When Breath Becomes Air: Making Your Life Matter More

 

I have been asked repeatedly, “What do you want to do?” I want to run We Said Go Travel and make travel videos. The problem is I am not sure it is a good enough answer. I am afraid that I am wasting my talents. As a medical school drop-out, I worry that I should do more with my life and my intellectual abilities. I am “should-ing” myself to distraction.

When breath becomes air Paul KalanthiWhen I read Paul Kalanithi’s book, “When Breath Becomes Air,” I was mesmerized. After earning multiple degrees from Stanford, Cambridge and Yale and being inducted into the national Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, after years of study and training, he learned he had stage IV lung cancer. After all of his work to be save humans from disease, he found he could be treated but not cured and was dying much sooner than he imagined. All of those years spent learning and preparing to do his important work would not lead to decades of practicing medicine as a doctor.

Kalanithi’s question “is not simply whether to live or die but what kind of life is worth living…What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? …Even if I’m dying, until I actually die, I am still living.” He continued to work when he could, to spend time with his family and to fight his cancer. If he knew he would have less days on this planet, would he have made other choices?

We are all going to die someday but most of us do not contemplate our mortality regularly. Kalanithi wrote: “You try to figure out what matters to you, and then you keep figuring it out. It felt like someone had taken away my credit card and I was having to learn how to budget.” With months left to live, he struggles with his daily choices. What is worth his time now that it is so precious. We cannot get back the hours of our day. How do you decide what to do?

I want to use my strengths and abilities wisely. What is the best way to have a meaningful purpose-filled life? Kalanithi tells us “The truth that you live one day at a time didn’t help: What was I supposed to do with that day?” He answers his own question and tells us, “You have to figure out what’s most important to you.”

What leads you on your path?

What is the role of a doctor? From When Breath Becomes Air

“The physician’s duty is not to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”

We all need a team surrounding us to remind us that we can find our own way even when it seems overwhelming or too short. We never know which day will be our last. I hope you are making an effort to make your dreams come true today. Hug those you love and know that what you do is enough.

Video: Lisa’s SIZZLE reel

Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Ellen Niver, M.A. Education, is a science teacher and is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. You can find her talking travel at KTLA TV and in her We Said Go Travel videos with over 1.3 million views on her YouTube channel. As a journalist, Niver has interviewed an Olympic swimmer and numerous bestselling authors and has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She is the founder of We Said Go Travel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs. She was named both a Top 10 Travel Influencer and a Top 50 Female Influencer for 2021 by Afluencer and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club. She has been nominated for the inaugural Forbes 50 over 50/Know Your Value list due out in Summer 2021. She has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best and has more than 150,000 followers across social media. Niver is a judge for the Gracies Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media and has also run 15 travel competitions publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries on We Said Go Travel. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded two Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards. From 2017 to 2021 in the Southern California Journalism Awards and National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards, she has won four times for her broadcast television segments, print and digital articles. Niver won in 2021 as Book Critic and in 2019 for one of her KTLA TV segments NAEJ (National Arts and Entertainment Journalism) award. Niver won an award for her print magazine article for Hemispheres Magazine for United Airlines in the 2020 Southern California Journalism Awards and a 2017 Southern California Journalism Award for her print story for the Jewish Journal. Niver has written for National Geographic, USA Today 10best, TODAY, Teen Vogue, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, American Airways, Delta Sky, En Route (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, Wharton Magazine and Yahoo. She is writing a book, “Brave(ish): It's All About Perspective 50 Adventures Before 50,” about her most recent travels and insights. When she's not SCUBA diving or in her art studio making ceramics, she's helping people find their next dream trip.  http://lisaniver.com/one-page/

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