On Settling

I had a conversation with my sister recently about college and about passion and careers. I tried my best to be a guiding voice, as much as I could be, but I also am very conscious that everyone must make their own mistakes. I know I would not be the same person if I hadn’t “wasted” my time or made the choices I did. So I try to keep that in mind every time I give someone advice. Usually, I end up giving myself advice and they just listen.

But talking with her really was like talking to a younger version of myself. She hasn’t decided quite where she wants to go to college, what her passion is, what she wants out of life specifically. And I can appreciate that on so many levels. (Most of which come from making those mistakes I was talking about.)

I told her that it didn’t matter what she chose to do, as long as she chose it with her whole heart. Because settling for anything less than your passion is killing everything unique and creative about you. That applying to college as a high school senior was doing something insane that would work out in your favor later. And with that in mind, I told her if she wanted to go out of state, do it. If she wanted to stay at home and commute, do it. If she wanted to major in underwater basket weaving, do it. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to get there, so long as you get there.

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I remember being a senior in high school and thinking that I had everything figured out. I would go into medicine, wear the white coat and then devote my life to saving kids (I wanted to be a Pediatric Oncologist-aka children’s cancer doctor). I thought I could do that, have time for hobbies and maybe, just maybe do something great with my life. I looked into all girl colleges, co-ed ones out of state, universities in Ireland. I literally wanted to run away from Ohio and never come back.

I never left Ohio. And I don’t really regret that as much as I thought I might. Mind you, Ben and I are looking for law schools out of state, but if we stay here, it isn’t the end of the world. High school doesn’t really give you the sense of “everything will work out”. Instead it gives you unrealistic ideas about college, and incomparably ridiculous amounts of unnecessary stress.

I couldn’t find a way to convince my sister of this, and that’s okay. She’s got to find her own path. But in the end, I think that what I said was the only thing I could have said. Because I didn’t know it then, and I wish I would have.

You have to commit to an entire lifestyle when you pick a career. And if you want to live to the fullest, you’re going to need to find out what drives you enough to make that easier. Anything less than your passion isn’t living-it’s torture.

I’ve decided on a few proto-ideas about what makes a person passionate, that I will be honing throughout my life, so maybe if I have kids, I will be able to help them more than I could do for my sister, but for now, that is what I will leave her with.

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What do you want out of life?

What do you want your typical day to be like?

What things can you not do without?

What things do you not want to do without?

What are your hobbies? Favorite classes?

Who are your role models? Why?

Who are your favorite teachers? Why?

What do you want out of your career?

What will it take to make you happy?

What would you do first if you were given a super-power?

What kind of super power would it be?

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Your Own Reflection

It’s so easy for people to brush off the emotions of others. Why is that? It’s so easy to brush everything off onto the “bigger” piles of “patriarchy”, “cultural appropriation” and “differences” that we forget that everyone is just as much of a person as we are. Why is it that we are so willing to refuse the courtesy we desire to others who desire it too? I’ll tell you.

We never learned how to take others seriously, let alone take ourselves seriously.

Something you learn as a sufferer of depression is that you can never really know someone. That there is a metaphorical, semi-tangible wall that is built in between each and every person, so that eventually it’s like we’re all trapped in these impermeable bubbles of self. And the only things that can get through these bubbles are negatively charged thoughts and actions: judgment, violence, anger, shame, worthlessness. But soon enough, all those things push out whatever is left in your bubble, until you are filled with negativity yourself. You breathe it in, like the pollution it is and you become trapped. Imagine then, if you will, everyone being like that.

other side

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, I think the glass is reflective. If you look hard enough at someone, you will almost always see pain. And who’s to say that that isn’t an externalized projection into an internalized emotion?

eye mirror

In my Facebook news this week, Jim Carrey gave a $200 tip to a waitress. And a state of emergency was issued by the leadership of the Attawapiskat after 11 members of their tribe committed suicide IN THE SAME DAY. An interracial couple was evicted in Mississippi simply for being an interracial couple. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan persists. And I know, you’re thinking, Michelle, what does Jim Carrey have to do with this type of news? Jim is one of millions who suffers from depression. His girlfriend died from it less than a year ago.

