November is the month I spend collecting and sorting all of my personal images to build our yearly family album. This project is huge and takes an average of 40 hours. Last night I finally uploaded all of the grainy iphone shots, downloaded pics sent from friends and family, plugged in the external hard drives, downloaded the internet flotsam and even picked up the images off my 3-year-old’s EZ Cam.
Quickly scanning over our year in pictures is always an amazing experience.
It makes me cry and it makes me humble, and of course, it makes me cliché-levels of grateful.
So in addition to this happy personal thing, I’ve got a lot of projects in the works right now – they are all great (or are going to be great). I’ve booked several sessions this winter that I’m super excited about. I’ve got three huge (HUGE) plans to overhaul my entire photography business now that I’ve gotten a handle on the technicalities of switching from graphic design and SAHMing to a photography-only business. I’m rearranging our entire family’s lifestyle to fit the full-time demand of a job I worried I might never be hired to do because I love it so, SO much.
And I’ve been working this one particular subject around in my brain and knocking it about for the last couple of months, deciding whether or not to come out with it, and if so, when to announce something like this and if it would fail or succeed or I dunno, ruin all the stuff I’ve worked to create for the last few years?
Can you smell the waffles I’m ironing? It seems if not dangerous, then certainly some sort of career suicide. But I’ve decided to do it anyway – because, it really could be great. And that’s the point of this all, right?
But not today.
Today is Thanksgiving.
Yes part of me is embracing the extra week of procrastination. But Thanksgiving. THANKSGIVING!
Is this not just the absolute bestest concept for a holiday?
I love Halloween – for so many reasons. But Thanksgiving is THE holiday. This is the one we can all get behind. Let’s ignore the feud-inducing family dinners and the indigestion and the horror-show that is Black Friday and think about the actual PURPOSE of the day.
I could info-dump for thousands and thousands of words referencing studies on human behavior and happiness and the steadfast link human well-being has to gratitude. But it’s not necessary, is it? We can just say it in a sentence and it’s so obvious, so beautiful in simplicity:
Gratitude leads to happiness.
There are disclaimers I could say and blanket statements that we could poke holes in – but for so many of us, it’s just true and it’s great, so let’s accept it and embrace it. Gratitude leads to happiness – not guaranteed and not directly, not immediately and not without restrictions. But it does.
I have so much to be grateful for, and I have so much to be happy about this year.
I would list them all, but there just isn’t enough space on the internet. Not in the whole WO-WALD, as my son would say.
I’m grateful for my best friend, who, after years of studying for his PhD and going through a particularly hard period of his life and a trying final defense, came home to take care of me, my two small kids, and my partner while we recovered from a nasty stomach flu. He’s downstairs shivering into a pile of goo after catching it himself after my 1-year-old barfed on him. He did that because, despite his inhuman farts, he is the best and most wonderful friend in the world. And I am grateful for him and the 18 years he’s been there for me. I’m grateful for his family who has taken in mine like a mini set of in-laws (some boys bring home a girlfriend for the holidays, but my friend brings home his girlfriend, his ex, her husband, and her two small children).
I’m grateful for my partner who casually shrugs and says “You want to start this business? Sure, do whatever. I’ll take the kids for 30 hours every weekend, also every single morning, and all of the evenings when you feel like you are about to burn into a brain frizzle under your desk. Go ahead, honey, I’ve got it.”
I’m grateful for how he translates for me and tethers me to a world that I find 90% incomprehensible. I’m grateful that he is the father of my children. I’m grateful that he’s understanding and patient and steadfast at all times, no matter what.
I’m grateful for the first accepting friend I ever made, when I was a lonely weird girl in sixth grade, and I am reminded of how wonderful she is every time she treats my son the way she treated me over two decades ago – with unconditional acceptance and without judgment.
I’m grateful for the new friends who surprise me and make me realize the world is more dimensional and full of kindness than I expected. I’m grateful that when I get in over my head, this complete stranger I met on the internet after I commented about books on dead pets – this person who has no reason to like me at all, keeps coming back and being there for me with kind words and a place to vent. She just showed up one day like a fairy god-mom-friend with these amazing social convictions and this utterly charming southern belle sweetness where she doesn’t swear when we talk but you can tell she’s made of iron. This is the mom-friend we all dream of and she just showed up after I had given up the search for kindness and understanding. What’s more, she keeps reaching out despite me being overwhelmed and busy all the time. I hope she stays because I know when I get through this stage of small children and starting a business, she’s going to be such an amazing person to share with and support.
I’m grateful for the clients I’ve worked with this year and the friends we have become. I am grateful for the new feeling of community I feel every day when I step outside the house and keep running into them over and over again at the grocery store and the playground and the restaurants and the library. I’m grateful for the opportunity they’ve given me to be a part of their family history as a documentarian.
I am grateful for the opportunity to face a decade-old fear that a client would turn to me and say, “Oh, no, I changed my mind on buying that print, I found an identical one at WAL-MART this weekend.” Because that is LITERALLY what my first (non)client said when I presented him with his order – a work resulting from ten hours in a darkroom meticulously tweaking, $5 of Ilford Matte Fiber-Based paper, and my 19-year-old heart. It’s a fear that STILL tells me to hide in the bathroom and sob instead of shove art into the world, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to face it, nonetheless.
I’m grateful for my mom, and my kids – for reasons both traditional and unique, and at this point I’m sure I’m long past boring you so I won’t go into details.
I’m grateful for the privileges of race and education and cranial wetware design and the year I was born into that let me get over the hurdles that trip up people who have been otherwise smarter, kinder, more capable and who have worked harder than me. I’m NOT grateful that these privileges exist, but it would be wrong of me not to acknowledge that they do and the part they play. Not acknowledging them and not being personally grateful for them would leave me dangerously blind on how to build a future that turns privileges and disadvantages into nothing more than attributes.
I’m grateful for the things that I’m afraid of, like what I’ll be discussing next week – because even though it might be a failure, it could be an opportunity. I’m grateful for the two months of terrifying health scares last spring that could have sent me spiraling someplace bad, but instead vaulted me to try harder and appreciate more, because disasters are opportunities, too.
And now I feel like I’m bragging. But this is important to share. For my own sanity, I need some of this written out and acknowledged, yes – these people I treasure are constantly swirling in my head like tinsel and they deserve all of the accolades they could ever have.
But also because when we see people out there who are doing what they love and succeeding, we don’t really see the parts they have failed at, over and over and over again.
We don’t see the people and privileges they rely on to get there.
And right now, I’m succeeding. Since 2012 I’ve been succeeding in a life that had previously been thirty years of almost non-stop failures. I would love to say it was hard-work and bootstraps, and learning how to twist my failures and disasters into strengths, and yes I worked hard, but no I am not an optimist – but it wasn’t – a good portion of it was luck, and almost all of it was kindness from the people above and from people unlisted.
I’m just grateful. And I’m happy. And I really sincerely hope that you are happy today too.