Dancing in the rain (#347)

Another community post from my best friend, Riley! Check it out!

My name is Riley McGrath. I’m a 21-year-old FTM transgender guy from East Bridgewater Massachusetts. I’m creative, wise, a little bit crazy, really hard-working, honest, and pretty shy until you get to know me (then I won’t shut up) but most importantly, someone who’s who still here and trying.

Here is a personal story about learning to dance in the rain

We wish for a lot of things as human beings. Sometimes we wish for obtainable things. Like a new car, or a family of our own in the future. But when we wish for unobtainable things like a better mom or for things from our past to change, that’s when we become miserable. We focus on the things we don’t have or wish we have too much. Why can’t we focus on the things we are lucky to have, or the amazing people in our lives?

That’s where I get lost sometimes. I get so miserable thinking about the mom I don’t have to realize that I have my own amazing family. I have two amazing places that I have the privilege of calling home. Yet I’m focused on the pain of not really having a mom or any sort of mother figure in my life.

I remember one day when I was in high school. I was a few months into my journey of ending my addiction to self-harm. That day, no one was home and I danced in the rain. Dancing in the rain is always in movies, people talk about it all the time. If you think of dancing in the rain metaphorically, it could be interpreted as taking something bad and learning to accept it as it is and enjoy it. Learning to dance in the rain is one of the many things that worked on my journey to end a terrible, unhealthy habit.

Dancing in the rain that day, though I felt slightly crazy, changed my life. For once, my heart wasn’t so heavy and there wasn’t a pain in my chest. I felt happy and free. Doing things like dancing in the rain, singing in the car, drawing trees, and listening to music are the things that fuel my creativity, inspire me, and keep me going, especially through hard times. Throughout my first year of recovery, finding things like dancing in the rain was what kept me from going back to old habits. I was able to start college with that past mostly behind me. It was an amazing thing for me.

My advice is this:

Dance in the rain, but also let it rain without dancing sometimes.

Every bad thing is a good thing. But every good thing is a bad thing too. Despite that, every good thing, every bad thing teaches you something new about yourself. That’s a beautiful thing.Today I’m Grateful For…
1. Heated blankets
2. The ability to create my own space for the first time in my life
3. Pine scented candles
4. Every challenge and obstacle I’ve ever had to face.
5. My cat, Ginger
6. No bullshit in 2019
7. Being back at BSU
8. Everyone that thought I couldn’t get this far
9. The complexities of human beings
10. Both my jobs, my bosses and my coworker
11. Nearly being 3 years free from self-harm
12. SUITS!!!
13. Anyone that works in the service industry, our janitors, food workers, nurses, EMT’s or is rarely thanked for the work they do
14. Wisdom
15. Making Dean’s list despite how hard last semester was
16. My sister
17. Stories of the past
18. Ben Rector and Vance Joys music
19. My mentors, who always give me a voice
20. All the places I’ve been, all the people I have met
21. My car
22. My amazing, amazing friends that are always there for me
23. Sunsets and sunrises
24. My family. For being both the good and bad in my life
25. The amazing, yet crazy journey towards manhood

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

A picture taken by Riley

Life’s Essentials (#346)

For me, I think there are aspects of life I always seem to take for granted. Health, safety, and food are three big ones I want to focus on. Most times, I’m not thinking about these three aspects unless something is wrong. I personally do not get sick often but I know my grandma is on a roller coaster of improvement. I almost never consider my safety until I feel unsafe. With food, it’s easy for me to run to the local grocery store and buy a wide selection of food both in season and specially imported for customers. We know food insecurity, malnutrition, and child starvation is a real issue not only here in America but all around the world.

These three essential elements help me live. For some reason, I don’t give attention to them until life goes wrong.

When we intentionally breathe with gratitude, we can recognize these elements along with many more aspects of life we may take for granted. It’s important that we stay present and use gratitude to give power to these aspects right now.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. Snow days at UMass
  2. Breakfast for dinner at home
  3. My family
  4. Good communication
  5. Walks around the pond with my grandma
  6. The warmth of the summer sun
  7. Sharing new music
  8. A clear night sky to see the stars
  9. The sound of the train passing in the night
  10. Home cooked meals
  11. Old man basketball with my dad
  12. My continued education
  13. Tuesday night soccer
  14. My Peer Mentor staff
  15. Teaching CORE and working with DB to help improve the class
  16. Patient Perseverance
  17. Sings from the Universe
  18. Beautiful, colored sunsets
  19. Friends from Cambodia
  20. Teachers, coaches, and mentors
  21. My beating heart and good health
  22. Safe travels and returns
  23. Food security and access
  24. Learning new things
  25. The here and now

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Down by the (frozen) water in Vermont

Just Another Day (#345)

In both victory and defeat there are lessons to be learned. I just finished reading The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown and absolutely loved it. The crew had to show resilience on their journey leading up to Hitler’s 1936 Olympics.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. Not only was it incredibly well written and descriptive, but personal accounts provided by these real people brought the story to life.