We may never know what goes on in the minds of others, unless we take the time to get to know them, their stories. I’ve been “preaching” for months about love, equality, human rights. We all believe some fundamental lie about ourselves-that there is something to be proud of by doing things alone. That we are inherently “less than” if we ask for help, if we reach out. I’m here to put an end to that line of thought.

unhappyYou are not flawed. You are you, and that is enough. Do you hear me? You are not some horrid, wretched creature pulled up from the depths. You are a fierce warrior, battle hardened and brave. You don’t have to do this alone. You never did. There are others there, just beyond, who understand, who have lived that same thing. And they are fighting to find others like them too. All you have to do is reach out.

dr

 

I wish there were more words, better ones, that allowed me to express these facts. But the thing is, as I have said on my Facebook page, it is quite easy to take Disney lyrics and make them more philosophical when applied to today’s climate. Just look:

 

I’ll take my leave with this one final picture.

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It’s Not Enough

I woke up this morning expecting the news of the day to be pretty standard: celebrity gossip, political drama and some updates about some orders I placed. What I did not expect to see was violence and death. It breaks my heart each time someone has let anger twist their thoughts and hearts to the point of lashing out against someone else. Here in the states there have been muggings, violent deaths (caused by Islamaphobia) and more awful things within the last month or so. 

People have been murdered for being different and suddenly I don’t see where assumption stops and reality begins. It’s so easy to disassociate from other countries which are not your own simply for the fact that they seem so distant. We come to associate certain countries with generalizations like “good” and “bad”, “peaceful” and “hateful”. We come to see places as desolate war-torn wastelands instead of places where people are suffering at the hands of a few tyrannical radicals. It’s easy to brush aside the dangers of war, the tragedies across the sea with a simple “Wow, that’s really sad. I hope that doesn’t happen anywhere else.” 

  

But what you’re really saying is: I hope that doesn’t happen to me. To my loved ones. To my commute home, my vacation plans, my place of work. What you’re really saying is that you aren’t part of the problem, so you can’t really be part of the solution. You’re a good person, you say. You care about others.

But that isn’t enough.

                                            

If one person is loud enough, with their anger, their hatred, then their actions need to be met with one thousand times the response in love. If one person can take away lives in the blink of an eye, then one hundred times more people must save a life. 

In the news today, there was much talk of Belgium and Brussels. Bombings. Pain and death. But where was the same coverage, the same source of mourning globally for Turkey, who just a few days prior had a bombing as well? We become so convinced that there are bad countries filled with bad people that we forget that they are just the same as you and I: countries full of people who suffer, who mourn, who are unfairly generalized and stereotyped because of a few people who don’t even represent the majority.

It’s important to feel outraged. To feel angry at the actions of someone who felt the need to puncture a hole in the lives of millions.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                

If one person is forceful enough to take an entire country by storm, forcing them into masses of fear and xenophobia, millions more must open their arms and deny their biases. If one person is able to take their own lives in such a manner that innocent bystanders have no choice but to also end, then everyone who is left behind must find it in themselves to stand up for the future, to fight hatred with hope, to battle fear with peace. Hitting the “like” button, the “retweet” button or even the “reblog” button isn’t enough. Those things were never meant to replace the caring, face-to-face actions of things like donating blood, donating food, working in a food pantry, volunteering to teach English as a second language, offering to share your culture with others and have them share back. Technology was supposed to bring people together.

But that isn’t enough.

                                                                  

The Girl on Fire

                                                         

I’ve blogged about being a 20-something probably more times than you all care to read. I’ve done nostalgia posts, issues facing 20-somethings, thoughts from, thoughts for, poetry, you name it. I’ve done as many perspectives and ideas as I can probably muster on a good day and I think probably some more on top of that. but today, today is a day of awakening. Today is the day of heart unrest that had me up all night, fuming, crying, filled with super-heroine leveled frustration. Seriously, had I had just an ounce more caffeine I may have turned into the curvy, sassy half-sister of Elektra. But all comics aside, I have both a blog about me and a blog about life for today. I need to do a brain purge and today just seems to be the day to do it, so here goes. It’s probably going to be verbose, it may be a little biased and it most definitely will be emotionally charged and opinionated. That is my waiver statement and you all have been alerted as such.

