Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant (Part 1)

Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy

Introduction. I met Dave Goldberg in the summer of 1996. He was very comforting and lovely. It was love at first sight. He was assuring and very understanding. However, 11 years into our wedding, one day, he suffered from a heart attack while on a treadmill and passed on. I was in utter shock and disgust and didn’t believe that this was happening to me. My kids very truly upset too. I felt like I was in a void. At times, I felt like I could hear Dave calling out to me in my sleep. Ordinary events were painful to go through. I was worried my kids would never be the same again. The songs on the radio weren’t helping too. People encouraged to let grief run its course. Adam Grant gave me advice too. The fact is that many people who have lost parents turn out to be resilient. Time will heal the wounds, or so they said. I have no choice but to get over the shock. This book is about how to build resilience. Adversity is everywhere. I am fortunate for the support I have received throughout. It is possible to find greater meaning. Life is never perfect and sometimes we have live Option B.

Resilience is the strength and speed of our response to adversity – and we can build it. It isn’t about having a backbone. It’s about strengthening the muscles around our backbone. – Sheryl Sandberg

This book is about the capacity of the human spirit to persevere. We look at the steps people can take, both to help themselves and to help others. We explore the psychology of recovery and the challenges of regaining confidence and rediscovering joy. – Sheryl Sandberg

Breathing Again. A friend I knew was too trusting and gave a co-worker a ride home. However, he raped her in the end. I offered this lady help. If you don’t believe in all 3, you will find it easier to cope. It is never all your fault and there are things which you might not be able to do better. Learn to stop saying ‘sorry’ after a while. Not everything was terrible after all. We had access to grief counsellors. Working also helps with the pervasiveness bit. However, if you return to work too soon, grief can interfere with the performance. Employers should provide flexible arrangements and financial assistance etc. Humans tend to overestimate how long negative events will impact us. I tried to banish the words ‘never’ and ‘always’ from my vocabulary. The pain temporarily eased up after a while. Humans are also wired for grief. Deep breathing helps me to calm down. The second derivative thoughts were not pleasant at all. I learnt from Buddhism that suffering is inevitable. Over time, my kids and I learnt to respect our feelings. Sometimes, it is necessary to take cry breaks. Focusing on worst case scenarios also had me feel better. We also pray before every meal and thank God for the food. Counting the blessings in your life can make you happier and feel satisfied. We are also financially stable and that is very important to us all. Once, I went for a mammogram and I was alarmed. Thankfully, it was a false positive. Even heartache doesn’t last forever. When life kicks you under, learn to breathe again.

3 P’s can stunt recovery: (1) personalization – the belief that we are at fault; (2) pervasiveness – the belief that an event will affect all areas of our life; and (3) permanence – the belief that the aftershocks of the event will last forever. – Sheryl Sandberg

Part of every misery, is misery’s shadow… the fact that you don’t merely suffer but have to keep on thinking about the fact that you suffer. – Sheryl Sandberg

Dealing with grief was like building physical stamina: the more you exercise, the faster your heart rate recovers after it is elevated. And sometimes during especially vigorous physical activity, you discover strength you didn’t know you had. – Sheryl Sandberg

Kicking the Elephant Out of the Room. I went for a college reunion with some of Daves’ friends. Sometimes, asking someone about their illness can comfort them and show that you care. I felt miserable when friends didn’t ask how I was doing after Dave’s passing. People avoid asking because they want to avoid difficult questions. However, the fact is that people who have endured terrible things want to talk about them. Some parents who have lost children also want others to speak about them from time to time. ‘Mum effect’ is when people avoid sharing bad news. By remaining silent in your suffering, you isolate others. It would be good to have friends who ask you difficult questions but do not judge on your answers. People who have been through adversity can connect better with others who are suffering too. Cultural pressure to conceal negative emotions is common. The fact is that most people do not know what to say, especially when it comes to personal matters. I thought that I carrying an elephant around. A month after my husband’s passing, I shared my thoughts openly on Facebook. After that post, I received a lot of love and compassion. Not everyone will be comfortable about talking about personal tragedy. Opening up can improve mental and physical health. Instead of ‘How are you?’; ask ‘How are you today?’. I acknowledged the elephant’s presence and after opening up, many colleagues did reveal that they did not dare to speak up because they were afraid of saying the wrong thing.

I had failed to ask him directly about his health not because I didn’t care, but because I was worried about upsetting him. – Sheryl Sandberg

When life gives you lemons, I won’t tell you a story about my cousin’s friends who died of lemons. – Postcard

When someone is struck ill with cancer, you can ask ‘I know you don’t know yet what will happen – and neither do I. But you won’t go through this alone. I will be there with you every step of the way.’ Or ‘I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. – Sheryl Sandberg

The Platinum Rule of Friendship. Adam encountered a kid, named Owen. He had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and later took his own life. When you are feeling stressed, you need an outlet. For instance, you can call a counsellor at any time of the day. Sometimes when we feel like reaching out to help, we might suddenly hold back because we fear saying the wrong thing or offending the person. This is like choosing escape over empathy. The trick is just to show up, showing up can make a huge difference in a friend’s life. It’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you are not the one suffering. Instead of saying ‘I will do anything to help you’, you could say ‘let me get you a burger, let me know what you not take’. Specific acts are more useful for someone in need. Even holding someone’s hand can be a big help too. One can offer comfort to those closest to the tragedy and gain support for those further away from the tragedy. We all grieve differently. It is very rude to suggest that someone should be over their grieving period.

