A Step Forward #3


Shane McGinnis

Illustration by Miranda Sepúlveda

This week I’m turning my sights from exercise and organization. Instead, I will be setting out to conquer a more mental and emotional topic: being thankful.

There are a few ways I approach being thankful. The first is an overall appreciation for all the events and stepping stones in my life that lead me to where I am today. The secondthird is focusing on the small moments that happen in my day-to-day life that I should appreciate rather than overlook. 

We’ll talk about appreciation for the past first. 

I, like many people, experienced things that in the moment feel like the end of the world. When I moved away from my best friend in fourth grade, I didn’t know how life was ever going to get better. In that moment, it was one of the hardest things that could happen to me. When I got a bad grade in high school, I thought my chances of a successful future were over. The 70% I received on that test ruled out any hopes and dreams I had of doing something with my life. Here’s the interesting part; moving in fourth grade set me up for so many more successes in my life. That bad grade made me pay more attention in class, and I ended up really enjoying it after that.  

I think a much more current problem we’re all facing is the COVID-19 pandemic. With businesses closing and lockdowns being enforced, it changed peoples’ everyday lives. I know for myself that the pandemic caused a lack of motivation in school and hobbies. The thought of moving out of my dorm and away from the college lifestyle sounded terrible. The pandemic began duringIt was the spring semester of my freshman year, and I just really felt like I was getting the hang of being a college student. Events were cancelled and routines changed. 

At that moment in time, we did not know the severity of the situation that would come. I just thought I was going to be stuck at home for a few weeks. Looking back at the time Iwe spent in isolation now, I can see some benefits came out of it. I got to spend more time with my brother, who is getting older and whose life I was missing a lot of. The time I got to connect with him as he gets more mature was very rewarding, and I am very thankful.  

The other form of appreciation I am focusing on is more geared toward everyday life. As nice as it is to look back at the past and recognize the steps that got you to where you are, the practice of seeing small moments every day and being thankful for them is what has changed the most for me. It’s a very simple practice.  

You can recognize something as small as getting the door held open for you on the way to work or having your favorite pair of socks be clean and warm because you just did laundry. I wanted to focus on this, because I, like others, can fall into a cycle of pessimism and dreariness. This is especially true considering the past year. I know I just talked about the good that came out of it, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t take aits toll. The act of appreciating small moments turned me away from the bad things or the looming deadlines and instead allowed me to see the good from the day. Sometimes a shift at work is not fun, but the joke that made your coworker laugh was pretty great. Dining hall food can get boring for me, but the lady who checks me in always asks if I’m doing well, and that makes me smile.  

There is an unforeseen development that has come out of this appreciation exercise. As I see more and more of what people do for me, I’ve become more aware of what I could be doing for others. I know that if someone complimented my outfit in the library, that would be my appreciation for the day. In turn, I might go out of my way to say I like a person’s shoes to make them feel the way I did before.  

At first, I thought this exercise was going to be about making me a more appreciative person, and it did that, but it has also made me a nicer person as well. I’m more willing to compliment someone when I see them. I’m more uplifting in situations where people may feel down. Of course, I’m not saying that I am all of a sudden the kindest, most perfect human, but I think I’m going in the right direction to becoming a better person.