why i keep a
by Elle Chavis
In the haze of feeling completely lost and unhappy in my first weeks at college, I texted one of my best friends from home, “Do you think about the different paths your life could have taken?” Almost immediately, she texted back that she thought about this all the time, and we went back and forth for the next hour about different scenarios we had envisioned–My favorites include what our lives would be like if we had been adopted by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or if I wasn’t allergic to nuts, mangoes, and milk.
Our silly text exchange led me to a mini-existential crisis. I sat up thinking about all the things I would change about my life, all the decisions or moments I would go back and change. How if I had the power, I would make everything line up to make me a completely different version of myself. I would be taller, skinnier, prettier, better at math, smarter, more social, less awkward, well-liked by guys. Some version of perfect.
I pondered it for a while until my friend texted me, “But if I was a Brangelina baby, then I never would have met you.” Finally, I stopped. What was I doing, sitting in my dorm room bed, dreaming of a world where almost every single thing in my life changed? My friend was right. There will always be things in life that I wish I could change, but none of those are more valuable than the connections and the friendships I do have.
My brief dissatisfaction helped me realize that even though my life is by no means perfect, I have so many things to be happy about. So in typical potential-English-major fashion, I took out a journal and wrote a list of everything that I am grateful for in my life and all of the decisions that I am happy with.
At first, I was shocked to see that my list was pretty long, seemingly indicating that I am actually satisfied with many things in my life. But perhaps most importantly, my list helped put everything into long-term perspective. Sure, my first semester of college might have filled me with countless doubts and fears, but it has also brought me so many things to be grateful for: new friends, new passions, and independence.
What started out as a one-time experiment has become a daily ritual, and November 1st marked 40 days of me writing down a gratitude list every day. It might sound cliche, but it doesn’t have to be something big. Most days, it’s actually the smallest things that make my daily gratitude list: catching the C1 to West on the first try, the printer in Lilly actually letting me print out my Spanish homework, the vending machine in Trinity finally restocking CokeZero (this might be the thing I’m most grateful for).
Writing in my gratitude journal has made me genuinely happier. It gives me a small bit of peace in the absolute chaos of freshman year. Even just with the past 40 days, I love looking back and seeing all the things that I am grateful for. Who knows if I’ll keep up writing for the next 40 days, but I am eternally grateful for the past 40.