time for ourselves (hopefully) to recharge our battery.
Because of this, you see far too many adults become cynical about the world. They become angry, bitter, and self-conscious. They lock up in situations they should be loose, and suffer from social anxiety and depression. Life is void of any sense of imagination and playfulness for these types of people.
“Fun and games are for children”, I’m sure you’ve heard them say. Yet when you make a conscious effort to see the world through a child’s eyes, you can see yourself.
Children can teach us that it’s possible to reinvoke those traits we cherish but tend to lose with age. Traits like enthusiasm, curiosity, playfulness, presence, creativity, and unselfconsciousness.
We all have a Child-like Spirit
Going back to my baby cousin Giannis, seeing him try to climb those stairs without fear or hesitation made me think about all the times I let my own fears stop me from doing something. For adults it’s usually our own internal dialogue that prevents us from moving forward. We not only overthink our decisions, but also our thoughts about our decisions. We paralyse ourselves before we even begin.
If we could somehow muster up the decisiveness a child has at play, we wouldn’t spend so much time wasting time. We’d aim at a target and launch ourselves directly at it, full speed ahead. Without the anxiety that comes along with overthinking, we’d be able feel confident in our actions, not worried about how others might perceive us. The fear of failure wouldn’t even occur to us if we were too busy focusing on the task at hand.
I also think about how many times per day my little cousin Amelia changes costumes. Five, six, seven, maybe even more? One minute she’s Elsa, then she’s Moana, and the next she’s a ladybug flying all over the place. She disappears and comes back with a new dress, and in a way, a new identity. I thought about how children love to experiment and how over the years we change our demeanour, style, and language to reflect our influences and aspirations.
Kids are trying to find their way, where as adults get stuck in their ways. Some people never change because they stop experimenting. It’s like we attach ourselves to an image and ignore anything that diverges from that particular image. It could be new information that contradicts your beliefs, or dropping habits that no longer serve you, or even something like fashion that expresses individuality. Unlike children, adults become static and obstinate.
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is not about reliving your childhood.
Seeing the world through a child’s eyes is more so about waking yourself up and enriching your everyday experiences. It’s about living with excitement and genuine curiosity. It’s about conjuring that suppressed enthusiasm you have inside and curbing self-conscious beliefs that do nothing but hinder your happiness.
Please give me feedback! That’s how I improve my craft!
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If you love traveling and your enthusiasm for foreign cultures prompts you to buy a one-way ticket, chances are you follow a certain set of unspoken rules that I call: The Avid Traveler’s Code of Conduct
What can happen in 35 weeks? Your whole entire world can change.
The last 35 weeks in Florida has been both depressing and up-lifting. It’s interesting to look back at how I fluctuated through such a broad spectrum of emotions.
My experiences were both positive and negative, yet I also see that my experiences just are; that which makes me who I am writing this now. I suppose my interpretation of my experiences are different than the experiences themselves, like Shakespeare says,
“Nothing is neither good nor bad, but thinking makes it so.” And at the same time it is the duty of the individual to conceptualize one’s life in order to live with purpose and meaning.
Now that I’m living in the Azores and don’t plan on returning to Florida anytime in the near future, I find myself asking, What am I doing here?
My plan for the next 35 weeks is to continue on the path towards my goals and further more, to my dreams.
For the past four years I’ve been able to travel a few months every summer. One of the many lessons I brought home with me was how inadequate a month or two is if you really want to understand a foreign culture. Imagine you’re a foreigner visiting the United States for a month, would that be enough time to visit and enjoy all 50 states, speak English fluently/conversationally, and understand the variety of customs, beliefs, and lifestyles throughout all 50 of them? Absolutely not. Each time I come home and process my trip I always think how much more there was to experience and learn about.
One week in Cartagena, for example, is enough time to fall in love with the city. Two weeks in Cartagena is enough time to see its flaws and routines. Three weeks in Cartagena, well, I’m not sure. Last year I spent two months traveling through Colombia and Ecuador which was only enough time to spend no more than a week in each city/town. I started in Cartagena, then went to Medellin, Bogota, Pasto. I stayed overnight in Ipiales before crossing into Ecuador to do the same thing. My return flight was back in Cartagena so I ended up spending an extra week there. My perception of Cartagena changed dramatically during the second week and I wondered once I got home how much it could’ve changed if I had spent the entire two months in Cartagena instead of jumping around every week.
What I’m trying to express is how I would rather spend a longer amount of time living in a place getting to know the ins and outs, than hostel hopping one city to the next. This is what I’m looking forward to doing here in the Azores and in Portugal, once I make it to the mainland. The first time I went to Pico, Azores I stayed a little more than six months. I had just graduated high school, spent the summer working and come autumn I was off to the single place I wanted to travel to since I was a child listening to my dad’s stories. I was always intrigued by how he explained his childhood, from playing soccer around the island to the vast green landscapes. He would tell me about the volcano rising above the clouds, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, always present like a guardian protecting his kingdom. Those six months I spent in Pico were fundamental to my character. It felt like it was the first time I truly answered the call to adventure. When I finally returned to Florida I remember feeling like a new person. I became self-aware of how my mind worked, how other’s worked, I tuned into my senes in a way that I wasn’t before. I could view the world from different perspectives without latching onto a single one and that’s helped me throughout the years in various circumstances.
Ever since I started traveling I feel my purpose is to travel. Whether that started when I first moved to Florida from Massachusetts or when I visited Pico for the first time I’m not sure of. Regardless, there’s no better way to put it: my purpose is to travel. I need to live my passion and that’s what these next 35 weeks are all about. I’m working towards my goals, following my dreams, knowing I’m doing everything in my power to live a life I’m happy about. Right now I write this from a small town called Lajes do Pico. Not five years ago this place was only an idea in my mind. Now its a familiar place. Part of me will always be right here by the ocean. The rest of me will find itself all across the world in due time.