Well, more like this is who I'm most thankful for.
Forgive me for risking sounding like a broken record, but Clayton, Jay, Reafe, and Tunji are my angels on earth. This year, more than ever before it feels like, they have carried me when I didn't think I could walk. They have saved me from myself when I felt like giving up was the only option and couldn't see a way forward. They have held me up when I felt like I was collapsing and refused to let me go when they saw me slipping into that dark hole.
No matter how isolated I've felt this year, I've always known that I had someone I could call or text, someone who would be there to tell me the truth of who I am and how much I am loved. They've let me vent about the same fears and the same stresses over and over again and never once gotten annoyed or tired of hearing it. They each encourage and push me in their own unique ways, and I can't imagine my life without each of them in it.
Clayton is my spiritual/faith encourager. He's the one I can go to with all of my questions and fears and frustrations about God and know that even if he doesn't have any answers, he won't judge me. Conversations with him always help me work out struggles with my faith. Even if I'm not feeling God's presence anywhere else in my life, when I talk to him, I remember that God is here and God is alive, because I see God in Clayton. I truly have learned more about God from him than any church service I've ever gone to or could ever go to.
Jay is my, stealing a quote from Hamilton, "look at where we are, look at where we started" friend. Because he has known me longer than anyone currently in my life, he has the unique ability to remind of how far I've come and grown, and he really knows what he's talking about. Because we've seen each other through so much, he's seen firsthand everything that I've overcome and uses that as his proof that I'm going to keep growing and keep moving forward. He reminds me that even if I feel stuck now, it's not going to stay that way, because it never has - I've always overcome.
Tunji is the one who forces me to find the humor in life when I can't see past whatever hard thing is in front of me. That may sound like more of a distraction than an encouragement, but it's not. He has this instinctive ability to know when I need to laugh and has no shame about doing whatever is necessary is order to make that happen. And by making me laugh, he reminds me that there is always something light in the world. There is always joy to be found somewhere. I just have to be willing to look for it. Even if it's found in one of my best friends saying the most random, off-the-wall nonsense just to make me smile.
Reafe is the one who pushes me to hold on to positivity when that feels impossible. He is the first to remind me to choose joy when letting the pain win is the much easier option. He unashamedly reminds me of why he and others look up to me so much, and that, in turn, forces me to remember that there is good coming from all of this. Texts from him always remind me that as long as I'm alive, God is using me for something, and that it's going to be okay in the end. Even if I can't see it getting better right now, it's going to get better.
The real, blunt truth? These four guys are the main reasons I didn't try to kill myself back in September, why I stopped and called for help when the thoughts first entered my mind. Because even though I thought at the time that their lives would be easier without me in the long run, I knew that I couldn't hurt them, and I know for a fact that losing me would devastate all of them. Their presence alone in my life, even though they are hundreds and thousands of miles away, reminds me that I matter to someone when I feel like my biological family only cares about what I can do for them, not actually about me.
An exchange trip I wasn't supposed to be allowed to go on to a city more than 4000 miles away. A class I randomly joined for a Twitter experiment. A soccer team I never intended on meeting, let alone becoming friends with. I met all four of these guys in the most accidental ways, and now, they are the most important people in the world to me. That's God, y'all. That's all God.
I've said it a million times before, and I'll say it again: DNA doesn't make a family. Love does. The relationships I have with Clayton, Jay, Tunji, and Reafe are all the proof I need.
So yeah, if you were to ask me what I'm most thankful for this year, I would give you this answer without a second thought. It's these four guys right here. They are my angels, my saving graces, my four best and truest friends. Since I can't change my health issues, at least I have the comfort of knowing that I have people to help me get through them. I couldn't ask for anything better.