I’m a teller of stories. Each time I go to write something, say something, think about something, it is always a story. I try to look at all the sides of an issue, even if I’m vehemently against it, for the sake of the story. I want to know the truth. That’s what’s supposed to set us free, right?

           

This past week I’ve looked at more SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) cases and political blogs, news stories and social media commentaries about social issues than I probably ever have. It started out as a paper assignment for one of my classes and turned into a passion fueled quest. But as it would turn out, the thing I love is also the thing I hate. You see, the more stories I read, or cases I analyzed (depending on the moment), the more I found that moment where I knew this was something I was passionate enough about to make into a career. But then after a couple hours of stewing, it was those same things that made me sickeningly depressed. I’ve never experienced something like that. And so, I found myself in the loop of highs and lows that although is not unfamiliar to me, was altogether too much.

It went on like this for about a week, as I said, spending my days in class and reading the things then coming home, doing more homework and letting the issues sit on the back burner. Then I would spend the nights crying, because my heart was so heavy with the injustices that I saw that day. My husband, who is well-accustomed to my emotional outbursts was the greatest of help (no sarcasm!) and I woke each day with a renewed vengeance to attack these case reviews and articles and such with fervor. The cycle just repeated itself. By Sunday (yesterday), I found myself in such a great need for a restoration of my faith in humanity that I decided to watch A Walk to Remember. Little did I know that a.0 my faith would not be restored by that movie alone and b.) I was going to spend the night awake and crying and telling my husband about how much the world hurts my heart. I think I’ve gotten such crappy sleep this past week that I’m running on fumes and that’s literally forcing me to remain in this depression cycle.

So. I want to discuss some of the things here that I did with my husband yesterday/last night.

1. I want to be a diplomat, but I sometimes feel like it’s a lost cause. How can I seek to help people if I cannot even help myself? A: By knowing myself, I will be able to help myself and therefore help the other people.

2. How can I be a diplomat from the “greatest country ever” if we’re so oppressive here? And although we are not the MOST oppressive, how can we be the best if we aren’t the best, you know? A: By making “here” live up to its potential.

3. Why have we come so far only to move backwards? We are oppressing college students with debt, women, different ethnicities, different beliefs, different lifestyles. Don’t believe me? Look at the Ke$ha case, the case in Georgia about LGBT discrimination, the social media stories about Muslim discrimination, the way police officers are treated nationally, look at my post about college debt. And don’t get me started on the Flint, Michigan issue. A: Because people don’t understand the full effect of their decisions. That’s what I can help.

4. If I’ve been doing this research for a week, and am depressed about it, how can I expect to do it for the next 40 or 50 years? A: See below.

                                                        

And really, I’m going to stop it there because the questions just unravel in a fit of hysteria. And no, dear readers, I don’t think you need to answer these questions, but I’d be more than willing to hear your thoughts. I supplied some answers, but they’re obviously shallow ones. As I’m sure you can guess, I’m spending so much time thinking about these questions that homework is starting to bleed through and I’ve become incredibly opinionated about all that is going on. I’m taking some politically based classes this semester (thus the assignment and the bleed through) but you know, I never expected that I would become emotionally invested.

And I guess that’s where I will leave for today. I’ve always viewed my emotions and attachment to ideas as a negative aspect of myself. Like that was my big flaw, the thing that could be the very ruination of all I’ve worked so hard for. I have done my best to hide my emotions, treating them as a part of myself that had to be tamed, that I should be embarrassed about. And yet, it is that very thing about me that is pulling me in two very different directions. I am both very concerned for my emotional health doing this job, living this life. But. I am also incredibly excited, incredibly passionate about this subject and I think that’s the one thing that will force me out of bed each morning, striving to make the world I live in a place I can be proud of, where justice prevails and human rights are universal. 

  

The Science of You…and Me.

I’ve been trying to get acclimated to the new semester, and I think it’s okay to take a break from constantly ranting and raving. Today, I want to speak honestly about life. But the stuff that weighs on my heart is the issue of self-identification.

In one of my classes this semester, we’re discussing classifications of organisms (as a prequel to the rest of the material) and the question was asked: Why do we classify things? The answer was: to order a chaotic world. I think that for the most part, that’s pretty true. But I think we, as human beings, also want to belong. We have a sense of longing to be part of something greater than just our own individuality. And maybe that seems a little naive, but maybe it isn’t.

