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What is Gratitude?

Gratitude has often been a virtue I find challenging to embody in our modern life.

Overall, I have a positive and hopeful outlook on life. But my positivity and hope was founded on partial naivety, eagerness, and over-ambition. I am no exception to the stereotypical tale of a young hopeful who runs up against the real world and the current systems in place. In fact, for years, I’ve proudly put on that stereotypical hat, often viewing elders as “jaded” while I (in all my heroine senses) would be one to “change the world.”

So what use does a young hopeful have for gratitude?

Like flipping an egg on your stovetop pan, gratitude is an exercise of will and mindset, and a useful skill to have when situations ask for it. I could choose to stare at my egg with hopeful eyes and wonder why it’s not cooking all the way through… or learn how to flip it.

I can choose to look at my 26 years of life so far and wonder why I’m not yet the person I want to be, why I haven’t accomplished the mission I’ve set out to achieve, why I still feel the pressure to please my parents, etc. But to be grateful, I can also choose to see how much I’ve grown, how I’ve taken chances and made the most of opportunities, how lucky I am to have even been born.

Gratitude is the process of taking a situation and flipping my mindset to be humble.

I am just another 20-something who is figuring out what I want out of life and I have a lot to learn. I cannot expect that I will achieve mastery or accomplish my mission overnight. I can only recognize myself for what I've learned so far and give myself some credit.

Exercising my gratitude muscle helped me see how rare a certain combination of events had to happen to arrive at the present. I fear death as much as the next person, and gratitude showed me how to appreciate how fragile life can be. The fact that a person (a stranger, someone I love, or myself) could die instantly makes every moment more precious. I hope to grow to be someone who holds time and space with care.

Practicing gratitude is useful for a young hopeful to sustainably and joyfully take the steps necessary to pursue and achieve far-reaching dreams. It gives me positivity and hope founded on reflection and self-compassion. It keeps me feeling secure and content with myself thus far. It grounds me and fuels my desire to continuously improve.

Gratitude is looking at my semi-smushed fried egg, smiling, and thinking-- “It’s not perfect and it tastes good anyway.”

This post acts as a reminder to myself to practice gratitude everyday, no matter how challenging it may be. And to practice gratitude to ground me especially during times of stress and anxiety.