My life is amazing. I’m under no delusions. My life has been blessed and privileged beyond measure. I’ve lived a life filled with blessing after blessing after blessing. The easy thing would be to list the blessings I’m most thankful for during this holiday time of reflection. Instead, however, I want to talk about the struggles, large and small, for which I am equally, or perhaps even more, thankful.
My mom forced me to take typing while I was in high school. I hated that class, but it has been, hands down, the most useful class I took in high school. The life skill of typing has served me well for decades and will continue to do so.
Not making it into symphonic band that one year in high school taught me about myself. Not being in the more challenging band made me realize how important playing my clarinet and growing as a musician were to me.
Not getting a full-ride scholarship to college was one of the best things that has ever happened in my life. Not getting that scholarship taught me how to hustle and manage my time. It’s not easy being a full-time student, RA, and girlfriend, while working three jobs, pledging a sorority, and maintaining my grades. I had to hustle to get and keep those positions, and my life is so much better for it. Being an RA has been one of my most transformational life experiences and shaped my future career in innumerable ways.
Ph.D. program. This topic deserves its own series of posts, but I’ll say a bit. I’m thankful for every professor who told me to quit. I’m thankful for the professor who told me black people never wrote anything before the 20th Century and that my dissertation topic was untenable. I’m thankful for the dissertation director who told me my children were mistakes and encouraged me to abandon my family to pursue an academic career and basically refused to work with me until I saw life from her perspective. I’m thankful that my department didn’t offer me a teaching assistantship until I had been in the program for a decade and had just accepted a full-time alt-ac job at a different university. I really didn’t know I could keep on going; but I learned I could, so I did.
I’m thankful for the multiple phone calls from family members with the dreaded word cancer. With each new diagnosis, I have learned more about strength and perseverance and love and hope and faith and grace and acceptance.
I’m thankful for every bogus airport delay by the TSA. My natural hair is a given culprit, of course, which has resulted in multiple full-body pat downs, but I’ve also been suspected of transporting unidentifiable chemicals in my bible and weaponry cleverly disguised as apples in my backpack. In a similar vein I’m thankful for the time I set off alarms and lights and closing gates in an airport in Vienna. You learn a lot about your survival skills and your ability to remain calm and focused when you’re detained in airports, especially when you don’t speak the language.
Speaking of not understanding languages, I’m thankful for the time in Vienna when I was racially profiled and accosted by the police. I learned camaraderie in the struggle.
I’m thankful for broken friendships and forgotten promises.
I’m thankful for life. It has been easy by just about every measure, and I’m enormously grateful for that, but I’m also thankful for the hard times, because without them, I wouldn’t understand how to treasure all of the good.