Giving Thanks: Blog One

thank you

By Troy Headrick

If you read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, a book I’ve alluded to in at least one other piece, you’ll see that “Book 1” is a collection of acknowledgements and thank yous.  For example, Aurelius lists family members, friends, “the gods,” and others in this opening chapter.  He thanks each one of these individuals and entities for helping him learn, grow, mature, and become the person he is.

As I’m writing this, I’m reminded that tomorrow is the last day of October.  That means Thanksgiving (if you’re an American and living in America) is just around the corner.  In a sense, we’re approaching the time of year when we’re supposed to do what Aurelius did in his “Book 1.”  We’re obliged to reflect on everything we have to be grateful for, including those individuals that have played pivotal roles in our lives.

I consider this blog to be the first in a series of “thank you” pieces.  Like Aurelius, I’d like to identify people who’ve helped shape me and to thank them.  I don’t think we do that sort of thing nearly enough.  I don’t think we spend adequate time and energy remembering those influential others and showing appreciation for how they nurtured us.  If the “self” is simply a construct, then it is at least partly built from those who’ve helped us become who we are.

The first person I’d like to thank is my mother, Joanne.  We have not always seen eye to eye, and in fact, we’ve often had something of a tumultuous relationship.  Despite this fact, I will very happily admit that I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her wonderful influence, especially during my earliest years.

My mother finished high school and that was it.  She never enrolled in a college or university, but she is one of the most well-read people I’ve ever known.  In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that she’s read as many books—both fiction and nonfiction—as your average tenured professor.  There is almost no subject she isn’t interested in and unable to discuss in a learned way.

So I grew up around books and witnessed my mother read them as voraciously as a person starved for information and wisdom.  This certainly made an impact.  Because she had such a strong influence on me at that time, I absolutely learned to believe that reading was something a person had to do, no ifs, ands, or buts.  In my mind, there seemed to be almost no difference between having an empty bookshelf and an empty refrigerator.  Both would likely mean that a person would end up going hungry.

I am also told that when I was an infant, the woman who gave birth to me would carry me around the house and show me things—she’d point at a flower or at tree bark or at a toaster—and tell me the names of these things.  She would have me touch them and smell them.  She’d talk about their colors and their uses.  In this way, I began to understand words and how they worked.  Without words, none of these objects could be named or spoken about.

When I look at the person I am now, I see my mother’s influence everywhere.  I am so blessed to have been born to a woman who helped me observe deeply and get started trying to make sense of things.

Mom, I know I haven’t said this nearly enough to you in recent years, but I love you for all the ways you encouraged me and helped me become the person I am today.

Is there someone you’d like to say thank you to?  If so, why not take this opportunity to do so?

Troy Headrick’s personal blog can be found here.


11 thoughts on “Giving Thanks: Blog One

    1. We are simply an amalgamation of those forces and influences that have had a profound influence in our lives. The reason we so often become more and more like our parents as we grow older is because they’ve left indelible imprints on us in the same way a fossil is formed. I’ve long been intrigued by how we become the personalities that we are…Thank you so much for the kind words and for participating in this conversation.

  1. How thoughtful of you to thank your Mom for her influence in your life. I lost my Mom 17 years ago to ALS. I am thankful I can say that our relationship had deepened in the years before her illness. Good for you, Troy, to put aside the sometimes tumultuous relationship to bless her heart with your acknowledging your heart felt thankfulness!!!

    1. Thank you so much for the comment. It is true that my mother and I have had our problems over the years. But I grew up and ended up teaching at universities and community colleges and such in the US and abroad. It was my mother’s influence that got me started on the road that eventually motivated me to get a lot of very advanced schooling. Several days ago, it occurred to me that I wanted to give thanks to those folks who’d played an especially formative role in my life. My mom is certainly one of those folks. I think I’ll do my next blog on my maternal grandfather, a man who taught me to love and respect the natural world because he was a rancher and farmer. Anyway, it’s so good to hear from you, and I’m happy you were able to get closer to your mother before she left this earth. I hope to hear from you again in the future. Have a very good one…

    1. Thanks, Betul! My mom got me started looking, listening, exploring, and thinking about the world and everything in it. To her, I owe so much. Even though some of those who’ve inspired and influenced me the most no are no longer even alive, I still feel their presence. I see them when I look at myself!

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