1. Take care.
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DAY 1: Think of a time when you were at your best. Take five to 10 minutes to write about it. Be sure to highlight what strengths you were using at the time.

I’m reading this book called, “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalanithi. Kalanithi was a brilliant neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer when he was 37. It was unfortunate timing, as with most important things in life. He was  finally finishing up his neurosurgery residency after spending years sacrificing so much, aiming to finally live the life he wanted. Medicine was the expected career path for the polymath who  initially also wanted to be a writer. The title “When Breath Becomes Air” comes from the poem “Caelica 83“. The ephemeral nature of life – when what was once the life source, now assimilated atmospheric particles –  was always something that I held onto with every stupid risk or chance I took. It was my fuel, my catalyst. 

My reckless nature, however, helped me reach one of the happiest points I had ever been in my entire life.  I am at my best when everything is going right. When the job isn’t dull, when my skin is clear, when I have a good relationship with my family and friends. 

But I think I was at my best and happiest when I was in Philadelphia for a wedding for one of my classmates from graduate school (a gamble I couldn’t  afford to lose). Back in London, I formed a deep bond with two Scandinavian girls, Lina and Katrine. To say they were my rock is the understatement of the century. Their Scandi tough loving nature and willingness to deal with my American-ess is responsible for at least 45% of the effort needed to move on from my ex. Lina gave me the book “Willful Disregard” by Lena Andersson to speed the process along. Boy, did I learn the difference between love and lust.

I was planning to meet up with them in NYC from DC and we would take a bus to Philadelphia together. The whole ordeal was ridiculous. I chose the furthest possible bus stop in the city and it was raining hard. Despite all of this, when we settled into our “perfect 20-something rom-com apartment”, I remember Katrine just hugging me and crying. We all became overwhelmed because it had been months since we seen each other. We used to spend almost everyday, every weekend exploring London, shopping at Primark, eating lunches on Primrose Hill, cooking dinners for each other and talking so open and honestly about our lives. Those moments with them were the happiest of my entire life. 

And here I was doing it again. Just being with them, talking again so openly and honestly and just enjoying the food and sights of Philadelphia for an “American” wedding, and looking our absolute best. It was so simple and so perfect. It’s not very often in life you come across people who give you experiences like that.

I believe I was at my best because I was doing a job that finally fit, I was surrounded by people who understood all of me, we were celebrating love (in the city of brotherly love – see what I did there? No?), and the future didn’t seem so frightening anymore.  I was mentally in a good place and I was training for a half marathon at the time so I was physically fit. I really felt like everything was going to be okay in that moment of time with them.

The end of Caelica 83 goes like this:

  Reader! then make time, while you be,
            But steps to your eternity.
The things that make you feel alive and at your best – great experiences, taking care of your mental and physical health, love from lovers, friends and family, being in the right place and time, doing something you see yourself doing for the rest of your life – those are the steps to your eternity.