10 Things to be Thankful For, 2K17

I'm a little late to the party on this one, but it's always important to take time to count your blessings, so I had to make sure I got this annual post written before I went to bed.

I've been a little slack on the blog posts the past few months, which is something I plan to work on moving forward. Truthfully everything I'm doing each day seems to wipe the creative energy out of me, so sitting down to type up a blog post doesn't come as easily to me as it once did. But all it really takes is a combination of thinking a little harder and carving out a few extra minutes each day to make this happen, so I'm determined to do it. 

No better way to start off my determination to publish content than by recounting all the things I'm grateful for this year. It's been a hell of a year, to say the least. I feel like I've climbed mountains, both figuratively and literally, and there are so many moving parts responsible for this sense of achievement. I've never felt more grateful for everything, and everyone, in my life. I try to express it in some form every day, but today deserves a little more.

1. Brisbane

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This one might be pretty obvious, but if anything has changed my life in the past year it's been my incredible bond with this horse, which grows stronger every day. This time last year, I was beyond excited to be leasing a super cool horse who was letting me jump higher and experience a level of success I hadn't seen before in all my years of riding. Flash forward, and he's now all mine, with no finite end in sight, and I'm having more fun with him than ever. In just one year we qualified for Washington, Harrisburg, and won top honors at Blowing Rock and multiple Tryon AA-rated shows. It hasn't been all glory -- he still likes to keep me humble by dumping me in the dirt every now and then -- but all the wonderful moments make up for those we don't quite get right. This show season we'll be working hard to rise to the top of the Amateur-Owner division, something I never envisioned being possible for me. It's amazing how much just one horse can change your life. 

2. College Football

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Mainly just because, without it, I'd be unemployed. College football used to be just a game on occasional Saturdays I'd consider attending if I didn't have anything better to do. I'd probably show up late and wouldn't stay until the end. Now, my entire week revolves around the sport. I still don't have much of a vested interest in it per se, but what I see on a weekly basis that people are willing to do in the name of college football simply amazes me. I've seen eager students spend freezing nights outside just to get to witness the taping of College Gameday on Saturday mornings. I've seen tailgating like I never knew existed. The only word to accurately describe this phenomenon is passion, and it's powerful enough to light up an entire college town, to bring strangers and friends together under one common goal, and to provide an incredible American pastime without which this season would not be the same. 

3. Amazing Friends

Due to my insane travel schedule this year, I've actually gotten to spend time with the vast majority of my best friends since graduation in May, which absolutely blows my mind. When we all said goodbye on Duke's campus just six months ago, I tried to hold it together and promise that we'd all see each other again soon, but no one really knew if that was the truth. Everyone was off to start their own adventures in new cities, some many, many miles away from me, and the idea of reunions wasn't something to even bring up at such an uncertain time. But with the combination of my job and horse show schedule taking me to different cities every few days, I've managed to cross paths with just about everyone. My schedule has coincided with where all my best friends have ended up living and working, and even if I only get to see them for a short time, I still get to actually see them and that makes me a very happy person. I'm nothing without my best friends, so this year has turned out to be ten times what I had envisioned when I drove away from Durham one last time.

4. Graduating College

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On that note, let's talk about how I actually graduated college six months ago. There was a time during my undergrad experience when I thought the day would likely never come. I thought about leaving Duke and never coming back. I thought about bailing and trying to add on another semester in 2017. I considered a few options that didn't involve me graduating in May of 2017, but I somehow stuck it out and I did it. And as emotional and difficult as it was to fathom the idea of graduating and not returning in the fall, I accomplished something greater than I ever imagined it could be. Graduating in four years seemed like something almost promised, like I'd take four classes every semester and do just fine and I'd graduate. No one told me it wasn't that simple. That each semester would bring its own unique challenges and I'd have to gain the life skills to conquer them while also balancing a tough class load and keeping up in an extremely competitive environment. It's so easy to fall behind, in more ways than one. But graduating and moving forward to an even more exciting time in my life has made every ache and pain worth the struggle. I've never felt more invincible or more capable of anything that comes my way, and I can't think of a better time to be feeling this way.

5. Home

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Traveling is awesome, especially on those weeks when they decide we're worthy of luxurious hotels, but nothing beats coming home on a Sunday to my own bed, my own schedule, and my own home-cooked meals. I've also grown an even stronger bond with the city of Charlotte, because my few free days at home make me actually want to get out and explore. I'm so happy to have this city to come home to right now.

6. Twitter

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Though a trivial waste of time in many ways, Twitter has provided me with all the news and gossip I need to know since I've been on the road so much. I was recently asked in an interview, "How do get your news?" and my answer was Twitter, which is the complete and honest truth. I don't have time to read the newspaper or magazines, and I'm never in front of a TV long enough to actually catch up on the most important happenings. But when I spend my entire day running airport pickups and errands that may involve sitting idly with nothing but my own cell phone, I can get my daily dose of news and information from this little bird. My feed is the perfect blend of sports and news, with a little humor thrown in there too. Pro tip: the very best tweeters I follow are Ryan Reynolds and John Mayer. WeRateDogs also gives some nice comic relief between the negative stories I read while scrolling. I also think I read my dad's tweets more often than I actually hear his voice speak so I guess it keeps our father-daughter relationship alive, too.

7. Dove Chocolates

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Because they're simply the best chocolates out there (shoutout to the real MVP, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter) and they give you little inspirational messages on every wrapper. So you can blame every additional chocolate you shouldn't be having on a lack of inspiration. 

8. Good Books

Nothing can really take me to another place and time quite like a good book can. Curling up in bed with a good book is my favorite thing to do right before I turn the lights out (after watching an episode of Stranger Things or Criminal Minds). Right now I'm reading (and loving) Small Great Things. Next on my list are To Capture What we Cannot Keep and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. I wish I had more time to devote to reading, but I'm grateful for every minute I do get to spend with a good book.

9. Avocados

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Because they're (1) so yummy, (2) so versatile, and (3) have taught me an important life lesson: it's all about how you are on the inside. I like to put avocado on everything, even though it always costs extra. My definition of worth it.

10. This video of Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal doing an Autocomplete Interview

Pure. Gold.

It's almost midnight here on the east coast, so if you haven't yet, express your gratitude in some small way. But even if it's already Friday morning where you are, it's never too late to be grateful.

Tori BilasComment