I was raised to be generally polite. I knew it was important. I probably read that somewhere, or was denied a free cookie at the Publix bakery because I did not know the “magic words.” If there is anything I despise more than people who ride the elevator to the second floor, it is the general lack of manners today, justified by YOLO and its outdated cousin, the late, great, IDGAF. Maybe its time we started GAF though, or at least realizing that having only one life makes it that much more important to have a fulfilled one that positively impacts others around us.
Jack Kerouac once wrote, “One day, I will find the right words. And they will be simple.” I can only hope that I am able to properly thank all those who deserve or are in need of hearing it. Even if my words are delivered a little later than they should have been or you expected them to be. Even if you, in turn, are still oblivious to the importance of gratitude or the strength it took me to speak the words in the first place. Maybe you will be unable to accept that you are appreciated, the hands of your pride still tightly gripping your throat so that you remain unable to find peace within yourself.
It seems all of the famous people in history begin their speeches by acknowledging those who gave them life, so consider this the rough draft for my future Oscar speech. Or don’t. With that said, I will never understand the importance of maintaining relationships out of blood obligation, but there have been times in my life where I have had a mother, and times where I have had a father, so thank you for that. Thank you, Mom, above all, for your absence while I was growing up. You gave me the freedom to take the wrong path, and I developed the strength not to, though you were likely surprised. And thank you, Dad, for filling the last few letters you wrote me with positivity and praise, never once mentioning the fatal illness that even your strength was no match for in the end. Thank you for instilling in me the insignificance of money, though I’m not sure you believed it yourself. I am a better person because of you, though the irony of it all still amazes me.
I am who I am at least partially because of the friends and strangers I have come across over the years. Whether you have belittled me, acknowledged me, offered me a hand or apiece of advice on an otherwise silent commute, thank you.
Maybe you were the one who told me I couldn’t do something, and in turn, you became the reason I pursued it until I was able to prove you wrong. I’m pretty happy with how I have turned out, growing through experience and shared human connection, so thank you for doubting me, because proving you wrong is the best part.
Thank you for taking an ear bud out when you realized I had no idea where I was going. This is an unheard of gesture on the New York subway system, and offering even the most incorrect directions would not have mattered. Feeling less alone in a big city was far more meaningful than knowing if I should get off at Union Square or not.
There are times though, like when traveling throughout Europe, where I must also thank you, the kind strangers of foreign public transit, for not acknowledging me in the slightest. For letting me turn the wrong corners or watching me board the incorrect train while cursing the world altogether with explicit language that was likely inventive and should not have been misinterpreted as English. I know if I had spoken a little more Spanish you may have cared about where I ended up, but thank you for your open rejection of Americans, because I would not have found myself if I had consistently been offered your guidance.
For every adult who holds back fits of laughter or disapproval when I tell you I am pursuing a Bachelors Degree in Studio Art, Thank you more than you will ever know. I understand that even I have my notions of how success is and cannot be defined, and that the society’s accepted definitions are far more suffocating than my own. I am able to laugh when I say that I am studying what I love in order to pursue my second love of waiting tables because of you. Thank you for only confirming that I deserve to pursue what I love regardless of what others think.
Thank you for never missing a day of your 9 to 5 office job because someone told you that money would be enough to make you happy, and now you’re just playing the waiting game. Thank you for holding onto hope that things will change without the conscious decision to change them yourself. In being wrong, you’ve shed much light on the truth. Even in silence, you give me more than you know. The strength to continue. The drive to prove you wrong. The satisfaction that I will be happy, regardless of if I end up under the Brooklyn bridge making art or making art to be displayed in high-profile galleries across the globe. Likely not the latter, but thank you for your silent encouragement.
To every individual in need of help that I have come across, thank you for not allowing pride to win. Thank you for letting me help, because I want to, not because I need to. Not because I feel the need to distinguish myself as a good person through publicizing my good deeds. People are people, and though we can’t always relate, there are times where we can simply understand, empathize, and do what we can to contribute something to the bettering of this world. For every “homeless” individual I have witnessed getting into a vehicle and driving away after a day of panhandling, thank you for forcing me to become more aware and less naïve. Who knows, I may be giving my dollar or leftovers to someone who has plenty more than I do, but I am grateful for the ability to give in itself. Thank you for all the times you have returned my possessions when you didn’t have to. For every stranger who has turned in a cellphone that would easily sell for hundreds of dollars on Craigslist, and every individual who has made a morally righteous decision when no one else was present, thank for the ability to trust with only little hesitation. Of course, you’re always better safe than sorry, but thank you for not forcing me into my comfort zone. Thank you for allowing me to exist happily outside of it.
Lastly, I’d like to thank my high school college counselor. The importance of your role as a guiding hand to those pursuing education beyond the sub-par public school system goes without saying. And our school choices, plastered on the gold stars, which crowded your office area, served as reflections of your success. Those stars would certainly never reveal your suggestion that I don’t “waste my time applying to the more difficult of Florida colleges.” I should be thanking you for the doubt that fueled my success. However, my certainty regarding what college I wanted to attend could not be affected by your words. Had you been overly supportive, I may not have ended up where I am today. Thank you for confirming what I already knew: believing in myself was enough.
Whether it was in passing or it was long-term emotional investment that proved to be unhealthy, you are significant as an individual in your simply existing. You may have had no control over your life’s path overlapping with my own, but the result was the creation of a shared experience I won’t soon forget. So long as you are alive, and even when you someday leave this world, you are deserving of my utmost gratitude.