  

I think I’ve mentioned this a couple times throughout the life of my blog, about where do I as an individual fit in to life’s big puzzle. But I invite you all to also think about it. How do you identify yourself? Is it just through your name? Your preferences? Your associations? What about who you are as a single individual, without regard to someone or something else? How would your identification change? It’s no difficult task to put yourself in a category. It’s an entirely other matter to design the category that you alone fit in.

Allow me to demonstrate. I am a pretty much run-of-the-mill midwestern woman. I tie my hair up in ponytails, I drink coffee, I know how to shovel snow, care for sick animals and even how to field dress carcasses (I really don’t enjoy it though, but if the great earth mother gives unto us, it is disrespectful to waste that gift. And I try not to partake either.). I am a wife, a cat-loving-dog-owner (he’s my little cat-dog), a sister, a daughter, a student, an employee and a coworker, a friend, a dreamer, and I’d say most definitely an extroverted introvert (yea, I know. It gives me problems too.). But take away anything that has to do with someone else (so-daughter, wife, sister, worker, etc) and take away the references to religion, geography, capabilities and preferences. What is left?

I call that “left” stuff the essence of me. But I don’t really know what it is. Is it emotion? Because I have quite a bit of that. Is it personality? I think I have a decent amount of that too. Is it what I am made of? Atoms, cells, blood, skin, organs, memories? I mean, I suppose that would have to be included. So what am I that no one else is? I am me and you are you. And I couldn’t be you if I tried, but I wouldn’t want you to be me either.

I know, you were all expecting for the meaning of life. And I shan’t disappoint! Because each and everything that I have said is both true and false. And I hope you’ve stuck around long enough to see why.

In the very beginning of time, before history, before science, before everything we know, there were stars. And these stars grew until they could grow no more, exploding when they reached their peak. When these stars explode, they create a bunch of atoms, in the order of the periodic table. First Hydrogen, then Helium, then Lithium, Beryllium, and so on and so forth until at least Iron (which is the 26th element). Each atom mixes with the others, out in space, combining and pulling apart. Now why am I telling you this?

  

There is a law in science called the Conservation of Energy. Now, in science, a law means that hundreds, if not thousands of test have been done and for all intents and purposes, the law is a scientific fact. This is why no one disputes gravity-even though you can’t see it directly. Anyway, the Conservation of Energy can be simplified down to the following: no energy can be created or destroyed in a system. There is also the law of the Conservation of Mass. This also is simplified down to: no mass (the stuff everything is made of) can be created or destroyed in a system. So what does that have to do with anything?

Well, we know that a human is made up of a lot of water, but what else? If you look at the most common elements that a body is made up of you get: Oxygen, Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Sulfur, Sodium, Chlorine and Magnesium. Now if you look at a Periodic Table of Elements, you’ll see that those elements are numbered: 8, 6, 1, 7, 20, 15, 19, 16, 11, 17 and 12. Iron, as I said is 26, which means that all of the elements that make up most of us come before Iron. That further means that the stars that exploded made the elements I have listed here.

  

If I haven’t lost you yet, I’m very glad! Because the laws I mentioned, they come into play here. Since absolutely nothing can be made or destroyed, the atoms (which make up the mass of everything) which make up you and I came from the explosions of the stars. So here’s the deal. We are all made up of the little tiny particles which first originated in stars. So when you hear people say “We are stardust”, believe them. Because although this information is all paraphrased from other sources, it remains true. And just incase you wanted to know more about the meaning of life, let me explain death.

Before I really go on, let me tell you a story (you know that’s my thing!). I once went to a funeral of a family member and sat in the back, just observing. I watched the widow sit in the front row, the handkerchief crumpled in her hands, her eyes puffy and red from crying. But what I had not expected to happen, was the moment I caught her eye. I looked away immediately, not out of shame, but out of the understanding that I could not bear the weight of her pain. It would have been far easier if her eyes had been dead, the windows to a soul lost to the oblivion. But they weren’t. They were the windows to summer basketball sessions between her late husband and her kids, the early mornings when snow would lightly fall and she would watch him sleep. They were the windows to a thousand more “I love you’s” which would fall on deaf ears and the echoes of petty fights that would haunt her recollection for years to come. And at the funeral of a childhood friend, I remember looking at his body, thinking about how many times that might have been me, how even in death, he didn’t seem so happy, but maybe that’s because his body was pumped full of gallons worth of chemicals and the makeup could not hide the way his neck curved ever so violently, the ghost of a rope ever so snug around the collar of his dress jacket.

