Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

Relearning Gratitude

I arrived home yesterday to love and joy. My dad picked me up, and we went to In-n-Out, where my mom met us. Then home, where my mom had been preparing Peking Duck for the last two days, hand-rolling the duck pancakes, baking pies and vegetables. Derrick and I dance a little bit at Starlite, then head home where Robert and Julia already are. Six of us uncork two bottles of wine, stuff ourselves, and talk and talk and talk. I beg leave at 9:00 - having fallen asleep at the table twice already. Even as I drift off, snuggled warmly under 5 layers of blankets, I can hear the delighted laughter continue.

There is a difference between feeling love and gratitude, and expressing it. I often experience the first, then fail miserably on the second. My brain this morning feels tight with expectation. Last year I woke slowly, Heidi nested in the crook of my body. She grumbled as I gathered her up, both of us draped in the warm throw that Aunt Karen crocheted for me many years ago, but then settled as I stepped forward to the living room - where we both fell asleep again in an armchair.  Today I wake to a quiet house and check my phone. I leave Heidi on the bed, go to my desk to check email. I open my mail - bills and back taxes. When I go to the bathroom, I catch my own stare in the mirror. I look older. I feel worried.

I miss my family when I'm not home. I miss California, even though the sheer volume of traffic and activity on the roads out here (and the gas prices - 4.67/gal?!) shock me. I miss having the time to just be. Apurva, my COLE buddy, had dinner with me a couple evenings ago. He passed on some wisdom from Joe LeBeouf about "white space." Apparently, it's important to have white space in one's day - time in which to simply reflect and absorb. At Fuqua, we have Wednesdays "off." In other words, it's a no class day. Joe said that Wednesdays used to be legitimate white space. Sometimes there would be a symposium or two, but usually it was a day to simply breathe and catch up. Now students are busy all the time. A few of my mentees mention that they are truly only comfortable making friends in one-on-one situations. They've found it impossible to develop any such friendships at Fuqua - so much happens in groups, and teams, it's about efficiency and not about taking time.

My first year, and even the fall of my second year at Duke, I somehow made space in my day to commit acts of gratitude. I baked and sent cookies to my best friends. I wrote letters - real letters! - to high school buddies. I called people just to "say hi." I can't remember the last time I baked cookies to give away, or sent a care package, or even dropped a real note to someone I admired. 

How did I do that? And how can I get back to it?

And so, this break I resolve to be a student again. I have somehow, undeservedly, been surrounded by people who are giving and kind and open-heartedly unselfish. This break I will watch, learn, replicate, and remember what it means to truly give thanks. I'll let you know how it goes.
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