Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Turkey's Gratitude

Thankfulness is a simple thing. In a swirling, twirling world of meetings, family obligations, and one too many consultations with the furnace guy, it's often too easy for me to say I don't have time for that.

Early in 2013, I read the amazing book, completely appropriate for Thanksgiving, A Simple Act of Gratitude. It's about how writing thank you notes can (and will) change your perspective and, ultimately, your circumstances. On one hand, expressing thanks for specific acts helps to reframe one's life in terms of what is inherently good - and positive mental health will ensue. On the other hand, the recipient of thanks is more likely to continue to be helpful in the future because she knows she is appreciated. Everyone wins.

This Thanksgiving, I am deeply grateful for a number of people in my life.

1. My husband. He's moved all around the country in support of my academic pursuits. He makes life easier when my work gets more difficult. He keeps me (marginally) balanced.

2. My family. They love me, I love them, and they make fun of me when I take myself too seriously.

3. My department. The Department of Chemical Engineering at CMU has treated me extremely well over the course of the past two years. My colleagues have made it easier for me whenever possible. They help me with writing. They read the brilliant embarrassing first drafts of grant proposals. I am given Ph.D. students. I am not overburdened with teaching or service. There are many small things that, in the end, mean everything to my happiness and peace of mind.

4. My graduate students. They are among my earliest supporters. They believe in what we are trying to achieve through our research, and they buy into the vision I've created to get us there. They almost always work hard, and they make me laugh. Their successes bring me a kind of joy I hadn't experienced before I became a professor.

The disclaimer is that this list is not meant to be all-inclusive. There are other important people in my life, like the inventors of Thorlos socks, my favorite discovery of 2014. And the CMU staff member that accepts all of my lab's VWR shipments and my occasional shipments of Kcups from Amazon Prime. You want to talk about clutch.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you gobblers out there.

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