Things I'm grateful for (in no particular order):
1) Dana, My Fifth Grade Teacher
My mom died in November when I was in 6th grade. That December, my fifth grade teacher and her mom took me to the mall and bought me an outfit: a plaid skirt with a forest-green, short-sleeve, turtleneck sweater. It made me feel so special. The summer after I graduated college, I moved to Columbus, Ohio, for a PR job, and Dana would call me... all the time. I remember asking one of my friends, "Is this what it's like to have a mom?" During my 20s, she opened her home to me and she gave me a room in her house. She told me I could come stay whenever I needed. I can't think of a more beautiful, graceful person, someone so filled with love.
2) My Teachers, My Mentors...
Grad school is ridiculously expensive. I have a scholarship that pays for 18 or my 33 credit hours, and I still have to remind myself to take a deep breath when I think about the debt. But, now that I know my Syracuse University profs, I can't picture my life without them. I have so much more clarity about the person I want to be -- and how I want to live my life because of the time I've spent here.
Before I came to SU, I met a community of video and photojournalists who took an interest in me. They gave me their support and guidance and let me learn from them.
My Kent State professors taught me to write well, to think strategically and communicate clearly. They still check in with me -- such caring, smart people.
And, all of my English teachers, always, because they turned me on to writing, vocabulary and literature. They gave me a way to understand myself.
In October, I lost my dear, sweet, funny friend Mike to mouth cancer. He was diagnosed last December. It hasn't even been a year. All last year though, we texted with each other. When I was home on break, we worked on puzzles together. We'd watch the Cavs together. He listened to me talk about school, my stories. I listened to his stories about doctors' visits and treatment, experienced his strength. I learned so much from him about love: how I want to love and be loved.
4.) My Family
My biological family and the people who've welcomed me into their families. I can't even list all the people who cared enough to help me grow after my mom died, and they've continued to care for me and love me as an adult. I have so many cousins and "cousins," my dad and my "parents," aunts and uncles and "aunts and uncles," my brothers. And, just so many people who have become so special.
5.) The People Who've Shared Their Stories With Me
Photo and video journalism allows me to get to know strong and brave people. It means a lot to me to hear their stories and to have their trust editing them together.
6.) My Nomadic Life
And all of the adventures and roommates and jobs that go along with it.
7) Coffee. Heated Seats, Bananagrams and Walks around the Block.
Oftentimes, it's the little things. They bring me so much joy.