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On this day of gratitude

Nov. 24, 2017
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“Every day I wake up, I’m grateful for three things: water, the internet, and that Barack Obama is president.” - me, up until last year

I left the gym with a bitter feeling last night: I’d made the mistake of engaging in a discussion about politics and “morals” with one of the patrons. Whether it was my fault for continuing to lead a conversation or his fault for taunting me with his views on politics, it doesn’t matter. Maybe I gave him a little bit too much info about my background and wasted half an hour by not working out, although this is not worth discussing anymore. Not only did I re-learn my lesson about not talking to strangers, but also I reaffirmed to a right-wing, anti-same-sex-marriage, old, white, Republican man that our generation will continue to stand our ground when it comes to voting and agitating in line with our progressive thinking.

In any case: what happened last night was that I went through a little moment of bitterness thanks to someone else’s opinions and beliefs. But it’s these types of opinions and beliefs that have shaped the tense and repressive environment we are facing today: regressive laws are being signed every day, hard-working people are being deported en masse, attempts to control female bodies and colored bodies are still happening on a regular basis, long-hidden sexual crimes are coming out to light, etc. Oppression has become the daily bread. This has left many of us here wondering: what is happening? Are we really lucky to be in America? Should we continue to feel grateful to be in this country?

As a queer immigrant, I’ve asked myself this question many, many times. Just like any other civilian who doesn’t belong to the higher end of the socioeconomic scale, I’ve been through a lot financially and emotionally while trying to adapt to what I’ve perceived as an ever-changing environment: moving through cities, not being able to settle within any social circles, studying and working hard to earn a degree, and forming part of the contributing economy by partaking in the working force.

Yet despite the struggles that I am familiar with, I am grateful. 

I am grateful for the places I’ve visited and lived, as they’ve given me perspective.

I am grateful for the people I’ve met, because they’ve given me memories.

I am grateful for the things I’ve learned, for they’ve given me (you guessed it!) knowledge.

And I am grateful for my hard work, since it has helped me develop character. 

For my experiences and for where I am today, I thank life, my family, friends, and myself, because otherwise I wouldn’t be who I am.

We must remember to give thanks every day for what we have. Now, more than ever, it is important to pay attention to the things we have taken for granted—how can we ensure we are really appreciating these things? What are we willing to do to protect them? If we are not willing to fight to save our rights and assets, we may lose them any day.

Having said that, let’s also take a look inside and think about what we have been able to accomplish as individuals, regardless of which stage of our journey we feel we are in. Physically, let’s be thankful for our health and capabilities; externally, for any material goods we possess—and for food, of course! Coming from the perspective of an immigrant, I am grateful to be in this country, as it has given me a wider range of possibilities to explore as an individual. I’ve been able to be close to other cultures and develop a better understanding of them. I have embraced diversity and realized that we have the freedom to find ourselves—that I, as a woman, am allowed to pursue an education. 

After all, things could always be worse! Speaking from my place of privilege as a Latina woman, I try and count my blessings every day. I have been handed so many opportunities, some of which I have appreciated and some of which (let’s be real) I’ve wasted; despite the complexities of my identity as a queer woman, I have the freedom to make choices—such as attend the gym. Of course, everything comes at an expense. For instance, the gym comes at a monthly price and the risk of being harassed by creeps every once in awhile.

I am still grateful for water and the internet.