In addition to being a full time student at the university, I served on the board of several on-campus organizations, worked three part-time jobs, and during the holiday season, I'd scour the student center website and craigslist for random gigs. During my freshman year, I found a dish-washing/serving opportunity at a wealthy family's home in a town near my campus on Thanksgiving. It offered $15-$20/hour just to help clear tables, wash dishes, and tidy the kitchen.
I remember that day clearly because I'd never experience anything of the sort. It was my first time ever setting foot in a wealthy American home. It was the kind of home I read about when I was just an awkward, skinny, dreamer-girl in Haiti. The kind of home I thought I'd move into when the US called for me, not the one-bedroom apartment in Newark my parents , little brother, and I found refuge to during my early teenage years. The place that collected most of my tears.
.Anything over $8 per hour was a lot of money to me back then. And that day, all I really had to do was place dishes in a fancy dishwasher. The host family was extremely friendly to me. So friendly that I thought maybe they felt bad for me or guilty that I was working that day. They paid me more than they advertised, drove me to the train station to head back to Newark, and sent me with a bag of delightful little cookies.
I remember while I was working in their kitchen, happy to just be able to make a little holiday money, I was dreaming. Jobs like these are meditative to me because although my hands and body are doing something, I am often lifted high above it all, either dreaming or feeling at peace. I still feel the same way when I cut fabric in my studio or package dozens of head wraps when I don't have the extra help.
The house was big, and there must have been thirty people there that day. The children had their own table in a smaller room, not the kiddy, a beautiful round table that could accommodate six to eight adults. And the adults occupied a long, beautifully set table in the main dining room that glistened under an elaborate chandelier. I listened to the clinking of glasses, and I remember noting to myself that one day I'd be surrounded by friends and family, and we will also clink glasses because we'd have something to celebrate.
There were so many toasts that day! A young couple was expecting. Someone got accepted to an important program. I think another couple even announced an engagement! All on the same day, under the same roof, there was so much to be thankful for. I cried that night when I got home. Not because I was envious. Or because I felt bad about the way I lived compared to them. I cried because I witnessed this random family's amazing day on Thanksgiving. Everyone seemed so joyful about everything. I wondered if this was the happiest day of their lives. I wondered if every Thanksgiving was as perfect as the one I was somewhat part of. I wondered how they got to be so lucky. I wondered if I'd ever have someone to love me the way the couple who hired me loved each other. Although I didn't spend much time with them, I knew there was love. Who's crazy enough to host thirty people in their home for Thanksgiving unless there was true, unbreakable love? That was twelve years ago...
Today, I work for myself, and everyday I wake up feeling thankful. I sit here on my couch from my tenth floor apartment, and I can casually walk on my balcony so I can get a nice glance of Central Park and Midtown. I will be spending this Thanksgiving with my husband, brother, and a couple of ladies from my Fanm Djanm team.
I sat in my office a few days ago thinking about all of the odd jobs I've done that prepared me for what I do today. I often think about how far I've come just as I think about how much farther I have to go. My goals and dreams have shifted. I find love and pleasure in more things than I used to. I realize that although I didn't have much when I was younger, I still took many things for granted. I'm aware of the things that truly matter. And what truly matters is how I feel inside. It doesn't matter where I am, or what my job title is. What matters is how fulfilled I feel. I can finally say although I believe I still have a lot to accomplish, for the first time in my life, I understand what feeling full means. This Thanksgiving I'm full. Full of life. Full of love. Full of magic and light. Full of opportunities, to not only create but to share. This Thanksgiving I'm full, and I hope you are too. If you aren't, believe that it will come. Just be open and ready for it.
These photos are from two days ago from a long stroll in Central Park at 6AM. I stepped out with my camera and a hot thermos of coffee, dressed in layers of fleece, wool, and other materials to keep me warm. I decided to "get lost" in Central Park, just like I used to do when I first moved to New York. I went for an hour-long walk, and just let go. I gave my feet permission to take me on random paths. Sometimes I'd stop to take a photo, or I'd find a rock to sit on so I can admire the view or reflect on different things in my life.