For the month of November 2018, I visualized passions and gratitude into miniature drawings as a friendly reminder of our humanity in spite of the chaos around us. Each hand holding a drawing has touched me in some way for which I am eternally grateful.
Initially, the motivation for the project was to develop a habit of allocating a specified amount of time—whether that be ten minutes or an hour—to a hobby, as a nice mental break from working full-time. This quickly transformed into an impactful challenge that tested my creativity and courage.
Reaching out to friends, family and strangers was anything but easy for a selective introvert like myself. I had to mute all the little voices squirming around upstairs and overcome my anxiety of negative opinions. I asked thirty people two simple questions:
1. What are your passions?
2. What are you most grateful for?
I thought my questions would be effortless to answer but was proved wrong based on feedback. Here are a few of the responses I received after giving the two prompts:
“Initially I couldn’t really answer it hahaha I really had to pose the question to myself…”
“I was in my shower for 40 minutes like, damn, what are my passions”
“I have been thinking about how to answer the two very simple prompts. I had no clue how to write an answer.”
“This took a long time. I had to sit down and actually think”
“Oh man those are deep LOL okay I’ll think about it in a bubble bath or something”
“I haven’t thought about this since high school when they made you write down your goals and stuff. Thanks for this opportunity to reflect and share.”
The responses were heart-warming, inspiring and outright beautiful. Direct quotes are included in the stories behind each artwork, along with a priceless life lesson I learned from each holder.
After about eight responses, I began to see a trend. It’s safe to say that every individual has a unique passion. But when it comes to what they’re grateful for, it’s almost always for people and everything that constitutes life.
It doesn’t take a lot to get someone talking about themselves. We all love sharing as long as there’s an active listener at the receiving end. It’s a two-way street and the more opportunities for communication, the stronger communities we can build together.
And so here’s a final question for you: how can we instill more gratitude in our daily routines to live happier and richer lives?
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This hand is an incredibly gifted writer and passionate surfer. One of a kind. I've never met anyone like her and I am moved by her devotion to her crafts—serving as a constant reminder to never lose sight of my hobbies in the midst of work life. She's most grateful for having her independence, riding the waves of nature's beauty, and caring for her precious cat.
This hand is the life of every party. His genuine affection for quality time with friends and family is contagious and a joy to witness. I'm always inspired to get out and make a new connection. He's grateful to be able to "live in a world without having to constantly worry about living." And is passionate about experiencing life with loved ones. "Snowboard down new mountains, swim in different oceans, raft down a new river, learn about different cultures, play basketball in a new country, find what brings happiness to people."
This hand is completely devoted to altruism. An incredible team leader and player, he has restored much of my faith in humanity. His passion in helping people stems from a fruitful realization: "benevolence is contagious." He's grateful "to be alive and for everything that entails." I can't recall the last time I felt happy because my respiratory system was properly functioning to allow for effortless gas exchange. I take these seemingly little but fundamental things I possess for granted all the time. He has allowed me to reflect on my personal values and cherish the little things while looking at the whole picture we call life.
This hand is a seeker for self-growth. I truly respect her ambition for gaining insight into new cultures. She's grateful for the "challenges and harsh realities that life can teach you." Every mountain that supposedly presents us with adversity can be colored in with a new lesson of virtue. "Growing pains teach you humility, patience and open-mindedness."
This hand is the reason I wake up every morning, excited to work towards progressing my skill set and becoming a better version of myself than yesterday. Because of the environment, he has cultivated, I am now completely assured of the types of people I want to surround myself with—humane, synergetic, ambitious souls. Like the spirit of a deer, his character is nothing short of kindness. Like the spirit of an eagle, his character manifests the belief in a power greater than himself. Like the spirit of a bear, his character brings healing to those around him.
This hand derives from a curious soul and someone I consider a mentor. A brief conversation with him opened my eyes to his abiding gratitude for family and cultural roots. He's passionate about learning and growing as a designer whose work emanates “inspiration from the places he's lived and the people he's met & worked with."
This hand is a dreamer who walks the walk. She has fearlessly followed her passions for "bringing visions and ideas into reality" and carved her own space in the physical world. Her gratitude for her parents' bravery in introducing this golden land of opportunity to their children is overflowing. Because of them, she does not allow boundaries to confine her imagination or diminish her outlook. Shoot for the galaxies. Even if you miss, you’ll create your own stars.
This hand belongs to the only one who really understands me—we support one another's passions and aren't afraid to call each other out when necessary. He's most grateful for the people he has met. "Life is a journey, that along the way, people will nudge you in different directions. But the ones who matter will always steer you on the right track."
