Thursday, August 29, 2013
How are you, NIP?
I’m great. Today is my 38th birthday. Today I am celebrating being alive for 38 years, and I couldn’t be more happy and satisfied with my life at this point. Though demographics would indicate that I am approximately half way through my life at this point, I honestly hope to live until I’m 100, especially if Erin will be by my side the entire time. Yesterday was also an important day (perhaps more so than my birthday at this point) because it was the 8th anniversary of our first date. I couldn’t have imagined a better way to begin my third decade of life than with the woman who has given me so much in such a relatively short amount of time. I honestly cannot wait to see what the remaining years of our marriage will bring.
While one’s birthday is often seen as a time for celebration and reflection, I don’t think we should savor such riches only on special days. To be honest, I believe we should celebrate every day that we wake for the potential that it brings us. Each and every day is another chance to try to dig a little deeper, to become a little better, to learn another lesson, to love more openly—the possibilities are endless. The more we are able to focus on the abundance we have in our lives, the more each and every single day becomes a celebration. There will certainly be days and perhaps even stretches of weeks or months in which we are challenged, but we must remember that even our existence beneficially impacts others in ways that perhaps we do not completely understand. When challenges arise, it is then that we must especially look for things in our lives to celebrate, even if seemingly inconsequential in the big picture. If there’s anything I’ve learned so far in my life, it’s that every day matters—and every one I meet in each of those days matters, too.
I have a proposition for you, NIP. I want you to think about what’s worth celebrating in your life. And don’t be defeatist and say “nothing,” if you’re currently down and out. Trust me, there is always something to celebrate, but sometimes it takes marshaling one’s will to see so in the proper perspective. So, in ode to my celebration today, I would like to share with you what I celebrate on a daily basis. Typically I think about how grateful I am for these aspects of my life each morning after I’ve completed my mindfulness meditation, after which I close with what one might call “contemplative prayer.” I express my gratitude and appreciate the following people who have made an impact on my life and helped me get to where I am now. Here are the ones I celebrate each and every day:
I celebrate my family.
I could not be who I am (or who I’m becoming) without such an amazing family. I come from what one might refer to as a “tribe” due to my family being so large, and I am grateful for every single member of it who has nurtured me in ways big and small. Each parent, brother, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece and nephew has made a contribution to my life, whether he or she realizes it or not. Though I don’t see or talk to them often enough—especially my immediate and extended family in Rhode Island, Texas, and Taiwan—I celebrate their presence and contributions to my life first and foremost. They instilled the values of family and love in me and gave me a solid framework to begin my own family. Luckily, I married into a great family, too, and they have sustained me in times when I cannot be close to those whom I have known the longest.
I celebrate my friends.
Whether past or present, I am so happy to have the company of my friends. There have been times—most critically during my younger days—when I don’t think I would have made it through certain situations if it weren’t for my friends. As we all have experienced, there are moments in which we feel safer turning to our peers than to our family members. I have been blessed with both wise and foolish friends, and I learned something from them all. As counselors and guides, I know I wouldn’t have turned out the way that I have if it weren’t for the advice, sympathy, and encouragement from my friends. Some friendships were fleeting, some friendships have lasted for decades; either way, every single one of them played an important role in my life and I am deeply grateful for their presence in my life both then and now.
I celebrate being a teacher.
Though I sort of fell into teaching, I can’t imagine doing anything else more than a decade into my career. I am fortunate to work at an incredible school where there is a palpable camaraderie among the entire staff. Some of these coworkers have become good friends, and I feel I make a significant contribution to this community on a daily basis. And while these people are important and make most of my working days gratifying, the relationships that have changed me even more are my students. I am so thankful for all of my students, former and current. I have been teaching long enough to have taught thousands of young people at this point, hopefully leaving many of them with lasting memories and improved lives. Though there are so many aspects of teaching that I find frustrating (bureaucracy, politics, poorly planned policy, etc), none of those things bother me between the bells. When I close my door after the passing period I come alive in a way that is hard to describe. I revel in the moment when I am teaching, and that may be an understatement. And I believe what I love best is that each day and from every student I learn something new. Every interaction, no matter how seemingly minute, makes an impact. The reciprocity between teacher and student is an enthralling dynamic that is difficult to put into words, but I cherish every second of it.
I celebrate my wife.
As I mentioned a few letters back, my wife is my foundation. Though it’s great to celebrate my birthday today, yesterday is perhaps a much more important date in my life now. Eight years ago yesterday we went on our first date, and though it took me until the end of our first week together for me to recognize that she would be the woman with whom I would spend the rest of my life, she claims that she knew the first time she saw me and “looked into those blue eyes.” I honestly cannot imagine being the person I am today without her. She has changed my life so much for the better in innumerable ways. She is thoughtful, kind, giving, inspiring…the list could go on forever. As cliché as it may be to say, she literally makes me want to be a better man. Much of the change in my health, positive attitude / perspective and everything else in between is a direct result of her being an integral part of my life. I feel as if I have so much love and life to give to others because of her presence and our marriage. There may not be words for me to explain how she makes me feel or how she has changed my life for the better, but just about every action and breath I take working toward being the best person I can be is a direct result of Erin and her love.
Now that you’ve read about what I celebrate every day, what about you, NIP? Who or what is a part of your life that you celebrate on a daily basis? If you haven’t thought about it, take stock of your life and examine the aspects for which you are most grateful and would like to celebrate. While all of the above mentioned relationships and people who enrich my life have made major contributions to me personally, I believe the biggest reason I have to celebrate is simply being alive. Maybe people take being alive for granted, but I know that I most certainly do not. Each day when I wake the first thing I literally think is how grateful I am to have been given one more day to experience all of this wonder. If you ask me, every day should be a celebration for that fundamental fact. And so I try my best to live each day as if it were a celebration, because each one I get is another chance to enjoy my family, friends, coworkers, students, and wife. While my birthday may be important insofar as it brought me into this marvelous world, it is only one small part in the chain of existence that I have thus far forged with my daily living. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes, but I think I’ve learned from them and done a great deal of good, too. I hope to do a lot more by simply inspiring others to live their lives as a celebration as well.
Let’s celebrate together, NIP!