  

If no matter and no energy can be lost or created, what happens at death? Quite obviously, there is still mass. You have a body almost always, a quiet shell of a person lying still. But a person while living maintains the energy of thought, of breath, of circulation. And once ceased, that energy cannot be destroyed. The body heat rises into the atmosphere, reuniting with the clouds, the rain and the air. The breath that once ran through them now runs though the atmosphere. The memories which gave fuel to their every move, their every sense of self, they belong now to the people who need them most, to those with whom they were shared before. And I think that is a lovely thing. We are both part of the universe and made up of it. We cannot be created from nothing and we cannot disappear to nothing. The life of each and every one of us was determined by the star explosion, the energy and life of others, the ability to continue on. And that’s why it’s entirely okay if you could not define yourself as just yourself before. Because in all honesty, you really can’t be you without others. But it’s okay. Because the others couldn’t be themselves without you either.

  

What’s My Age Again?

9 December 1992. It was a cold day in December, flurries and snowflakes abounded and as the sun disappeared, a lunar eclipse kissed the moon. In the chill, the bitter cold of night, there was a silence. A single snowflake fell to the ground, having caught the light of the blood red moon, and the world held its breath. Seconds passed, each one bringing the moon closer to the culmination of the eclipse, the tint caressing the moon with no inclination of saying goodbye. And right as the moon shone brightest, a scream rippled through the stark white hospital. The lights were dim, the sounds of Christmas carols humming through the radio and in a flurried rush, as the snowflakes outside the window, a baby was wrapped in a blanket, the jam-like innards having been sucked from her nose, her bottom having been smacked. That child, covered in goop, being rapidly wiped off and swaddled, was me. I came home in a Mickey Mouse shirt, which my mother graciously lets me keep in my clothes drawer with my socks.
My mother was told she could never have kids. I was both a surprise and a blessing (or so my parents tell me). I’m sure they really had no idea just how many surprises were to come to them on my behalf. I’ve been through every emotion and hair color, I’ve grown fond of coffee (if you couldn’t tell), I fell in love with music. I learned to play almost a dozen instruments, I even thought about being a music major in college, even auditioned. We always put the Christmas tree up after (or on) my birthday). And now, I live with my husband and life has changed so much since my earliest memories.

Last year on my birthday, I anxiously awaited the minute I turned 22 so that I could buy the Taylor Swift song. But as I approached this birthday, I realized that finding a “23” song would be much harder. So I began my search. As the title suggests, I found Blink-182 first and then Jimmy Eats World. But that song just wasn’t enough for me. I’m sure my sister would love for me to claim the R5 song “Wishing I Was 23” but I just can’t connect to it either. Next to reach the chopping block was “23” by Shakira. I’m a huge fan of Shak, and I really thought maybe this song would be it. But I kept looking-just in case. And then I landed on “Waiting” by Jamie Campbell Bower. And I think I have my song. 

Being 23 is already pretty stressful. I have another year just gone. I spent it being sucked down by my cowardice and anxiety, I found myself changing my mind-a lot, and I picked myself up after tons of times being metaphorically beaten down. But it’s gone, for better or worse and I can’t get it back. That’s really something to think about. It’s a scary world out there and I’ve missed another year. Or am I just another year closer to the best me I may ever be?

So my goals for year 23, are personal,more so than they have ever been. I want to break my shell once and for all. I want to get out and meet people, make eye contact and not be afraid of everyone. I want to work out more. Not so I can be skinny, but so I can be healthy. I want to be able to go into the next parts of my life in the best shape I can. I want to do something-like get my book published, or sell a song to a famous person, or even just go somewhere. And more importantly, I want to succeed. Less thana year from now, I’m applying to grad schools and law schools. I want more than anything to get in. I want to smile at the acceptance letter and realize I did it. I want to not be scared to drive. I have a CRAZY story to tell you all sometime about why I have worries driving, but today I shall not get into it. And I want to enjoy life. I don’t need to have “everything”-the perfect body, makeup, hair, and material goods. I just want to spend more mornings looking at the sunrise, more evenings staring up at the heavens and maybe, just maybe, finally learn how to play guitar.

