This past month many people I know have taken the time each day on Facebook to post a status update listing something they were thankful for. In the same spirit, I figured I’d write one very long post in which I thank specific people who have made my life the enjoyable experience I have to look forward to every morning when I wake up. Since I suspect this will take some time, let’s get started…
- I’m thankful for my mother, Dianne Westfall, who gave me a (sometimes overly) sensitive heart to the needs and emotions of others. It’s her influence that has made me interested in human behavior, and has driven my desire to learn more about people to help them in their regular lives and in their times of need. Without my father, Alan Westfall, I wouldn’t be tempered with a sensitivity that can also be protected with a strong sense of self-confidence, extroversion, and a fundamental belief that I don’t have to prove anything to anybody other than myself.
- I’m thankful for my wife, Karey, who found me as a somewhat awkward 16 year old kid and has left me unafraid to take social risks, knowing that I’ll always have her to come home to and to tell my deepest insecurities. She was my first kiss – and since that day 12 years ago, my life has been forever altered for the better.
- I’m thankful for an interesting group of friends that I know I’ll always be able to reach out to and talk to, despite us living hundreds of miles apart. My best man, Steve, who has made me proud over the years as I’ve watched him embark on numerous adventures (I hope that some of my influence in our friendship has helped you along the way). The most interesting evil man I know, Tony, who has such a dynamic personality that I sometimes wonder what adventure he’ll take on next (Red Brick might “blow up” some day into something huge, who knows!). My ‘daughter’, Ashley, who has become a fairly worldly woman but has retained the enthusiasm of her teenage self. My ‘mistress’ (don’t ask) Trella, who tempers her eccentric ways with a healthy dose of down-to-earth reality and a huge heart. All four of these people have made impacts on my life, and I hope that I’ve done so in a positive way to theirs.
- I’m thankful for my second family (some call them in-laws). After never being close to my extended family on either my mom’s or dad’s side (something that I’m a bit regretful of, and if any of them are reading this, I’m always open to fixing/changing this situation), I married into a family that is not too large, but just big enough to have a diverse group of well-formed people who seem to thrive on an absence of drama, and a plethora of love. Thank you Dan, Sue, Greg, Scott, Mark, Bob, Mary Ann, Mandy, Bobby, Lisa, Jessica, and all the rest!
- I’m thankful for my professional mentors (JD, Eric, & Elke), who have given me amazing opportunities to extend myself into new directions, domains, and research topics. Along the way they’ve taught me skills, given me tips, and helped me reach my potential as a psychologist (I’m not there yet – probably never will – but continuing to reach is the whole point, right?). Thank you for the time, effort, and friendship.
- I’m thankful for a wonderfully diverse group of friends I’ve met through work (these are not “work friends” in the sense that I’m only friends with them while at work!). These include people from my college days (college is work!) like Marie, Maria, and Christina, and people from CDS like Ye, Martine, Annie, Margaret, & Cindy. While time will surely throw us into different areas of the world, thankfully I think it’s just possible we can stay friends through it, thanks to…
- I’m thankful for the technology that keeps me connected to people. Through Facebook, I can keep tabs on people I’d never have been able to in real life (like Heather, Christine, Holly, Maria R., Jim, Siobhan, Andy, Dena, and dozens more PSH people). We might not get too talk much, or see each other often, but I’m thankful to have you guys in my life, even if it is just in status-update form.
- I’m thankful to Jason Dunn for inviting me to be an editor for Pocket PC Thoughts so many years ago, and in turn paving the way for me to meet some awesome people like (off the top of my head) Don, Steven, Eric, Janak, Darius, Jack, Judie, Vinny, Johan, Sven, Craig, Ryan, and dozens more. I’m thankful these cool people have let me hang with them, supported me, made me sick with laughter, and made me feel like I had found a true ‘third’ career as a blogger/writer.
- I’m thankful for my current and former students (especially the ones that I’ve been able to keep up with via Facebook, like Tara) who, through listening to my lectures and maybe taking some of my advice, help me feel like I’m able to help many others in a small way. I’m so proud of these people as I see where they go and how they do in the future!
- Finally I’m thankful for so many other people in my life that do the little things that brighten my day. I’m even thankful for those among you that ask for help from me – you allow me to give back, provide service, and it makes me extremely happy to see my time and energy spent in improving your lives (even if it is just fixing a problem or providing advice on how to fix something).
And there are lots of people that I’m thankful for that I couldn’t easily group into any of the numbers above, as they overlap or are in general hard to classify. These people include current graduate students at UT, current students, colleagues, and interns at Columbia, many people who I’ve met professionally through groups like SJDM, the extended family I don’t connect with often but still am grateful for. friends and S.O.s of friends who I feel thankful to know even if we’ve only met once or twice, and dozens more who are rightfully entitled to post an angry comment below saying “what about me” 🙂 I know I’ve missed someone in this hour-long post I’ve drafted up while anticipating turkey later today.
Oh, and no list of thanks wouldn’t be complete without me thanking God for all that I’ve been given. However you see a creator (or even if you don’t see one and prefer to see a magnificent world created without any sort of guidance), you must admit that there is an amazing life force around us that keeps us cohesive, able to form strong bonds and friendships, and able to exist psychologically. I see this as God, who has guided me and kept me safe. Thank you.
And thank you for reading this – if you’re not listed above, you definitely deserve a shout-out now for making it through this post!