Growing up, I was taught to follow the Golden Rule: treat others as you want to be treated. But when someone is suffering, instead of following the Golden Rule, we need to follow the Platinum Rule: treat others as they want to be treated. Take a cue from the person in distress and respond with understanding – or better yet, action. – Sheryl Sandberg

Self-Compassion and Self-Confidence. Coming to grips with ourselves. Self-compassion is rarely talked about in our society. Everyone makes mistakes. These imperfections make us human. Self-compassion is the key to a faster recovery from trauma. Focus on the mistake and not the person’s character. Guilt and shame are completely 2 different feelings. Learn from your mistakes and own up to them. Writing down your thoughts in a journal might be useful and has much therapeutic effects. The more you acknowledge the negative emotions that you are feeling, the better you can tackle them. Talking into a voice recorder can have a similar effect to writing. Learn to understand that your worth is not tied to your actions. Self-confidence is the key. I am grateful to have a compassionate boss, Mark Zuckerberg. I start journaling and realized that it helped me tremendously. Even when you are really down, you can focus on 3 small wins and write them down daily. Just reminding that something had gone well that day can improve your day instantly. Learn to count your contributions too. Take one extra step even though you are afraid. Learn to treat those who are undergoing a tough time as regular team members and praise their work occasionally. The number of single mums are rising and a lot of them are having a tough time too. Over time, I journaled less. I want to move on and start living again. I am not alone.

Psychologist Kristin Neff describes self-compassion as offering the same kindness to ourselves that we would give it to a friend. It allows us to respond to our own errors with concern and understanding rather than criticism and shame. – Sheryl Sandberg

This loss of confidence is another symptom of pervasiveness: we are struggling in one area and suddenly we stop believing in our capabilities in other areas. Primary loss triggers secondary losses. – Sheryl Sandberg

Bouncing Forward. The one I become will catch me. When you can’t change a situation, you will have to change yourself. Some people can experience post-traumatic growth. This means bouncing forward. It can take 5 forms: forming deep relationships; discovering meaning in life; gaining appreciation; finding personal strength and seeing possibilities. One can walk away with greater resolve. The little things do not bother you so much anymore. If you can find your why to live, you can find meaning to live. I appreciate my close ones more. If you visit poorer communities, you might start to appreciate life more. Gratitude is the key to happiness. Now, I celebrate birthdays every year. You do not need to wait for special occasions to show your gratitude. One could write thank you notes. Every day is precious and should be lived to the fullest. Going through difficult times together can cause one to forge stronger bonds together. It is also important to find meaning in suffering. One could do so via spirituality and religious beliefs. It is important to stay hopeful in your darkest hours too. Trauma can help to build resilience. Work can provide a source of meaning. You can energize yourself with meaningful work. A brush with death can lead to a new life. Some believe in co-destiny, where bereaved parents view their child’s life in a larger framework. Parents can do good, which becomes part of their child’s impact on the world.

In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. – Albert Camus

In prosperity our friends know us. In adversity we know our friends. – Old Saying



How to Think About Exercise by Damon Young

Chad is a personal trainer. Many people think there is a conflict between mind and the body. Brains over brawn or brawn over brains. You can develop either the mental or the physical aspects, but you will sacrifice the other one. Old philosophers thought that the mind and body were separate and could not be associated with one another. To Descartes, his mind was almighty and very powerful. He wanted to be defined by his brain alone. This is known as dualism. Workers are walking less and less. The white collar worker doesn’t exercise a lot. This sort of lifestyle promotes dualism. Humans succumb to temptations and this affects their exercise routines. However, dualism does not exist in reality. In reality, we think with our whole body and walking helps to stimulate the mind. Angry and other feelings can be expressed through actions in our body. The mind and body are actually intertwined. If you believe in dualism, it can kill off how much exercise you do. You might think sportsmen are stupid. Even if you head to the gym, people will get the impression that the mind and body are separate as you need to wear gym attire before entering the gym etc. For a tennis player, he feels the racket as part of his body. If your exercise, you can improve these tools at hand. Many people believe that exercise is only used to fix ailments. Once the ailments are not present, they stop exercising. However, workouts can actually be intellectually stimulating and ethically challenging. Keep an eye out for humanity. The Greeks celebrated physicality. To them, the mind and body worked happily together. Socrates believed in the power of endurance and exercise as it would aid philosophy. For the Greeks, exercise was a form of striving. Exercise was a way to savour humanity. It is possible to derive pleasure from exercise. Virtue involves the whole human being. It comes about from habit formation. Virtue also involves desire and choice. Therefore, virtue can be seen as a combination of habit, desire and free rationality. The Greeks appreciated dance and saw value in education. We get from the gym a more defined version of ourselves. There is an existential joy to working out. Exercise can have massive pay-offs. Intelligent exercise is a combination to wholeness. The book describes the psychological rewards of exercise and ethical virtues