This hand belongs to my number one role model. Her curiosity for learning at 92 and indisputable love for God and human interactions are my primary motivators. Whenever I look at her, I see a greater being in care for her hearty, full-fledged wings. She has experienced firsthand so much history—WWII, the Vietnam War, and the Cultural Revolution to name a few. She's grateful for the circumstances today, in comparison to the unfathomable difficulties she'd faced in her past. She’s living proof that life is a privilege. So every time I catch myself taking it for granted, I look up to her for an awakening.
This hand brings positivity and humor into my life. I love listening to her talk about her passions for reading and swimming. She feels complete and free of any distractions during the times she's fully submerged underwater. The focus is brought back to the pure action of traversing through water; the sound of her own heartbeat couldn't be more translucent. I believe finding an activity where you're able to devote 100% of your attention and energy to is so important in this day and age. Be present.
This hand has been my sunlight, water, nutrients and everything and anything vital for growth. She's most grateful for the role models in her life who have taught her to see with empathy, listen with an open heart and speak with compassion.
This hand is a multifaceted gem who I have the utmost respect for. A beautifully talented daughter, sister, wife, mom, team player and overall human being. She has been so integral in my career shift and shaping me into the designer I've become. She's grateful for parents who’ve raised her “with a perspective that there are always options; even when things are hard, we are capable of figuring out solutions, and that things will always turn out OKAY, even when they don't seem like it at the time.". School and home life have always taught us that we are natural-born problem solvers. And it's important we don't lose sight of this fact during our darkest days.
This hand is a lifelong learner whose curiosity only expands with more knowledge. The more you know, the less you know. He's passionate about "studying His word and growing in the understanding of His amazing grace towards mankind." To me personally, this suggests pure forgiveness—an act made possible by building bridges of reconciliation. I've always walked away or buried unresolved resentment in the past, but am gradually learning from those around me that the spite will never leave unless I approach it head on with empathy and altruism. "It would seem that a life well lived is a life of thinking about others more than thinking about myself."
This hand is just starting her career and figuring it out still. I believe no matter what age, there will always be more stairs to climb, more doors to open, and more information to gain. She's grateful for her priceless support system and the opportunity to go to school, get an education and find what gets her genuinely excited to make an intentional contribution to the world. With education and support, we can grow in our understanding of and patience for views that differ from our own and learn that it's perfectly fine to not always see eye to eye on things.
This hand belongs to a strong and confident badass who simultaneously exudes compassion, happiness, and support like no other. Her sincerity in impacting and appreciating others permeates the surface level and has permanently written its own chapter in my book of life. Her passion lies in appreciating nature's beauty: riding her motorcycle down the highway, smelling the ocean and feeling the wind... "This is when I feel truly free."
This hand has been by my side through the happiest and darkest of times. For as long as I could remember, I've had an identity crisis and never felt comfortable in my own skin. I try so hard to fit in that I lose parts of my integrity piece by piece. With her, I never have to try. She's slow to judge and quick to love—which explains her passion for helping children with special needs. She has helped me dance through the wilderness and recognize that I don't have to belong anywhere... so that I can belong everywhere. The dim, dirt path ahead of us seems less eerie when we strip back the facades and enjoy the journey with another.
This hand is fearless, confident and persistent in whatever he sets out to do. His passion for studying consciousness and perception invites a lot of personal reflection for purpose and meaning. He has sculpted his mind into a bullsh*t filtration system that only processes positive energy. When we free ourselves of judgment imposed by other people, we stop validating our self-worth through third parties and start building our own sense of self by our own measures.
This hand is always giving before taking. He's grateful for his mom who has sacrificed everything to provide a better life for her children. The similarities between humans and animals are breathtaking. After breeding, Giant Pacific octopuses spend the rest of their seven months left of living, protecting their offspring in hidden caves. Love is infinite but, sadly, time isn't. The arrival of 2019 is a wake-up call for me to openly appreciate my family a lot more. I was raised in unusual family dynamics, but that doesn't deduct from the fact that there was plenty of affection to go around.
This hand belongs to a little girl living in a big world. There’s a whole lot of insecurities living in her mind but one thing for sure is her passion for the power of art and design to shape communities and build genuine relationships. Creating is an outlet for her to fill a void that’s been neglected since childhood; a wholesome distraction that supplies a purpose for living. This modest craft had kept her breathing during the loneliest times, so she feels replenished when she witnesses her work touch even just one person in return. At this point in her life, she’s grateful she can finally look straight down at where her feet are planted, and see the greenness of the grass glistening from below.
This hand takes me back to high school, eight years ago. It’s crazy to reflect on how much we have evolved. Our friendship reminds me that remarkable growth and development does not happen in a day. Life's a marathon, not a sprint. He's passionate about learning and growing to contribute to something bigger. And he's jogging through time with the ones he's most grateful for "family who became friends and friends who became family."