Brown writes,

It’s not a question of whether you will hurt, or of how much you will hurt; it’s a question of what you will do, and how well you will do it, while pain has her wanton way with you.

Everyday we are faced with new challenges. Whether we succeed brilliantly or utterly fail our task, it’s just another day. We can use gratitude to remind ourselves that we’ve made it this far. We can say the sun will rise again tomorrow. We have another opportunity to make things right, to try, try again. Gratitude and patience give us this power and it’s ours to wield.

The Boys In The Boat are special cases of what can happen with true collaboration and trust. Their incredible adventure was spurred by rowing but made possible by their hearts.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. My family
  2. Warm blankets and comfy pillows
  3. Fixing things when they need to be fixed
  4. A little understanding
  5. Patient reminders from the Universe
  6. Walks through an empty campus
  7. The Boyden steps at BSU
  8. Friends from home
  9. Clean water
  10. My girlfriend, JV
  11. Sledding down the hill as a kid
  12. Summer audiobooks and podcasts
  13. Time at the gym
  14. Friends from Cambodia and the UK
  15. Learning new things
  16. Being on time
  17. My Peer Mentors at UMass
  18. Embracing change
  19. My process
  20. Sharing gratitude and having a platform to process
  21. Healthy cooking together
  22. Time to journal and reflect
  23. Safe travels and good health
  24. Clean teeth
  25. The precious present

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Featured image of the sunset

A Greater Purpose (#344)

Yesterday was defined by a single traumatic moment. As Julie and I were driving back from Vermont, snow fell quickly from the sky. The weather seemed to batter and push each car on the road on our route. All of a sudden, we began to spin out at 50 miles per hour.

In that moment, I’m not sure I fully grasped what was happening. We had spun 180 degrees around to the point where we could clearly see the cars behind us, now facing us directly. Julie managed to turn the car back around and gently guide our skid over to the side of the road. Everything happened so fast. I blinked and we were safe, unharmed, and car undamaged.

Logically, I know Julie executed the proper driving technique to bring us to safety. She kept her hands on the wheel, she slowed the car down, and turned into the skid to bring us to safety. Part of me knows it has to be something greater. Whether it was Julie’s grandparents looking out for us, our own destiny keeping us safe, or a combination of something else, it was a small miracle we landed safely considering the conditions.

I thought it was fitting. We quickly understood it wasn’t safe on the shoulder of the freeway and we had to keep moving. Despite our trauma, despite the feelings and adversity, we had to carry on. Things were tense afterward but arrived safely back in Amherst later that night.

This moment on the highway fills me with gratitude. We drove on and passed several cars who were not as lucky as we were. That could have been us, I told myself. I restrained from asking myself what if any further.

Yesterday affirms that I have a purpose greater than what I’ve accomplished in 24 years. This is meant as no disrespect to those who have passed away at young ages and in slightly different circumstances, we may have joined them. What I do know is that I can’t take life for granted. That every day deserves gratitude and I want to share that with as many people as possible. I have the opportunity to spread positivity, to give myself in service to others, and inspire people to make a difference.

Now more than ever, I know this to be true.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. My family
  2. Shared laughter
  3. Time at the gym
  4. A lifetime of learning
  5. Clean water
  6. New music and something to dance to
  7. A couple deep breaths
  8. The morning sunrise of a new day
  9. My own bed
  10. Cooking dinner together
  11. A hot shower to clear the mind
  12. Finding new places
  13. Time to get organized and prepared for the week ahead
  14. A little understanding
  15. Roadside burgers
  16. Walks through campus
  17. Sharing gratitude to process
  18. A helping hand
  19. An opportunity to look back and reflect in my journal
  20. Patient reactions
  21. A good book
  22. Teachers, mentors, and coaches
  23. A weekend away
  24. My continued education
  25. The here and now

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Featured image of Julie at the famous red covered bridge in Vermont

Finding New Places (#343)

Julie and I are heading back from our weekend in Vermont. It was a blast to finally make our way to the Ben and Jerry’s factory on top of exploring bits of Burlington. We spent most of our time in our cozy cabin playing scrabble and cooking meals together. It was exactly what I needed to get away and prepare for another semester full of work.

