My turn was coming up fast. “What am I going to say this year”, I muttered to myself with a tone of both semi-annoyance and dread. We were sitting at the Thanksgiving table partaking in the annual mundane Thanksgiving family tradition with each of the group of 16 announcing what they were most thankful for. Of course, I heard the stereotypical and impulsive answers from my siblings and cousins, “I’m thankful for my iPhone” or “I’m thankful for my friends at school.” There were also the usual answers from my parents, “We’re thankful we have such a beautiful family who values family and generosity. Don’t get me wrong, these are all valid and honest claims. But as my turn was rapidly approaching, I thought about what I was “really” thankful for. Upon my turn, I announced proudly “I’m thankful for being here today.” After seeing all the perplexed looks on the faces of my family members, I realized my answer was going to require a complex explanation.
Having been adopted from an orphanage in Tikhvin, Russia when I was a child, I realize my life screams of irony. I went from having no family at all to a family who treasures family values and tradition over all else. I explained how I could have wound up anywhere in the world, yet I was blessed to be in the presence of such loving and caring individuals who took me in as their own. Not to sound flippant or unappreciative, but naturally I am thankful for the food on the table, the shoes on my feet, and the clothes on my back, as well as the many other things we often take for granted in a modern society. However, those seem so trivial when contrasted with being a part of a family who is loyal, caring, accepting, and values tradition as much as mine.
Although I have known about my adoption as far back as I can remember, I hadn’t really thought about my background or culture much, until that Thanksgiving dinner. I grew up living the life of a stereotypical kid with no obvious signs of difference from my parents. I am adopted yet don’t stray from my parent’s ethnicity, so “fitting in” hasn’t ever been a problem. As my turn approached, I thought about how different my life could have been, for better or the worse, yet was so thankful I was in the position I am in. I reflected on all the birthdays we celebrated together, all the Christmas parties we hosted, the reunions we had, which allowed me to come to a realization. The realization that it doesn’t matter what family you come from, but the family you are “accepted” into is the one you can call your own.
Although Thanksgiving inherently evokes images of football and turkey to others, it has a much more profound meaning to me. I treat Thanksgiving as a day of thankfulness and gratitude towards those who have changed and shaped my life forever. Coming from a country whose family values and traditions are unfamiliar and nonexistent in my current life, I am blessed being raised with ethics and values such as loyalty, generosity, gratitude, and most important unconditional love. My natural personality traits of independence, self-motivation, and determination are balanced by the values that have been instilled in me. Learning to thrive within a diverse group, both culturally and characteristically, has broadened my appreciation of others. I believe that this unique combination of traits is what attracts people towards me for help, guidance, and leadership. Having been afforded so much opportunity and given so much love and appreciation, I feel a personal responsibility to live up to my full potential in all aspects of life. In jest, I have been called an “over-achiever”; however, I just call it “destiny.”