Gratitude—in its purest, truest, most profound form—is priceless. Priceless not only in its impact, but also
in its obscurity. It’s the rare kind of gratitude because it falls upon you so naturally and completely. It’s not the type you conjure up, or feel obliged to give or acknowledge. It’s not the fleeting type that makes you smile slightly and then move on with your day. No, this form of gratitude bubbles inside your chest. Like a corked up bottle of champagne on the verge of being opened, it’s powerful, it’s overflowing, and it sends that cork flying half way across the room.
The last time I experienced that type of gratitude was back in April. I woke up naturally that morning with the sun. It cast a golden haze that peered through the blinds and burst into each and every crevice of the room. I felt the brightness from under my eyelids and it beckoned me to open them. At first I squinted and shirked and turned my face toward the dark comfort of my pillow. It took a few minutes for the foggy, sleepiness of my brain to fully clear, but when it did, I suddenly registered where I was. I propped myself up on my elbows and stared at the beautiful miracle that was my new bedroom in Long Beach.
A few weeks prior, I had arrived in California with little more than the clothes on my back, and a large blue suitcase that was pushing the fifty-pound weight limit the airlines imposed. It contained all of my favorite items of clothing, along with my laptop, camera, Bible, pillow, and towel. Other than the few boxes of kitchen supplies, books, and decorative pillows that were being shipped from New York City, that suitcase was all I owned anymore. I had sold or given up everything else.
This was all voluntary, mind you. I had voluntarily chosen to uproot myself from my comfortable, California life and try to hack it in New York City. That had lasted all of six months, and then I was ready to come back to California. Except, when I decided to come back, I was faced with the reality that I had sold my car before moving to New York. I had spent all the money I earned from said car on monthly living expenses while I was unemployed in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I had spent all my savings on various things, like the enormous deposit I had to give for my Manhattan apartment, and the expense of moving furniture from coast to coast.
When I left New York, I knew that I couldn’t afford to take all of that furniture across the country a second time, so I sold some of it for about a third of what I had originally paid for it, and gave away all the rest. That was how I ended up back in Long Beach with virtually nothing.
Yet, here I was on this warm April morning in a bedroom that contained all I could ever need. There was the brand new bed I was sitting on that my parents had decided to buy for me as a thirtieth birthday present. There was the writing desk that my friend Claire, who was previously living in this bedroom, had decided to leave for me. Not even knowing that I needed a desk, she had texted me a few days earlier while in the process of moving her furniture out.
“Do you need a desk by any chance?” she wrote. “The one I have isn’t going to fit in my new apartment, so I can leave it for you if you want.”
I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just sold my desk to a guy on Craigslist in New York, and was hoping to buy another one once I got to California. I picked up my phone and responded to her text with an emphatic “yes,” followed by a series of exclamation points.
That morning in April, as I looked upon my desk and the bed I was sitting in, I felt exceedingly grateful for both.
My eyes then drifted to the massive closet that was built into my new bedroom, and it reminded me of all the apartments I had looked at in New York City that contained bedrooms without closets. My roommate, for example, had to build her own bedroom closet. She spent hours drafting it out and then buying rods, shelves, and hardware at Home Depot. She transported all of these items on the subway and then walked them down several city blocks and up two long flights of stairs. After hours of hammering and measuring she finally had her makeshift closet. It was small, yet functional.
I thought about her, and then noted the closet in my new bedroom in Long Beach with its perfectly mirrored and rolling doors—the one that I had done absolutely nothing for—and I was thankful for it, too.
I then turned around and looked out the enormous window that was behind my bed, and my gratitude for this, especially, was unbounded. My bedroom in New York had been windowless, and thus constant in its darkness, void of any natural light. I grew accustomed to it after a while, but never actually enjoyed it. I missed those little glimpses of people and of trees and of the outside world moving along at its usual pace. This large window in my new apartment afforded me all of these luxuries, and once again, I gave thanks.
My final dose of gratitude for that morning was for something I couldn’t see from where I was sitting, but that I was aware of, nonetheless. It was of the car my friend and her husband were letting me borrow for the next ten months because her husband would be in Afghanistan that whole time. I would get to use their car while saving up to buy my own, which gave me a much needed financial buffer zone. The timing of this opportunity and the way it all came together so flawlessly was nothing short of miraculous. I couldn’t help but be thankful for it.
Each bit of gratitude piled on top of the one before, and they made me blissfully, unavoidably happy. I wanted to take that moment and fold it neatly so that I could carry it around with me in my pocket. I wanted to frame it and display it proudly on my wall so that I might not forget.
The danger of forgetting both humbles me and saddens me, as time inevitably passes and all that used to be extraordinary—my window, my bed, my closet—starts to feel commonplace. That’s why this year, on Thanksgiving, I am warring against that most natural of impulses and I am choosing to remember. I am choosing to bring myself back to that moment in my bedroom in Long Beach when, for the first time ever, I experienced the beauty and simplicity of being grateful for absolutely everything.