All that I need is to be true to myself. And that is my favorite reason why I’m 23.

So come close, and I’ll scream

Oh just let me be me

And I fail to see

The dark skies aren’t all that dwell inside me

-Jamie Campbell Bower, Waiting

  

Thankfulness, Day 21

It’s taken me all day to think up a post for today. I feel like I’ve done a lot of great topics already. Did I cover everything? Certainly not. Am I done being thankful? No. And as seems to be my style, a story would benefit.

I can name a dozen ways to explain why I am the way I am. Sagittarian. First born. Cat person. Daughter of the eclipsing moon. INFP. Born-again pagan. College student. Vegetarian. Wife. 

All of those things affect a certain portion of who I am, but it isn’t an entire picture.

Who I am is a legion of people, all crammed inside one body. I am the one who fulfills duties, fulfills roles set out because of the choices that I have made (daughter, wife, sister). I am the one who devoted my life to learning. I am the one who chooses not to eat meat. I am the one who desires the company of a select few in place of being part of the popular crowd (maybe I am a cat). I am the one who looks within, observes more than judges and is left with more questions than answers. One who is born under an eclipse is more likely to be one who is driven by passion and consumed by it (A binary). I am the one who is many.
  Part of the reason I’m having so much trouble finding things to write about is because it is the end of the semester and I just can’t. I know that there is much stress, but it’s more than that. I’m not saying this because I want a bunch of people to reach out and say “You’ve got this.” I’m writing it because I promised to always tell the truth. And to tell only part of the truth is telling a lie. 

I can never tell the full story of my life, because it is not over. I wake up each day a new person, someone I was not the day before. Because I keep fighting to make myself better. And therefore, I am different each day. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. But the thing is, it’s exceptionally easy to just get caught in the moment, in the same rut that consumes me each time and have to stop. It’s like making your way through the desert because you need to get out, but coming back to the same oasis because you can’t seem to find your way.

I feel like a burden. Like I ask for help more than I am able to give it. I make up for that in my mannerisms or at least I try to. But at the end of the day, my attempts take quite a bit out of me and I am reduced to being the same girl I was in high school: insecure, broken. Last night, I kept my very accepting husband up for a while because I had conviced myself that I wasn’t pulling my weight in our marriage. I was reduced to tears, wondering why it fell to me to be the one who had so many opportunities and advantages, but to be unable to use them.

I am smart. I am confident. I am succeeding in life (as much as I can, anyway). But not one single ounce of that mattered. My life became defined by a series of counter-facts: I am worthless. I am stupid. I am never going to succeed. And it’s a trend that I always feel coming, like a black cloud hanging low. Sometimes I forget words, or replace them with the wrong ones (yesterday I replaced “crutches” with “stilts” and couldn’t remember the word “sandwich”). Sometimes I just go blank-like a robot without emotions. And sometimes it’s like my entire life has been a lie and if I was happy-it surely must have been all pretend. I couldn’t understand why someone with dreams, goals and aspirations could be broken into someone without hope, happiness or inspiration. In the grand scheme of things, surely it wasn’t fair.

And that is what I focused on today. I’m not thankful for the hard times. To be that way would be ridiculous. No one wakes up and says “Oh thank goodness today is a really shitty day. I’ve had far too many good ones.” Instead, I am thankful for small things. A warm cup of coffee with chocolate chip cookie dough creamer. Rain hitting the window. It’s hard for someone like me, with so many binaries (like being introverted, but wanting to make friends/wanting to feel everything deeply, but not wanting to be consumed by feelings) to not get overwhelmed by days like yesterday. But in the end, I have to remember that there is only one truth that doesn’t ever change.

                                  The sun will rise again.

  That quote may be my tattoo quote, with an entire portion of skin dedicated to the most serene sunrise a tattoo artist can make, but we’ll see. The point is, I’m not thankful for bad days, hard days, or even the days which never end and suck you into a thick black depression. I hate those days. But what I am thankful for is the dawn. I am thankful that all things come to an end. And I am thankful that I am there to see the sun rise once more.