Opinion / Blog

10 things I never thought I'd be grateful for

By kellivschina (China Daily) Updated: 2015-12-10 10:33

10 things I never thought I'd be grateful for

A photo of author. [Provided to China Daily Blog]

Last week, Americans celebrated Thanksgiving. It's always been one of my favorite holidays, and not just because I love stuffing myself with mashed potatoes and pie. I also love spending time with family (a little tricky when you live across the world) and the chance to reflect on the things in my life I am grateful for. It's a common practice for Americans to make lists of these things. In the past, my lists usually looked something like this: I’m grateful for my parents, my friends, my job, God, my life, delicious food, etc. When I moved to China a year ago, I added “living abroad” to the list but for the most part it remained the same.

This year, however, as I reflected on the things that I am thankful for, I discovered that living in China for over a year has given me a very different perspective on gratitude. I’ve taken so many things for granted my entire life and it took moving to China to make me realize how thankful I am for them. This changed perspective has made me grateful for a myriad of little things that usually get glossed over when I make the ritual “gratitude list” during this time of year.

Here are 10 things I never thought I’d be grateful for until I moved to China.'

1. I’m grateful for bathrooms that are equipped with toilet paper.

Even though I am now used to the BYOT (Bring Your Own Tissue) rule, I know it will be nice to go back home to the States and not worry about always bringing a purse pack of tissues with me. And when you actually discover a public restroom here in China that provides toilet paper...ah! It's a miracle. Better keep note of it for future reference.

2. I’m grateful for the freedom of speech.

We memorize the 10 amendments in school but don’t give them much thought. After all, that’s just the way things are, right? Living here has made me grateful that I am very free to express my thoughts in America. While my initial perspective of China has changed since coming here (I now know there is no Big Brother peeking into everyone’s living rooms), the truth remains that there are certain topics I am not allowed to discuss. I’ve been in conversations where one person brought up a “taboo” topic and every other Chinese person in the conversation immediately shut down because they didn’t want to risk someone hearing them discussing it. While I think some people take their freedom of speech a little too far, it definitely is nice to have it.

3. I’m grateful for stop signs.

Who actually likes stop signs? A year ago I would have been confused to see this on a “gratitude” list. But having lived in a land where stop signs are basically non-existent and there are literally no rules governing who goes in a 4-way intersection…I have a great love for those red octagons now.

4. I’m grateful that I got to choose my own college major.

I’ll admit there were some moments where I wished someone else would just choose for me. I didn’t go through as many switches as some of my friends–I started in music and later ended in psychology–but it was still a difficult decision. There were  days when I secretly wished someone else would pick for me…but honestly, I would not have been pleased if my university had assigned my major. Can you imagine getting a letter  the month before you started university that said, “Congratulations, you are an Arabic major!” or “You will be studying food science”? Many of my English majors had little to no say in what they studied. I have some students who can barely even speak English and clearly have no plans to use it once they graduate. While I know this isn’t the case for all Chinese students, many of mine chose to attend a more prestigious university in return for sacrificing their ability to choose their own major.

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