Sunday, June 16, 2013

The ABCs of Appreciation (Part 1 of 2)

December 1, 2012
Be Thankful
The ABCs of Appreciation
"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them."
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
There’s no denying it now. The holiday season is upon us. This past weekend, millions of Americans gathered around their tables surrounded by family and friends as they indulged in an array of goodies, ostensibly as part of the annual display of thanks for the bounty (both literal and spiritual) they’re fortunate enough to receive.
However, while we all have things in our life to be grateful for, the precise nature of just what we hold close to our hearts and what brings us joy varies greatly depending on the individual. In this way – perhaps – Thanksgiving is among the most subjective of holidays. Of course, family and friends, financial stability and good health are probably the most common objects of appreciation.
If we dig a little deeper, though, we will surely discover that there are certain aspects to life that take greater precedence to one person over another. The following blog is part 1 of my attempt to share – from A to Z, no less – a list of some of things in my life that I am eternally grateful for, from the mundane to the profound… and why they will always hold a special place in my heart.
A – Ambition
AmbitionLife is funny in that it truly is what you make of it. Some of us are simply content to go to work, spend time with family and friends and generally play the part the world has assigned to us. That’s perfectly fine, but it is the people who dare to dream bigger, who envision a greater success for themselves and actually take positive steps to make it happen, that I truly admire. It may never be easy, but I have watched friends and family members – through consistent effort and determination – transform their lives. That kind of boldness never fails to inspire me.
B – Brother
BrotherI count the day my younger brother Freddy was born as one of the best in my life, for that day I received not only a younger brother but an eternal best friend and partner in crime. Although the dynamic between us has changed with time, my brother and I share a special bond that has informed our lives, and I've become a better man for having him in my life. As we both continue to "grow up," I can't wait to see where the journey of life will take us next… and relish the thought of watching him continue to develop into one of the best people I know.

C – Cookies
Sweets have never really been my thing. Don't get me wrong, I can scarf down a piece of cake, a bag of Raisinets or a slice of pie like it's nobody's business (by the way, it's totally not). However, if I had to choose between an array of dessert options and "real food" entrees, I will pick the latter every time. The one exception to this is – as you may have guessed – cookies (especially chocolate chip… yum). Yeah, yeah… C is for Cookie, and if a certain Sesame Street character can proclaim his love for them, that's good enough for me.
D – Discussion
Maybe it's my naturally introspective personality talking, but I've never been one to enjoy small talk. To me, chatting about the weather or looking forward to the weekend is just about the lowest form of human interaction. It's more of a social obligation than a genuine communication between two people. When you share a part of yourself and truly connect to another human being, however, it's pretty magical. I consider myself lucky to have a number of family members and friends whom I have shared some unbelievably candid and memorable conversations.

E – Education
I'm of the mindset that you can never know too much. It is only through an ever-expanding knowledge base that we can come to understand the world around us and, by extension, ourselves. For this reason, I explicitly value my education and the ability it has afforded me to see the world from a more well-rounded and even-minded vantage point. From my professional life to my personal one, I credit my education for helping me to make better, more informed decisions, and as my peers are beginning to give way to the next generation, I place emphasis on education more than ever before.

F – Family
For some people, their work is the center of their life. For others, a circle of friends has proven to be the best support system. For me, however, it has been my family. The influence of my loved ones – especially my ridiculously loving and supportive parents – has served as the foundation from which I have been able to develop my own personality and foster the seeds of my future. Every step of the way, they have been there listening, guiding me and generally keeping me grounded. Along the way, I have struggled with low self-esteem and waves of self-doubt, and without my family’s support, I would most certainly have not become the stronger version of myself that I am today.

G – Goofiness
Turn on the television at any given moment, and you’ll almost certainly face a barrage of horror and tragedy. From the heart-shattering wars and unspeakable crimes to the general sense of negativity and cynicism, the world – I have come to understand in my adult life – can be a freakin’ dreadful place to live sometimes. It is for this reason that I have come to embrace all that is silly and affectionately absurd. What some see as “stupid” or “childish” I treasure as a respite from the dark side of humanity, the part that all too often rises to prevalence in today’s world. If that means that some people see me as little more than a big kid, then that’s their problem.

H – Hats
Within the last couple of years, my close friends and family members have come to know me for frequently wearing a fedora, but my love of hats goes way further back than that. As a child, I almost always wore a baseball cap. I suppose it started as a lazy way of avoiding having to fix my hair before I went out. However, what started as a way to shrug off the fashion of the day has turned into a fashion statement of its own. Not only does my growing hat collection serve as a stylish accent to my outfit, but it also harkens to my routinely old-fashioned nature and a certain classiness that sadly has fallen out of style itself.

I – iPhone
Believe it or not, the iPhone wasn’t always a thing. To us Apple aficionados, it has become hard to imagine life without our trusty smartphone and its bevy of convenient apps. I was initially resistant to indulging the fancy tech of an iPhone, but when my co-workers, friends and family members began jumping onboard the Apple-fueled bandwagon, I decided to give it a shot. Now, my iPhone has become my trusted sidekick and the focal point of my connection to the world. Some days, I don’t even use my laptop at home, but I always keep my iPhone close by. Damn you, Apple, and your life-changing technology.

J – Jackson
On June 25, 2009, I was meeting up with some co-workers when I heard that Michael Jackson had passed away. To call the moment surreal was an understatement, but as the weeks went by, the sadness really began to sink in. The King of Pop was the first entertainer who truly captured my imagination. Remember my love of hats, as described above? Any idea who first made such headwear cool in my eyes? Or who fostered my interest in music (more on that later)? In so many ways, MJ was the entertainer who most affected my life, and his remains the only celebrity death that has truly affected me. Though he’s no longer with us, I am thankful for his role in my life and will continue to celebrate his legacy.

K – Kai
June 25 may mark the day that Michael Jackson exited this world, but ironically, it is also the day when another important figure in my life was born, albeit decades earlier. Throughout my life, there was nothing I wanted more than a girlfriend, but I continually struggle to connect with anyone. However, that all changed when Kai Proctor – my girlfriend of now almost two years – entered my life. Our initial meeting didn’t particularly lend itself to romantic love, but after months of long-distance courtship, the universe brought Kai and I together. We soon realized that, miraculously, we were both in the same place, and finally my long-held dream of finding “the one” who would love and accept me for all that I am had come true. Every day, I consider myself eternally blessed to have such an amazing woman by my side.

L – Language
Few people know this, but I actually started my college years as a pre-med student. However, a year and a half later, I had an epiphany. I am and have always been an English man (and no, I don’t mean I’m from England, silly). Rather, I have a natural ability to comprehend, manipulate and appreciate the art of language and, thusly, communication. In fact, I’ve built my career around the English language and many of my personal and professional goals center on the love of language that I cultivated from an early age. How many middle school students do you know that actually enjoy diagraming sentences?
M – Movies
We all knew this one was coming. To those who know me, I am essentially known as “the movie guy,” in that I have an extensive knowledge of the film industry. From childhood favorites like the Disney animated classics and the Muppet films to my current love of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, I have always been totally enraptured by the world of movies. In my teen years, I came to appreciate films as not only entertainment but art and have been lucky enough to be able to use my love of film to fuel both my creative and professional pursuits (shameless plug: check out for some of my recent articles). Some people love sports, music or television; my chosen artistic medium will always be film.
That's all for now... Stay tuned for N through Z in the next few weeks, and of course, feel free to comment below.
Thanks for reading,

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