One of my goals for 2019 is to find new places. To me that means stepping outside of my comfort zone, trying new things, getting out of my routine so that I can make lasting memories. This weekend was chalk full of important moments.

I’m grateful for Julie for many reasons but one thing she’s great at is going with the flow. She’s a master of adapting and isn’t afraid of what comes next. Whether we were conquering mountains or retreating back to the cabin, she was on board with the plan and ready to make the most of it.

Vermont isn’t too far from Amherst and I often take for granted what’s outside my bubble at school. It’s not easy for me to break my routine but I’m glad I got to do it with her.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. Warm tea on cold days
  2. Patient Perseverance
  3. A sky full of painted colors
  4. The warmth of the summer sun
  5. Impactful people
  6. Late night ice cream
  7. Teachers, mentors, and coaches
  8. Bubbles and candles
  9. Walks through the town market
  10. Safe travels
  11. The movement of the ocean
  12. Leftover pasta
  13. Refusing to turn back
  14. Kindness and consideration
  15. Nights by the fireplace
  16. Adequate preparation
  17. Time in the car and time to journal
  18. Card games and scrabble
  19. My family and my cat Ned
  20. Cereal snacks and potato bread
  21. New beginnings and adventures
  22. A well placed ottoman
  23. Clean water
  24. My girlfriend, JV
  25. This very moment

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Featured image of us on a rock

Chasing Change (#342)

I’ve had a tough week mentally. I’ve been struggling with thoughts of purpose and self confidence. I want so badly to change the world but I recognize that can’t happen all at once.

In some ways I feel stuck where I currently am. I’m grateful for my education and work here at UMass but it’s not where I want to be. At the same time, I know escaping to some far off country won’t solve my problems either.

The meaning of life cannot be answered by sweeping tasks – Victor Frankl

I want to devote my life to helping others. I so desperately want to make an impact in this life through service and education. I have to first remember it won’t just happen overnight. I’m working on making my goals more manageable. I still have aspirations to change the world but maybe I have to look at the change happening within me first.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. An early start to catch the sunrise
  2. Clean water
  3. Sharing music and real instruments
  4. Honesty with myself
  5. Patient reminders
  6. Walks through Essex this summer
  7. My cat, Ned
  8. A couple deep breaths
  9. Game of Thrones Sunday’s
  10. Safe travels
  11. Late night ice cream
  12. Teachers, mentors, and coaches
  13. Embracing the change of seasons
  14. Time to journal
  15. Exercise for my mental health
  16. Acts of love
  17. The warmth of the summer sun
  18. People who inspire
  19. My family
  20. Fall nights in Acadia
  21. Classic Disney movies
  22. Taking my time
  23. Cooking dinner together
  24. Comfy pillows
  25. The here and now

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Featured image from Acadia

Stronger With Gratitude (#341)

Each day I get up and start my routine. Sometimes it’s not easy. Whether it’s because of a long night of work or I just don’t have the energy, we’ve all felt the challenge of the monotonous weekday grind.

Not only is it a positive to start my day with gratitude, I know I’m stronger because of it. I know with gratitude, I don’t have to worry about what’s happened in the past or what will occur in the future. With gratitude, I focus on the here and now – my needs in this moment.


Today I’m Grateful For…

  1. Time with my brother
  2. A clean apartment
  3. Journaling before bed
  4. Sharing new music with friends
  5. Staying on track
  6. Outdoor adventures
  7. Crimson memories
  8. Good dreams I remember
  9. Summer car rides
  10. Stepping outside my comfort zone
  11. Friends I can rely on
  12. Patriots wins and Super Bowl trips
  13. Square dancing class
  14. Nights in Plymouth
  15. Teachers and coaches
  16. Clean water
  17. Learning from mistakes
  18. Walks through campus
  19. Finding ways to stay warm
  20. Exceeding my expectations
  21. Helpful reminders
  22. Signs from the Universe
  23. Acts of love
  24. Practice, practice, practice
  25. The present moment

As always, check out my first blog 25 Things I’m Grateful For (#1) to know why I’m writing this list and why I want you to start yours.

If you’re interested in Guest Blogging for the Gratitude Journal, click (here)!

Featured image from California