#thanks

By the time I can post this, my American friends already woke up after Thanksgiving, and I can only hope that they exercise restraint when it comes to Black Friday. (It is in full swing in my mailbox, though.)

Whether we like it or not, the United States are part of our lives, and so are its notable days—so much so that, from the 90s, we had gradually begun to observe some of them. Thanksgiving is no exception, so I wasn’t surprised to actually have a few thoughts about giving thanks, even on a busy working day we had over here yesterday.

But first off, here is something you probably noticed—the Quarantine Diaries are back. The hiatus was caused by some really severe changes in my life, and I explained to myself how I had no room for a private blog right there and then. But, over the months, I had to realize I had to continue with it, for my own sanity, and also in case it could actually help some of my readers. Although we have sort of a lockdown at this time, it is not nearly as severe as it was in March through May. On the other hand, Covid is raging: there are several acquaintances of mine and even members of our extended family who had it or are ill right now.

Giving thanks: it has become a recurring theme that in this year from hell that 2020 turned out to be, we ought to give even more thanks for the things and privileges we have. To me, expressing gratitude for things and situations goes together with accepting them, becoming comfortable with them. As if we were entitled to all the privilege we enjoy.

On the other hand, I’m not a fan of self-deprecation and exaggerated humility either—I don’t like giving thanks for adversity, for poverty, for conflicts, or for illness.

What remains then? Well, I guess I don’t feel comfortable giving thanks for things—I’d much rather give thanks to actual people, and in a way that it means something to them. Not that I’m so good at that, but then at least I have this day of Thanksgiving to remind me.

This year tested me and tried me—and not because of Covid (well, I have to admit it was a factor, too). I have a tendency to run away from conflicts and bad situations: when something goes sideways, I’m like “I’m out of here”, and in some cases I even begin to edge away.

So, what could be more fitting than having leadership thrust on me, in my own company (together with a fellow shareholder)? At first I was reluctant to accept the challenge and the responsibility, and I think that is all expected. Do you know what made me enjoy this all in the end? You’re right, the people. I’m immensely thankful to my colleagues for their energy, their principles and values—especially as they do not stand to gain from this whole thing nearly as much as I do, being a founder and all.

At the same time, we have seen—for quite some time now—how the “developed”, “democratic”, “Western” world was growing increasingly more violent, intolerant, defensive, and unfair; and if anything, this change got faster with Covid. A lot of things happened that made me angry.

But I also learned that it is possible to be a leader and remain approachable and (still trying to be) kind; that it is possible to do everyday things out of love, and that can go a long way in my immediate circle; that acts of kindness and fairness do matter even when they do not immediately affect thousands, millions, entire cities or nations. I’m lucky: most people I met this year, colleagues, mentors, industry peers, inspired me to go this way instead of isolating myself. (And I’m not talking about breaking the—still necessary—habit of physical distancing.) Thank you all for that.

Before I forget: I’m also infinitely grateful to members of my family. Being locked down together does drain everyone’s energies, I admit, and that often makes me want to go aside (especially as schools above the 8th grade went fully online again)—but I also got to know them much better than before. I usually hate to show any kind of favoritism—but the thing that stunned me most lately is how my daughter (16) became this open thinker, this mature person of solid moral principles and values—I admire how she openly and fiercely defends minorities and the unprivileged, even at the dinner table if necessary. My son (15) is not someone to speak up, and he also has a lot going on—but there are moments when it becomes clear: he does not hesitate to act with compassion either, when he sees the need. This despite all the bad examples they see from the adults at large.

Everyone else, friends, Romans, countrymen: thank you for keeping me to what’s right and decent, despite my own lesser instincts.

The photo above was taken in March 2020, on board a Pacific Surfliner somewhere between San Juan Capistrano and San Diego Santa Fé station. I chose this photo so that the post will have something to do with the United States.

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