I am grateful for the white and tan, out-of-date ’98 Camry sitting in my parents’ driveway, because it’s mine and a car has never been mine before and freedom has never been mine before. I’m grateful for the cracked leather on the steering wheel. Grateful because I was 22 the first time I operated a moving vehicle by myself, 22 the first time I struggled to remove a bumper sticker from its contact paper, 22 when I first bought (with the generous help of a loan from my mom’s 401k) a car. I named it Belle.

I am grateful for my friends, who are flawed and lovely and sad and so different from each other. I am more grateful for them than anything else. I don’t even know what else to say.

I am grateful for my faith, which scares me and anchors me and kind of refuses to let me go, although that sounds like a bad thing and it’s not a bad thing. At all.

I am grateful for Appalachian State even though that’s complicated right now. Because tuition and money and getting someone to loan you money, that’s complicated. And some of the things that have been done by Appalachian State the entity, the institution, the corporation — those things are bad. But the time I spent there and the people I’ve met, that’s not complicated. Loving something enough to want it, desperately, is the least complicated thing there is.

I am grateful for children, for every two-year-old who crawled into my lap or rode on my shoulders or gave me that sneaky, I’m-going-to-do-exactly-what-you-told-me-not-to-do glance today. I’m grateful for the six-year-old who picked up her toys and tossed them under a table instead of putting them away and told me “You can do that. God doesn’t care,” and for the four-year-old who walked up to me and asked, with great concern, “Have you seen my paper with beautiful hearts on it anywhere?” Kids are so nerve-gratingly obnoxious and so wonderful. I’m glad not everyone is an adult, because being an adult often means being serious and worried and sad.

For the little joys and the heartbreak and all of it, every breath…I am grateful. Thank you.