Thanks

Thanksgiving posts may not be obligatory – believe me, I’d much rather be getting drunk and cooking, and I don’t think anyone in the world would care if I did – but giving thanks, especially if you’ve been as lucky as I am, is mandatory. So, as 2015 starts to fade and a bright new year holds out its promise, here’s some things I’m deeply thankful for.

There is no way I could begin this, or end it, or even write it, without my partner, Anna Forsher. She is my whole life. She’s given me everything and turned things around for me so profoundly I can’t even calculate the degree; there are times when I think my whole life, every mistake, every bad decision, every handful of shit I’ve had to shovel was leading me to her, to where I’d finally find out what the world was for. She is brilliant and beautiful and hilarious and kind and sexy and fun, and I am instantly a better person for being around her. I wake up every day astounded that someone this amazing is next to me, and I’m going to spend the rest of the hours I have on Earth trying to make her happy. I love her in ways I never knew love could be. I’m going to be writing some variant of this every year until I die, because I will never, ever stop being in awe of the miracle she is. The chances that I’d be here, right now, writing this for you to read, would be zero if it hadn’t been for her. So thanks, Anna: you are my world, and I’m born again true for being with you.

And while I’m talking about Anna, I have to talk about Chicago, because I’m here because of her. When I left this town nine years ago, it was extremely bittersweet; I had lived here for over a decade and come to think of it as my home, but I was looking forward to the new life I hoped to make. That new life never really came to pass, for reasons that rest almost entirely on me, but I had to keep on living, which I did – in Minnesota, in Seattle, and in Texas. Those places had a great influence on me as well; they helped make me who I am, and there are things I miss about all of them. But none of them are Chicago. I didn’t think I’d ever return, but now that I’m back, it’s hard to believe I ever left. Goodness knows this city has a lot of problems; our mayor is a disgrace, our infrastructure is in bad need of an upgrade, we’re having the same money problems as most big cities, and we’re locked in perpetual war with the conservatives downstate. Race relations are deeply damaged here, and as I write this, the city bristles with tension over the murder of a young black man by the gun of a cowardly cop. But when it’s right – and it’s right a lot – there’s no city in America I know that’s better. From the soaring architectural beauty of downtown to the ever-changing atmosphere of Logan Square, where I live, it’s a real world-class city, and it shows me something incredible every day. Thanks, Chicago: I may not live here forever, but there’s no place that feels more like home.

My relationship with my family has always been rocky; I don’t have any siblings, I’m not close with my extended family, and my parents and I have had our problems over the years. But as I get older, I learn more and more, as I come closer and closer to the truth that you don’t have them forever, how deep the bond of parent and child really goes. My mom has never really understood me, I don’t think, but she’s also never stopped being in my corner, no matter what. I have never really managed to repair my relationship with my dad, and some days, I think I never will, but I’m glad that he’s managed to find peace late in his life; for all his faults, he’s not a bad man, and he doesn’t deserve to be unhappy. My aunt Holly has shown me kindness I never expected. And most incredibly, Anna’s family have taken to me and treated me like one of their own from the first moment they met me, never questioning it once. That’s grace and decency that truly shocks and overwhelms me. Thanks to everyone who thinks of me as family.

Of course, my family has always been my friends. When your family is less than family, you choose the people who make yours. Chicago has changed a lot since I came back, and many of my friends are gone, but none are forgotten. If you’re my friend, you are my brother, you are my sister: no blood could ever make us closer. You know if you’re reading this if we’re that kind of close. Even if I don’t see you as much as I used to, you’re the best part of me, and you’ve helped make me who I am and shaped me into a better person. I hope to see as many of you as I can in 2016, and thanks for being a part of my life that can never be replaced.

There are people in this world that I don’t know; that I may never know. But they are doing things that make my life something more than a time between birth and death that needs to be passed. To everyone who works for a living, who does something to help their fellow man, for shit wages and low benefits, for everyone holding it down out there: you matter. Keep fighting. We are worth something. We are real and our desires are as legitimate and important as anyone’s. We can truly change the world if we just stay together, if we fight for each other and against the bosses’ lies. And for everyone who fights even harder for a better world – for peace, for feminism, for racial justice, for the poor and sick, for human rights and dignity, for education, for a clean and living world, for a country that belongs to everyone and a world that is safe for every person in it, especially when you carry on that fight not for money or fame, but because you want to die in a better world than you were born in: you are as close as we’ll ever get to saints. Thanks for everything you do.

I am fortunate enough to have been raised by someone who encouraged me to read, to write, and to create. Because of that, the people I care about the most in this world are artists: writers, cartoonists, musicians, game designers, actors, directors, craftspeople, chefs. Creation is a profoundly meaningful act, and you are the ones who make this world worth living in. I know more than anyone that the job of an artist is often thankless, rarely lucrative, and frequently agonizing and frustrating, but the fact that so many of you keep going, and keep producing such amazing work, is not just an inspiration to me personally, but a reason to keep living. Thanks to all of you who make art and literature, and don’t ever let them make you stop.

Finally, of course, thanks to you, to every one of you who backs my Patreon, who’s thrown a few dollars my way for the work I do, who’s left an encouraging comment or linked to something I’ve written, who’s in any way supported what I do. Whatever it is you value in me, I hope to keep doing it as long as we’re both here to enjoy it. It means everything to me that you think I have value, that you think my life means more than just the sum of the worst mistakes I’ve made. You are why I wrote these words, why I will keep writing them. Thank you, and happy Thanksgiving.

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