This November, “Choose to be optimistic (and thankful), it feels better,”

Three classes down, two to go; I’ve seen the sun once in the last two weeks; I met Santa Clause; I leave for Ireland tomorrow; Christmas is in a month; Thanksgiving is in two days… I’m reaching the end of my stay in Finland! WHAT! I JUST GOT HERE! I’ve completed most of the plans that were mere ideas not too long ago and that scares me. Soon, it will be summer and I don’t have an internship yet, I need to propose an idea for my senior thesis soon, and then I graduate!? Okay, maybe I’m jumping too many bridges, but the fast pace of time always scares me! Soon I’ll be thirty! Oops, did it again…

But I have finally found some time to pause time and write. Thanksgiving is in two days! This time of year is so exciting and special to me, and I am in the inevitable stage of reflection (as if I don’t do it enough). What am I thankful for? Is that even a question?! I’m in Finland having the time of my life, meeting incredible and inspiring people, and seeing so much beauty that my heart can barely take it! I am so thankful to be here in Europe, getting to know myself and the world around me better, and for the new people that are entering my life and changing it forever. I am also extremely thankful for the people in my life that have stayed a vital part of my life  even as I have constantly left the country in the last year. My family and friends have truly proven to me that distance does not affect the relationship that we have built in past years. Thinking of this overwhelms me with so much excitement and joy; I am sad to leave Finland, but I am incredibly eager to share my experience with those I love back home. I really have it all; it’s unbelievable and I am so so thankful!

There is something going on back home that has been bothering for the last couple of days, and I cannot shake this confused and melancholy feeling I have in the back of my mind as I think of St. Louis. I have been following the Ferguson versus Brown case very closely, mainly because someone I know lives in St. Louis and is in the midst of it all. This morning (the evening in The States), I woke up to a text that said read: Officer Wilson was not indicted… there have been a few gunshots. That text scared me, not because I believe the grand jury’s decision was wrong, but because we continue to live in a world where people use violence as a means to reach justice. Hmmm… Well, I understand that violence is the easiest and fastest way to express anger and frustration, but even as child growing up in my parents’ house, using violence (I never did use violence) when I disagreed with them has never proven to be a successful way of reaching compromise. I know all too well that this case in St. Louis is about far more than the grand jury’s decision, but I wonder why we don’t begin to focus on the bigger picture- perhaps inequality? And maybe also pay attention to the things each American can do to change the world that we live in, like following the Golden Rule: Love your neighbor as you love yourself. This rule does not come with any exceptions. If following this rule is not enough for some, write a powerful piece of writing that will shed light unto an issue, and spend your time (lots of it! Change doesn’t happen overnight) trying to change the problems that bother you in a reasonable way that can actually lead to progress. I am by no means an idealist, but it is during times like this that I rather be cautiously optimistic than fearfully pessimistic. I pray that something good and beautiful can come out of this time in The United States, and I refuse to underestimate the power of prayer.

As I approach the end of my time in Europe, I remain excited and happy to return to the only country that will always be my home. I am very proud to be American, even as I sometimes have to face negative stereotypes here in Europe, because we do have a history of coming together when trouble strikes. I hope that Thanksgiving and the holidays coming up soften people’s hearts, or at least fill their bellies up  just enough so that they can’t get off the couch for a while, and focus on loving those around them. Happy Thanksgiving!

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