A long time ago, I dated (briefly) a girl whom I took out on the night before Thanksgiving. We went out with mutual friends to a bar, and we danced and drank and were young. At the end of the evening, I drove her home, and I kissed her goodnight. It was our first kiss, and I remember that cold November evening, the crunch of snow and crackle of ice, the sharp dark air full of possibility. I remember the feel of her lips against mine, the feel of her hair in my fingers, the skin of her cheek under my fingertips.

A brief kiss, as the universe goes. A defiant flicker in the darkness.

She told me, later, long after I’d turned and trudged back to my car and started it and driven home, that she’d melted against the door. Just like in the movies.

I’m grateful for that moment.

Lately I’ve been making a concerted effort to be more grateful for the things in my life. I think, for a while, I went wrong in that regard. I held grudges and bitterness like the hands of toddlers I was scared to let out into the world on their own. I harbored resentment toward people I called friends when I felt that they weren’t being as supportive as they could be.

That isn’t how healing occurs, though. It isn’t how growth occurs, either.

I learned that this year. For that I am grateful.

This year I did a lot of new things, abandoning not just old addresses but no longer useful lifestyles for newer climes that felt more like home, warmer if not by temperature. I committed to building a home.

For that, too, I am grateful.

Last year, around this time, I was just publishing my first novel, Meets Girl. Its reception was warm, and even better its launch introduced me to new people, new associates and friends and acquaintances and colleagues. Last year, I was just about to publish Sparks with my friend and fellow author Simon Smithson; that, too, was well received.

I think a big part of the recent turn around I’ve felt has been that I have work available. I have published stories I am proud of, and while I may not have found a large audience, yet, I am both aware that the audience I have found has been enthusiastic and hopeful that it will continue to grow.

Moreso than demonstrating people I couldn’t really count on, this year taught me to focus rather on people I could. That life is too short to worry much over who likes you and who doesn’t, because most people probably aren’t giving you much thought, anyway, so you might as well simply do what you love and do it with sincerity.

It probably sounds a little silly, but this year I am thankful to Amazon in more ways than I can possibly enumerate. The oft-bemoaned corporate giant hasn’t simply enabled me to publish my stories; it’s rekindled in me a passion for sharing stories. It’s rejuvenated me. It’s made me care, again, about stories and sharing them, about telling them, about my love for words and writing and narrative.

Hand-in-hand with that is a gratitude for my editrix, Hannah Blum. I met Hannah at USC and immediately felt a kinship with her–we were two writers of genre working on scripts about time travel and Alice in Wonderland (though not in the same one, of course). She was one of the first people who read my novel when I finished a draft of it that first year, and who read it again when I finished it again as my thesis, and finally who read it again just before I published it. Meets Girl, too.

I wish all writers might be so lucky as to find an editor like her.

Publishing better stories led me to make new choices and embark on brand new endeavors, some of which I hope to talk about more in the coming week or so. Some new books, but some other new developments, as well.

I embarked on them just after I finished my MBA in marketing, something I’d never have guessed I’d earn before I attended the open house to do so. Now that I have, I can’t imagine not having studied it, not knowing more about business and marketing and how to conduct both.

It helped me to land my killer job, writing for a university. It’s a 9-to-5 sort of regular gig that requires a neck tie (I wear bowties almost every day) and attention to detail and ability to execute, and I’ve loved it. It’s taught me so much about organizational behavior, and how people within organizations relate and connect and communicate, and I think it’s been one of the most extraordinary experiences I’ve had.

And it’s come in a new city I love that finally feels like home, as I’ve begun to build a life with the girl I am going to marry next year. Pittsburgh is big and beautiful, quaint and vibrant all in the same go, and it feels like the home I’d been searching for when I enjoyed the bigness of Manhattan but missed the more intimate feel of the community in which I’d grown up in suburban South Jersey. I’ve found support not just from my girl but also her mother, who has accepted me as part of the family without reservation, and her close circle of smiling friends with whom I’ve broken bread and drunk wine and created new memories.

And of course my girl, a visit to whom brought me through what I figured was just a pit stop to Pittsburgh but which became home. She’s nothing like I expected but everything I needed, and our relationship has challenged me and supported me and made me grow in ways I never imagined.

Though I live farther from them, I’m grateful that my parents have been supportive of my move away from home, that my family has been there for me when I’ve needed them.

In short, I’m grateful to be me, alive, right now. It’s pretty awesome.

I’m also grateful to you. For a long time, I felt a need to be quiet. I’m slowly feeling that begin to change, and I’m grateful to have found people to listen to, and who will listen. Thank you for supporting me. I’m grateful for people who’ve been in some circle or other related to me for years, and people who’ve only recently found my site and my writing. I’m grateful that people talk to me, and help share my stories, and basically reaffirm what I love to do.

It’s been a very good year for me. Both externally and, maybe more importantly, internally.

I hope it has for you. I hope you have much to be grateful for, as well.