I wrote this post with a heavy heart.
Last week, twenty minutes before heading to Angkor Wat in Cambodia to level up on my Epic Quest of Awesome, I received an email from my parents that caught me completely offguard:
My grandmother had passed away.
Ellen Durant (or Nana as she was known to us grandkids) lived life to the fullest until she passed away at the age of 86. When I last saw her around Christmastime, she was healthy as ever with a clean bill of health. Last month, she went to the hospital due to some unknown pain – the doctors unfortnately discovered a very aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.
Two weeks after being diagnosed and four days after going into the hospital, she was gone.
If you’ve been reading Nerd Fitness since November, you’ll remember that my grandfather (my dad’s dad) passed away while I was in Peru exploring Machu Picchu, his death a very sudden occurrence as well. I’m so heartbroken that I can’t be home to be with my family right now, just as I was heartbroken when I couldn’t be home for Grampy’s funeral back in November.
However, Nana was a big Nerd Fitness fan and truly loved to hear and read about my adventures out here on the road, so I know I am making her proud by living life to the fullest while traveling the world.
I’ve learned so many lessons from my grandmother, and I hope these lessons can help you live a better life as they have helped me.
This one’s for you Nana.
Nana was born in 1924 and went to nursing school simply because she loved helping people, a profession she ended up working for over 40 years. While looking for work as a young nurse, Nana applied for the highly coveted position of scrub nurse for Dr. Harken, the pioneer of heart valve replacement. She really wanted this job and knew she’d do very well with it. When she was asked if she could type at x number of words per minute and take notes in medical shorthand, she responded with a resounding YES.
As it turned out, Nana had never used a typewriter nor knew how to take medical shorthand.
When she got the job, she began to teach herself medical shorthand and how to type, verrrrrrry slowly. Whenever the doctor would walk into the room, she’d quickly start typing like crazy to show that she knew what she was doing….typing absolute gibberish. As soon as the doctor left she’d throw the paper out and start all over again at the beginning.
I’m not telling you to lie on your job applications and scam your way into a position. I’m telling you that if you want something, you owe it to yourself to do whatever it takes to get it. I’ve already linked to this INCREDIBLE video twice, but a third time still isn’t enough. Giving up isn’t in your repertoire, failure isn’t an option.
Adventure is out there if you’re willing to look for it, and willing to take chances to make it happen. At one point in her young nursing career, Nana decided to pack up and move to Cheyenne, Wyoming with her friends. Why Cheyenne? Because they closed their eyes and picked a spot on the map of the United States; that’s where they ended up. Nana could pack up and be ready for a trip at a moment’s notice.
What’s the trip that you’ve always wanted to take but will get to it when things settle down or when you have more time? Here’s the reality of the situation – there is never going to be a perfect time. You will never not be busy, work will never not be hectic, and life will never calm down. Stop planning, stop waiting, stop delaying. Adventure is out there, waiting for you…but it won’t wait forever.
Go. Find some fun. And find it sooner rather than later.
Although Nana was quickly diagnosed with an incredibly painful and aggressive form of cancer that she knew would claim her life, she never once complained. Rather than asking “why me?”, she gave thanks for a great life.
It’s sad that it’s usually the loss of a loved one that puts things into perspective, but it’s important to remember how lucky we are to be alive. If you’re reading this on a computer in your office or at home, be thankful that:
We take so many things for granted, and complain about the smallest of inconveniences. If you ever find yourself complaining, go spend an afternoon volunteering at your local children’s hospital and watch as kids who haven’t left the hospital in weeks/months smile and be happy about the smallest of things.
At the end of the day, we have to remember what’s truly important. Sh** happens, and we all have to deal with it. Complaining about a problem does not solve it. Spend less time feeling bad for yourself and more time finding solutions.
Be thankful for every day you have on this planet, and make the most of every minute. If you don’t like something about your life, change it – we don’t have enough time on this planet to waste on things that suck:
I am very, very lucky.
I was raised by two loving parents who supported me no matter what I wanted to do. I also had four incredibly encouraging, supportive grandparents that allowed me to dream big and live bigger.
Although I was too young to remember it, one of my favorite stories I’d hear from Nana was the time I decided I wanted to go play tennis with her. I was three, had never played tennis before, and the racquet was bigger than I was. Nana hadn’t played tennis before either. When I asked “Nana, can we go play tennis?” she replied: “of course we can.” We spent that afternoon down at the tennis court, playing tennis and having a blast, even though I couldn’t really swing the racket and probably never once returned it over the net.
Throughout my life, whenever I’ve had an idea or dream to do something and shared it with my parents and grandparents, I never once got the “be realistic” comment. Last year when I told my father that I was going to quit my great day job to focus full-time on a website that hadn’t made any money yet, I received nothing but support and encouragement – they knew that I would find a way to make things work, and I did.
I realize that I am very lucky to have all of this support.
If you aren’t so lucky, and have people around who you don’t support you when you tell them about your dreams and goals, its time to evaluate those relationships. If its friends, it might be time to ask for their help or start finding new ones. If it’s family, it might be time to sit down and explain to them why you need their support. If you have nobody at home, an online community might be the next best thing…
Life is too short to spend it with people that don’t support you and your dreams.
In honor of Nana, I’d love to hear about the great things that you hope to accomplish in your life. I don’t care if you’re 400 pounds and want to do a pull up, $20,000 in debt without a job and want to be debt free, and/or have horrible asthma and want to run the Boston Marathon…I want to hear it, and I want to help.
Please leave a comment with what you want to do in your life, and I’ll do my best to help you get started down the path to make it happen. As we’ve learned from Optimus Prime, big changes start with one small step.
Go take yours.
Miss you Nana.