Twenty-four Years and Lots of Gratitude

I turned 24 today, huzzah! In some ways it feels surreal that I have spent 24 years on this earth reading books, obsessing over pop stars, and over-disclosing about my life on the internet. Though this year has had its share of downs, ranging from encountering aversive racism in my professional life to falling for an emotionally unavailable man on the internet, it has also contained several ups. On the whole, who knew that the weird, not-so-socially-conscious high school kid who started this blog would transform into a similarly weird, similarly extra red-haired therapist icon who went to therapy himself and figured out his life and worked through his trauma?

To celebrate 24, I wanted to write a list of 24 things, people, etc. I feel grateful for. Yes, a super basic concept, and at the same time gratitude has been associated with positive health outcomes. I have had much luck and privilege and wonderful occurrences and people in my life so I want to share. Without further ado, my list of 24, in no particular order:

1. My friend Natasha, for her wit, kindness, openness to processing our friendship, and for in a dark time of my life this year, reminding me that my trusting and care about people acts as a strength and not as a weakness.

2. The new tennis friends I have made this past year in my local community, for their sweetness and putting up with my lobs. One of them made me chocolate and peanut butter cookies and brought them to our match this morning. Such a queen!

sweet cookies a tennis friend made for me.JPG

A picture from this morning. Look at these bomb af cookies (feat. my feet and tennis racquet)!

3. Sunja, the main character from Min Jin Lee’s novel Pachinko, who inspires me so much with her quiet resilience and kindness. Whenever a man wrongs me or I face adversity, I just think about how much she overcame and persevered through and I feel invigorated to keep on trying. If Sunja can survive Koh Hansu, I can survive emotionally unavailable traditionally masculine folk across all domains of my life.

4. Chobani yogurt because it tastes good and is fruity, like me. Not all of these have to be deep, okay? You know, unlike quite a few of the men in my life, Chobani is consistent and available to me. I eat a spoonful, I chew and swallow, then I look down at the yogurt again and it has not abandoned me like my father did throughout my childhood whew okay what’s going on here. The yogurt is still like, right there, on my table, waiting to be eaten. Gotta love Chobani.

5. On a similarly not super deep note, I feel grateful for Jinwoo and Seungyoon from the K-Pop group Winner because they’re both gorgeous and I kind of like staring at their faces? Also, the group’s recent songs “Ah Yeah” and “Mola” both describe specific and important life events I experienced recently. But, yeah, Jinwoo and Seungyoon’s faces. Whew.

6. My friend A for her endless compassion and giving, all of our conversations about feminism and relationships and our personal lives, the effort we have both put into our friendship, and so much more.

7. My friend Bri for our beautiful feminist friendship, the way we both seek to deconstruct patriarchy and white supremacy in our lives across many domains, how we both love books and advocating for ourselves and others, and so much more.

8. BlackPink’s song “Boombayah” for helping me feel like the badass queer red-haired feminine Vietnamese American icon I am even though all I do is sit in my apartment, read books, and talk to my friends on the phone.

9. BlackPink’s song “Don’t Know What to Do” for helping me let myself feel sad and also recognize I can both feel sad and feel like an upbeat bop at the same time. The iconic dance practice, Jisoo’s “you,” the synths, I have to stan all of it.

10. BlackPink’s song “As If It’s Your Last” for acting as the ultimate romantic pop song. I have to stan a group who shows that you can embody strength and femininity at the same time.

11. Okay, last BlackPink one: the Bongo cat version of “Kill This Love” (you should check out the other Bongo cat versions of their songs too.) The Bongo cats’ renditions feel like my essence.

blackpink snapchat snapshot yep that me

Yes, I posted this on my public Snapchat story. It’s the truth. I stan BlackPink.

12. My newer friend L for our support of one another, her rad vibrant energy, and our rejuvenating rants about white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism, and the men we have feelings for and how they should treat us like the queens we are.

13. My longer-time friend S for knowing me and sticking by me since high school, for her kindness and consistency, and for how we have witnessed each other grow after going through a whole lot over the past seven years.

14. My grandmother for instilling within me a deep appreciation of and desire to further nurturance, compassion, empathy, caring, and kindness.

15. Black feminist writers, in particular bell hooks and Audre Lorde, for their invaluable insight and wisdom.

16. Citrus-flavored juice.

17. Caroline Knapp, for teaching me how to value myself and create change in the world based on compassion and justice instead of external objects (e.g., awards, men, money).

18. Books, and because I have ten million books I feel grateful for, I will highlight Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, a queer YA graphic novel I read this week that made me cry and reminded me to honor my self-worth and always treat my friends like the icons they are.

laura dean keeps breaking up with me an iconic book.JPG

Another ~ high-quality ~ snapchat I took, this time instead of studying for my Biopsychology final (and I still passed the course, ha!)

19. Ariana Grande, her songs “No Tears Left to Cry,” “thank u, next,” “Break Free,” “Love Me Harder,” and many more, all for role-modeling for me the resilience and strength I aspire toward every day.

20. My many mentors who exemplify compassion, nurturance, and social justice, who have provided me with a template for how I want to treat my students.