This hand exemplifies a certain strength of character and sheer willpower I strive for. Mind over matter. A new member of the Spartan Trifecta Tribe—her stamina to dominate 13+ miles with 40 obstacles all within 5 hours is beyond me. What a true force of nature. She's grateful for family who has given her this life to chase her passions for fitness and wellness.
This hand is a caretaker at heart who illuminates with unconditional love and loyalty. She's grateful for the ones who lent a helping hand in sculpting her into the person she is today. "To those who were patient with me, to those who guided me, to those who showed me how to love unconditionally, and to those who unwaveringly stayed by my side." Like cacti, we face harsh, unfavorable conditions when life happens. Only when we become confidently grounded in our roots will we learn to thrive in those circumstances.
This hand introduced me to this world. Despite our fragile relation, I can always count on her words of wisdom. For her, time is too precious. With every year, she cherishes family, health, and happiness more and more. She's grateful for the freedom of life to seek knowledge, which creates passages for prosperity. From observation, we can't always be rich but we can choose to be wealthy in areas of our lives within our control.
This hand is the epitome of humility and authenticity in the midst of great achievements. She has accomplished so much for her age, yet she remains grounded while devoting most of her energy to giving back. Oftentimes, many professionals within an industry are hesitant to volunteer their time to advise younger newcomers. And if you get lucky, there are people who remember their own first steps to building a career and jump on every opportunity to provide guidance. She's passionate about "empowering girls to be proactive about all aspects of their lives—whether it's being in control of their finances, speaking up at work, practicing self-care, or tackling something that's always intimidated them.”
This hand gleams with humanitarianism and purpose. His top three passions are (1) "building innovative things that address genuine issues for people, (2) cars, and (3) working to better the lives and potential for foster youth, so they have the same opportunities afforded other children." I witness his blood, sweat, and tears in building his business venture—no, his life's mission. "The outcome of our work here is literally hundreds of millions of dollars going to thousands of charities." I admire his tenacity and selflessness to see the end of the road..where the future for generations to follow glistens with hope.
This hand is the essence of innovation. She never ceases to amaze me with her innate entrepreneurial spirit. The sky is never the limit; her ideas are constantly skyrocketing and her grit strengthens after every obstacle. Her exuberance in pursuing a passion that will kindle a sense of purpose while generating greater impact on the world reminds me of "The Confidence Molecule”—serotonin. "We are all just a huge cluster of molecules, floating around an expanding universe. So I guess we're pretty insignificant in comparison to the rest of the universe." But when we challenge ourselves on a regular basis, we grow in our confidence and happiness after every accomplishment, big or small.
This hand is one of the most eloquent, fashionable and dynamic souls I personally know. He has impacted me in ways I can't articulate. Storytelling runs deep through his veins and he has shown me the light of everyday conversation. During my most recent emotional breakdown, he has unknowingly shifted my perception simply by sharing his stories. I realized, at that moment, that no one is alone in his or her battles. Dialogue is the passage to the truth, which can then serve love. He's most grateful for the "humanity in others to find common ground and to offer comfort and positive human energy even when the rest of the world seems to be upside down."
This hand reminds me how privileged I am to have been born and raised in the States. She is a gifted filmmaker passionate about transforming the mediocrity of mundane life into extraordinary tales—revealing hidden layers of opportunity for open dialogue and deeper analysis of societal issues. Her choice to come to America in pursuit of film is fueled by her personal drive to break away from censorship on freedom of speech. As much as it can easily irritate me, I'm learning to appreciate how everyone carries such disparate opinions here... because imagine a world where we're all the same!?
This hand consoles my uneasy longing for change and moving to a new city. He's grateful for “this SoCal life. I have been able to be a part of many different and exciting things that I would likely never have been exposed to had I stayed at home. I feel like I am in a much better place to provide for my two kids here." Just as seasons inevitably change and leaves turn their colors, this feeling of uncertainty and fear for failure, too, shall pass. I can easily conceive every worst-case scenario to lead myself back to the double-edged sword of security, but I'm choosing to let nature run its course.
This hand carries an integral quality that I sincerely admire. Down-to-earth and free of all things pretentious. Nothing's for show; everything's sincere. Having her a part of my life has led to the realization that learning and teaching are independent of age and experience. Some individuals innately carry virtues that are not skills turned into lesson plans written down plainly in a textbook. Her intrinsic trait seems to tie back to her passion for dogs as we, humans, have so much to learn from these pure lives. She's grateful for the ones who have inspired her to "grow a backbone to tackle challenges with confidence and courage"—to fulfill her dream to end all animal sufferings.