When I was a young child, I loved the holidays that I celebrated with my family and friends. My top favorites were Christmas (because It meant I got presents), Halloween (because I could be anyone I wanted to be for a whole day), and Thanksgiving (because that was when all of my cousins and uncles and my family would meet at my grandmother’s house). On Thanksgiving, my grandmother would cook a bunch of food and desserts. One of my personal favorites is still her homemade peach cobbler.

But when you grow up, you begin to realize just how precious these moments are and you learn not only to be thankful for all of the many blessings that have been bestowed upon you, but to cherish those moments and memories in your heart forever. This week, just after another holiday season, I took some time to reflect on not only those same memories, but on my life since my heart transplant. I just have so many wonderful and cherishable moments that I’m thankful for!

I have faced some pretty difficult obstacles and hardships on my path so far, but I know that I’ve always had help along the way. I’ve always had a loving and supportive family who back me up no matter what, and the most amazing friends who I’ve know since even before I was sick. They’ve come to visit me in the hospital when I was homesick and have stuck with me through thick and thin. I had a great doctors to help me when I first got sick and had a successful heart transplant surgery that went great. Not to mention there was a heart available! Not everyone have been as fortunate as I have.

Yes life in general and especially life with a heart transplant can be a challenging and long road. Unfortunately, everything can’t always be good — bad adds balance and makes us appreciate the good. But just because things can’t always be good doesn’t mean you should take the small things for granted. You still have a lot of things to be thankful for that you may not even realize. This year, no matter what you’re dealing with, try look at the glass as half full rather than half empty. It’ll help you become more positive and positivity is always a good thing.

I used to take a lot of things for granted before I realized just how much you start to appreciate the small things in life once you lose them. Stay safe this year. And, along with me, stay positive!

My name is Charis "Cj" Sheppard and I'm a 17 year old heart transplant patient. I'm a friendly guy that loves animals, going on adventures and making music!