21. The opportunity and privilege to provide therapy and to mentor students; my clients and my amazing students.

22. My current therapist, and my past therapist, L.

23. The people who read this blog and also the people who follow me on Goodreads because ya’ll are amazing. Like, you must have some high level of distress tolerance for your capacity to withstand my excessive self-disclosure, odd and sometimes narrow obsessions, and how much I write about men even though I say I do not need a man to be happy which is true but also if an emotionally available, queer, feminist, well-read Jinwoo showed up in my life and then bought me an independent bookstore I might throw that idea out the window I’m kidding but maybe not really. But actually, I feel so grateful for the compassion and empathy and support I have received through this blog and on Goodreads, every comment and message motivates me to write and to model some form of emotional processing and vulnerability.

24. For overcoming abuse and mental illness, for the effort I put into my relationships, for my beautiful red hair and the steps I took to procure it, and much more – myself. Today, I feel grateful for myself.

What do you feel grateful for, or not, in your life? How do we both honor the pain in our lives and practice gratitude? Any topics you would like to see me write about in the upcoming months or year? Hope everyone is well and until next time.



Filed under Personal

20 responses to “Twenty-four Years and Lots of Gratitude

  1. Michael

    Happy Birthday Thomas! Your vulnerability and honesty’s inspiring, and I hope you’ve had a great day. I think only when we acknowledge the depth of our pain can we genuinely appreciate the wonderful things and people in our lives (also, it’s unreal how much I can empathize with 4).

    • Awww thank you so much Michael! Love your note about how acknowledging our pain helps us feel even more genuine gratitude. I appreciate you letting me know about how #4 resonates, if you ever want to share more I’m always a message away. Hope you’re well.

  2. Happy Birthday, Thomas!! I love this entire post – it’s just so perfectly you. Numbers 3 and 24 are a stand-out. Pretty sure I felt my heart melt when I read your words about Sunja. She is such a pillar of strength, isn’t she? But so full of humility.
    And I love love LOVE that you’re grateful for yourself. Honestly, the way you’re so open with yourself about your pain, the way you work through things, and the way you keep working for a better world (for others and for yourself) is very admirable. I wish only the best for you!!

    • Awwww thank you so much, this comment means so much to me both because of its clear compassion as well as how you’ve witnessed my messiness and growth through this blog for so long now. Thank you, thank you for your support. And yes, Sunja is a queen! Honestly such an iconic character, so strong, so humble, so human in her emotional experience and longing for connection and so ethereal in her care for others. Glad you appreciated that shout out.

  3. Dr. Perry

    Happy Birthday! 🎉

  4. Rereadergirl

    To add to #4 – did you know that Chobani Inc was founded by an immigrant who continues to support, train and hire immigrants? It’s a social justice yogurt! I’m grateful for you as well!

    • Haha a professor and grad school cohortmate of mine commented on that aspect of Chobani when they saw me eating it in class I think, thank you for bringing that to my attention so I can further justify my consumption of it! SO grateful for your kindness and presence in my life and the emotional energy you expend for others as well. Will reach out to touch base again soon.

  5. Happy 24th Birthday Thomas! I don’t follow K Pop and had to check out who Jinwoo and Seungyoon are. I approve. 😉

    I do remember what you’ve written about your grandmother when I first found your blog. What a strong and supportive woman.

    Pls keep blogging and sharing so openly. It’s not easy nowadays to do that nowadays for a lot of reasons. I’ve found so many good friends from blogging.

    Maybe you could write about how to know if a therapist is right for you? Is it just a gut feeling? What questions would you ask a therapist when you’re looking for one to see if he/she is someone that you can relate with and open up to?

    • Haha omg it makes me so happy that you actually looked them up, thank you for your approval! And thank you for encouraging my sharing on this blog, your comments over the past several months have meant so much to me, I’m grateful we’ve been able to connect! I’ll do my best to keep blogging and over-disclosing, I mean, sharing openly. 🙂 And yes, I will do my best to write about therapy and trying to find the right therapist for you and all of that in the future, thank you for recommending that I do so!

      • I am also grateful that we’ve connected here and am glad you like my comments too. I had no idea they meant so much to you. 🙂 And if Jinwoo and Seungyoon ever show up, you better let me know!

  6. X.w

    Happy birthday Thomas! No23 sounds great! You are so funny. I appreciate your writing very much:) cheers.

  7. I love this! And I’m sorry I missed your birthday while I was concentrating on running my marathon! I am most grateful at the moment for my own resilience, a comfy bed in a slightly underequipped apartment in Liverpool and my tribe of running friends and new ones met yesterday.

    • No need to apologize at all Liz, I feel grateful that you took the time to comment and read at all! I’m inspired by your gratitude for your own resilience, your bed, and the running friends you’ve made. I wonder how much you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert or both or neither? I’m curious because you write and read a lot which makes me think of introversion but you write a lot about how you run with others, too. Hope you’re well. 🙂

      • I’m a sociable introvert, so I need own time to regroup and recharge but like running around with my friends. I spend quite a bit of time explaining not all introverts are shy, which I know you will know!

  8. Pingback: The State of Friendship Affairs | the quiet voice

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