As Thanksgiving looms on the horizon–scratch that, “looms” sounds entirely too negative… as Thanksgiving blossoms (?) on the horizon, I’m reflecting on how tremendously grateful I am for the wonderful things in my life. I am fortunate beyond measure and thankful in a profound, deep way.
Beyond my gratitude, I’m cognizant of the privilege that catapulted me to this point and mindful that not everyone in our country is so fortunate, nor so immune from hardship. I don’t have to fear for my safety because of my race, religion, citizenship status or sexual orientation, and I’m saddened that in a country as educated as ours, not everyone can say that.
I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from or how I’m going heat my home or clothe my child and I’m saddened that in a country as wealthy as ours, not everyone can say that. And so, my gratitude is tempered by the knowledge that I’m uniquely lucky.
Pizza and Jesus
As a kid I remember writing out everything I was thankful for at Thanksgiving on the five fingers of paper hand turkeys. I recently found the one I made in kindergarten and I’d written: “my family, pizza, Jesus, the beach, dogs.” Not a bad list, actually. As an adult, however, although I know what I’m thankful for, I don’t sit down and write out lists. Until now, that is.
This year, I want to remind myself of everything that makes my life incredible and reflect on the fact that not everyone enjoys these same freedoms and experiences. Through my gratitude I want to acknowledge that I’m lucky and that, thanks to this luck, I have the opportunity to reach out and serve my community.
My Thanksgiving Gratitude List
I’m thankful that Mr. Frugalwoods and I both come from loving homes with dedicated parents who enjoy committed, longterm marriages (49 years for my parents; 36 years for my in-laws). It’s rare to have such a stable background and I know this enabled us to thrive not only as children but also as adults. I find I depend on my parents and in-laws for moral support and friendship quite a bit as an adult.
I’m thankful that our parents gave us every educational opportunity they thought we needed. Neither Mr. FW nor I went to private schools, but our parents took us to museums, read books to us, helped us with our homework, and taught us to be inquiring, intelligent citizens.
I’m thankful that Mr. FW and I graduated (hand in hand) from college in 2006, right before the great recession. Had we not, our career paths–and earnings trajectories–likely would’ve been stunted. We were fortunate to secure jobs, and not lose them, during the mass layoffs of 2008 and 2009. The everyday scare of layoffs is largely what ignited our frugality as a young couple.
I’m thankful for my health and my family’s health. To live without serious illnesses is an immense blessing. It allows us to do our own manual labor, avoid costly healthcare, and enjoy life. Of all our advantages, health is preeminent.
I’m thankful that my family–immediate, extended, and in-law–loves each other. We don’t have major divisions or feuds and we can, for the most part, all get along during Christmas dinner.
I’m thankful for my in-laws, who I love as much as my own parents. I like to say I won the in-law lottery. Both my mother-in-law and father-in-law enrich my life and are amazing grandparents to Babywoods.
I’m thankful I’m able to work a job I enjoy from home, which brings me fulfillment, an income, and the ability to care for my daughter.
I’m thankful Mr. FW and I discovered frugality as a young couple, which allowed us to build a life outside of the ordinary. Financial freedom is a freedom of all kinds.
I’m thankful that I met and married Mr. FW at such a young age (24!!! sounds really young now… ). We skipped over the oft-expensive dating pinwheel of our 20s and went right to saving for our future. He’s my partner in every venture, my confidante, and my champion.
The Role Of Privilege
I think Thanksgiving is the time for such reflections. There are plenty of other opportunities throughout the year to focus on self-improvement, on our challenges, to list our flaws (that takes me a long time to do… just saying); but Thanksgiving is when we reflect on all the good in our lives. And by extension, the good we can impart to others.
An aspect of my gratitude is my recognition of the privilege interwoven in my life. I feel that if I don’t recognize my privilege, and express gratitude for my life, I won’t realize just how fortunate I am. The game was rigged for Mr. Frugalwoods and me from birth. And throughout our lives, Mr. FW and I have received what amounts to a hidden hands-up.
As a parent, I rabidly (obsessively?) consume information on how to educate and engage my daughter. Something that comes up in nearly every book and article I read is the paramount importance of early (like from birth) education/stimulation and the correlation of parental education and socioeconomic status to a child’s IQ and success later in life.
This is not to say that people don’t transcend challenging childhoods to go on and achieve at incredibly high levels–they certainly do! This is simply to acknowledge that privilege was baked in for Mr. FW and me before we were even born. And thus, our particular journey to financial independence is relatively smooth. Sure, it entails moderate personal sacrifices (such as saving over 70% of our income), but these are tenable sacrifices and largely a question of personal responsibility and choice–not a question of true hardship.
It’s tough to acknowledge privilege because it’s much more appealing to attribute our success to our own choices and intelligence. But that doesn’t take into account the myriad factors that enabled me to make those wise choices and to achieve a high level of education. Beyond my education, which led directly to my wealth (as it were), there are less tangible, but equally vital factors working in my favor. I live in a rich country awash in opportunity, I’m white, I’m a US citizen, I’m healthy, my parents aren’t divorced, I didn’t suffer abuse as a child, I’m straight, I’m conventionally OK-looking. So many factors–many beyond my control–have lined up in service of my privilege that it’s overwhelming. It’s certainly humbling anytime I start to climb up on a soapbox (something I know I’m guilty of).
As I tick down this list, and look around my cozy home at a happily snoozing Frugal Hound, an exuberant Babywoods stalking innocent Frugal Hound, and Mr. FW feeding wood into our woodstove, I realize that my cup runneth over. I am humbled that you all read the words I write and profoundly thankful to be with you as we celebrate this holiday of gratitude.