Thanksgiving is once again upon us.
It's that special time of year when we all gather with our loved ones, eat excessively and have impassioned (and often incoherent) debates about politics until everyone falls into a deep food coma.
It's been a pretty chaotic year so far, so there's certainly no shortage of topics to discuss. It feels as if 2015 has been nothing but a series of crises and tragedies.
But don't despair! It's not all as bad as we often think. There are many reasons to feel optimistic about this dynamic planet we are fortunate to inhabit.
From a broad, historical perspective, we live in one of the safest, happiest and healthiest periods in history. It's easy to forget that, however, when terrible events around the world constantly dominate the news.
From a more narrow standpoint, we also need to make an effort to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things that happened this year.
Yes, there are many problems across the globe that require immediate attention, and we certainly can't afford to be indifferent or apathetic in this regard. But that doesn't mean we can't also celebrate progress, even if it's seemingly minuscule compared to the challenges before us.
We can't change the world overnight; it happens little by little. Progress takes patience.
With that said, we have a lot to be thankful for in 2015! A number of great things occurred this year. If you need some help remembering, we've got you covered.
Here are four things to be thankful for in 2015.
1. NASA is kicking ass!
NASA is having a stellar year (no pun intended) and made huge strides in space exploration.
Pluto just had its first visitor! Thanks @NASA - it's a great day for discovery and American leadership. pic.twitter.com/FfztBSMbK0 — President Obama (@POTUS) July 15, 2015
Among other great accomplishments this year and throughout history, NASA also discovered liquid water on Mars!
Water! Strong evidence that liquid water flows on present-day Mars. Details: http://t.co/0MW11SANwL #MarsAnnouncement pic.twitter.com/JNksawz2iN — NASA (@NASA) September 28, 2015
Advances in space exploration are always something to celebrate as they have reverberating and positive impacts in society. To borrow from Neil deGrasse Tyson,
Space exploration is a force of nature unto itself that no other force in society can rival. Not only does that get people interested in sciences and all the related fields, [but] it transforms the culture into one that values science and technology, and that’s the culture that innovates. And in the 21st century, innovations in science and technology are the foundations of tomorrow’s economy.
The further we go into space, the further we go as a species.
2. Love wins!
In June, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.
BREAKING: Supreme Court rules same-sex couples have the right to marry nationwide. — Elite Daily (@EliteDaily) June 26, 2015
While this decision didn't end homophobia or discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals, it's a major stride forward in terms of establishing a more equal and fair country.
When love and tolerance win, we all win.
3. More states (and DC) legalize weed!
A majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana, and it seems more states are catching on.
In February, the recreational use of marijuana became fully legal in both Alaska and Washington DC.
Marijuana is officially legal in our nation's capital. #WashingtonDC — Elite Daily (@EliteDaily) February 26, 2015
And, as of October, you can buy weed in Oregon.
Marijuana is now legal in four states (Alaska, Oregon, Colorado and Washington) and Washington DC (but it's not for sale in DC or Alaska).
Legalizing marijuana makes sense for a number of reasons, which Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders aptly highlighted back in October while speaking to students at George Mason University. He said,
In the United States we have 2.2 million people in jail today, more than any other country. And we’re spending about $80 billion a year to lock people up. We need major changes in our criminal justice system – including changes in drug laws. Too many Americans have seen their lives destroyed because they have criminal records as a result of marijuana use. That’s wrong. That has got to change.
This is precisely why Senator Sanders introduced legislation that would legalize pot on the federal level and allow states to decide if they want to legalize recreational use in early November.
It's time to legalize!
4. USWNT won the World Cup!
The US women's national team won the 2015 Women's World Cup in Canada! They absolutely kicked ass and made this country incredibly proud.
Congrats to the #USWNT! Can't wait for the finals. You make us all proud! — President Obama (@POTUS) July 1, 2015
Back in the USA... Let the celebrations continue! #WorldChampspic.twitter.com/JoBx1cAiwe — Alex Morgan (@alexmorgan13) July 7, 2015
They also helped remind us we still have a long way to go in terms of establishing equality between men's and women's sports.
Women's teams were forced to play on turf this past world cup, which would never happen to men. Moreover, the USWNT received only $2 million for winning the tournament, while Germany's men's team received $35 million for winning the World Cup in 2014.
There's no reason women and men should not receive equal treatment in the sports world or any aspect of society, for that matter. It's 2015; we should act like it.
In the words of President Obama,
Playing like a girl means you're a badass.
The USWNT is a powerful reminder of that fact.
Indeed, we have a lot to be thankful for this year, and it's not even over yet!
The world might seem like a mess, but it isn't such a bad place when it comes down to it. Good things happen every day.