Don’t get me wrong, there are PLENTY of things about Miami that are cause for complaint. Too many odd, backward ways of solving important issues that could frustrate even the strongest will. But the purpose of this piece, in honor of International Gratitude Day, is to focus on the things we love the most about our Wild Wild West of a town. The things that bring us peace even when we don’t realize they can be easily taken for granted. Here are a few of our favorite things:

Variety of Culture

Top of the list has to be not only how vibrant Miami’s cultural landscape is, but how varied. Children born and raised here are exposed to an endless stream of traditions, backgrounds, and demographics that automatically makes us more well-rounded as human beings. A majority of us are bilingual from a very early age, and our friend groups are more similar to a global array of populations that the rest of the U.S. Not to mention the many creative and culinary avenues that Miami offers because of this plethora of culture. The music, the food, the festival and celebrations. And the beautiful thing is that that culture isn’t relegated to specific areas, it’s everywhere and embedded in the overall fabric of the city. Explained best by a close friend of mine: “Miami is technicolor, everywhere else is Vanilla.”

Willowtreehouse / Shutterstock

Proximity to Water

The rest of the world might know Miami as this booming beach town, and that actually is one of our strongest personality points. Sure, the weather is pretty bearable for a good amount of the year, but while other humid regions struggle through summer, a refreshing escape into water is never too far away. We’re constantly reminded of where we stand in the world because of the water’s near-surrounding presence. When you need it to be calming and therapeutic, it’s there. When you need a good backdrop for fun times, it’s there. Pools, canals, bays, waves, it’s all there. Even our natural aquifer is one of the largest in the country. Praise be.

Photo by VACO Studio

Surrounded by Nature

It’s true that the stereotypical image of Miami usually involves water, but something the rest of the world doesn’t get to see is just how much the color green gives blue a run for its money. Much of what we call home today was once mangrove, forest, and brush so it makes perfect sense that even throughout massive civilization growth and development, nature has still managed to reign supreme. I’m not just talking about the well-coifed parks and gardens around the city, I’m talking about the acres and acres of towering oaks, welcoming banyans, swaying palm trees, and plants and animals that actually call the shots. In any given direction, even in Miami’s most developed neighborhoods, you can see green peaking out from above or below, and that’s cause for being grateful every day.

“Miami Time”

Wait, wait, wait. Before you roll your eyes and question how we could see the horrible trait we Miamians have of constantly being 15 minutes behind is a good thing, just hear us out. See, while we might still technically be part of the U.S., geographically speaking, we’re closer to the Caribbean than anything else. So that sense of “Island Time” has mixed in with a Latin sensibility of taking things more slowly. Miamians don’t focus on constantly being busy, which gives us more time for relaxation and connection. It forces us to slow down and avoid the hustle fatigue that more fast-paced cities tend to experience. The stress and exhaustion that inevitably follows a non-stop lifestyle is less prevalent here, hence why most locals adopt a “come on in, the water’s fine” way of life. And it really is.

Getty Images – Beach Boardwalk

Its Youth

This might be my personal favorite. Working in a creative industry, we often hear Miami being placed in the same sentence as historically and culturally developed cities like New York, Chicago, and LA, and I think that’s very unfair. For one, it builds up a hope that we would some day get to their level (impossible since we’ll always be working centuries behind them), and for another, it undervalues the fact that we have a huge thing working in our favor: we’re young. Believe it or not, Miami is still figuring out who and what it wants to be, at least on a creative and entrepreneurial stand point. Which means that many of those industries are less competitive, so more new ideas, minds, and leaders have a better chance of success here than in those other cities. The lack of competition is actually a good thing and should be a driving reason to keep and foster much of our young talent. On top of that, because Miami is young, that means that its residents have a stronger voice in being a force for changing the city for the better, steering it in a good direction. To put it bluntly: we actually CAN build the Miami we want to see since it’s still very much under construction.

Photo by Alyssa Black via Flickr

Cover photo courtesy of FIU News.