Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
April 16, 2024
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COURTESY OF GABRIEL LESSER

Lesser reflects on a quote he encountered in January.

While sitting at dinner during my class trip this past intersession to Brazil, I ordered a drink with a small yellow note attached to it. It said in Portuguese, “não espere ter tudo pra aproveitar a vida, se você já tem a vida pra aproveitar tudo.” Don’t wait to have everything to enjoy life, if you already have life to enjoy everything.

As I head into the last few weeks of my senior year of college, I’ve been thinking about this statement a lot. I feel so grateful for making it to this point, and I recognize that so many people don’t get to go to college, let alone complete it. 

Reflecting on the last four years, it’s weird for me to think about how it’s currently March of 2024. As this time of year rolls around, I keep on thinking about March of 2020 and the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

March of 2020 was the spring of my senior year of high school, and now that I am in my senior year of college, I recognize how my perspective has changed over the last few years and how I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for the little moments in life.

When the pandemic caused schools to close down four years ago, I remember feeling like the world was crashing in on me. I was naïve and melodramatic, thinking that COVID-19 had come to “ruin” my senior year of high school and that nothing was more important than my prom, graduation and senior year traditions. While missing out on all of these events was deeply saddening and my disappointment was valid, I now reflect on how grateful I was to have a roof over my head, to have a loving and supportive family around me and to have the ability to stay safe and healthy. It’s the little things like this that make all the difference. By reflecting on these little bouts of gratitude, I learn to put things into perspective and reframe my mindset. 

I just took the MCAT, and while studying for this exam has been one of the most academically strenuous and anxiety-provoking tasks I’ve completed throughout my education, I feel so grateful for being here. I feel grateful for my aspirations, to have the opportunity to choose to pursue medicine and to get to apply to medical school. Not everyone is that lucky. 

Throughout my life, I have spent so much time thinking about the future and the things that are out of reach. I let myself panic over things that are so minuscule and will have the smallest impact on me. Yet I never make enough time to take a deep breath and let everything sink into place. My mind is always focused on the “go go go” and never sticks around to let things settle down.

If I’ve learned one thing, it’s to be grateful for the little things. I get to go to school, I get to study what I am passionate about, I get to spend time with people I love, and I get to do things that make me happy. Appreciating the “little things” is about building our experiences up from nothing, rather than looking down on whatever is missing or any flaws in our environment. It’s about withdrawing our expectations, removing negative energy in our surroundings and making space for a positive environment. 

Being grateful doesn’t mean I always have to be happy and cheery. Gratitude is not about hiding or withdrawing any emotions. Rather, it’s about accepting the good with the bad, recognizing love amidst loss and leaving room for hope and optimism.

Now more than ever, I’m grateful for the people, places and things around me that bring me joy. I’m grateful for my life experiences, for my memories and for the people I get to share all this with.

Upon arriving back from Brazil, I placed this small yellow note of gratitude in the back of my phone case. Its words go a long way. It’s a gentle reminder to be grateful for the little things, like hugging my loved ones and showing appreciation to the people around me. The note’s message resonates with me, and I carry it with me everywhere I go. 

Gabriel Lesser is a senior from Westchester, N.Y. studying Neuroscience and Romance Languages. His column explores his memories, along with his current reflections and the lessons that he has learned.


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