Exercise is something done with one’s body. It is public and physical. Thinking is something done with one’s mind. It is private and ethereal. – Damon Young

Many people’s minds are so invaded by forgetfulness, despondency, irritability, and insanity because of their poor physical condition. – Socrates

Reverie (Walking). Darwin liked to talk long strolls. His life was like clockwork and it followed a fixed routine. He walked a lot more than the common man. Even in poor health, he continued walking. To him, it was a lifelong exercise. He walked a lot even during his later years. To him, walking was an exercise in reflection and he could appreciate nature along the way. Exercise also improves problem solving skills. If you are stuck on a problem, take a stroll and you might come back refreshed and ready to go again. Most other sports required powers of concentration and this prevented you from reflecting on life. Walking allows you to stop and notice things. Reverie thrives in a dynamic environment. Exercise helps to improve creativity as well. Learn to take a walk around your neighbourhood once in a while. Exercise need not be an anti-social activity. Plucking into devices when walking causes you to focus on ‘in-attentional blindness’. Distractions from devices are myopic to the brain. It affects mindfulness. Exercise helps to loosen our minds.

Pride (Sprinting). Exercise is a pleasure of your own existence. I tried doing hill sprints. The sprints felt like freedom, like a form of release. To some people, running felt like flying. There is a purity that is associated with running. Pride is a form of pleasure now. Make yourself the source of your pleasure. To David Hume, pride meant ‘pleasure in oneself’. A heart beating steadily suggests power. This is the cause. The object is yourself. Pleasure, is of course, subjective in nature. Pride is now a virtue. Dogged exertion was something of pride to the Greeks. The goal was to impress upon the world the stamp of our existence. You can be tough without the need to be on the battlefield. Enjoy your muscles when you can. To Pindar, physical pride was virtuous in nature. Intense muscular effort is bliss. We must create ourselves. To the philosopher Albert Camus, Sisyphus was happy even though he tried rolling the boulder up the hill for eternity.

In the pride of sprinting, powerlifting or pedalling, we rightly celebrate ourselves for our committed exertion; for the willingness to move as hard and fast as we possibly can, instead of watching others do so on television. – Damon Young

Sacrifice (Team sports). There is joy that is associated with sacrifice. This involves giving something up. Understand what you are sacrificing for. Sports are an area of striving and pain. For some sports, it requires more sacrifice. Sports are a second world. Rules have changed. There are different rules in a sport which doesn’t apply to life. During sports, you can define yourself for a brief moment in time. You can develop a specific mind-set when approaching a sport. Sports lead you to a state of enhancement. Some believe that we are imprisoned in society and can’t get out. The primary world is where we seek approval and applause of others.

To commit, as a human being, to anything is to renounce some quantum of pleasure – a measure that is enlarged by every increase in dedication. Every game exacts a cost. – Damon Young

Exercise can be a reprieve from confusion – from the anxiety that comes with not knowing one’s place in the world. It involves sacrifice, as does schooling, marriage and work. But sport allows us to say, with far more confidence, whether we have won or lost, and played the game well. – Damon Young

Beauty (Gym & Weights). Fitness and beauty often go hand in hand. Even in the Greek era, this was so. What is pleasurable about a hard body? Muscles are useful. They are a means to an end. Form follows function. A human body is beautiful when it is strong. With beauty comes accomplishment. Muscles are a revelation of potency. To most men, bulging muscles are unnecessary. A proportionate body can mean a proportionate soul. The philosophers were always interested in harmony. Muscles are a way to ‘express’ natural beauty. A muscular body can suggests more than just power for punching or courting. In the past, people talk about the golden ratio. It is important to craft our own ideal. One of human’s basic instincts is the strive for unity. Have an interchange with the environment. Rhythm marks our exercise routines. Define your physical form by building muscles. Which parts of your body are beautiful? Bodybuilders score high on narcissism tests. See muscles as aesthetic achievements.

Humility (Climbing & Gymnastics). Climbing can encourage humility. Understand the difficulty involved. We fear being judged by others if we make a mistake in public. These feelings will pass if our failure is accidental. For some sports, you need a lot of practise to get it right. Failure is normal. Failure will teach you to be humble. You cannot change the rock wall, but you can understand your limitations. Even if vigour and enthusiasm, sometimes you need to exercise caution. A mountain doesn’t endure lies and won’t care about you. Gymnastics are as equally brutal as climbing. A gymnast must learn the techniques properly if not the person will hurt themselves. Success requires both pride and humility both drive and caution. Surely football is useless, when you just kick a ball around and get nothing done. Such sports are autotelic, meaning that they are enjoyed for its own sake, and not for the sake of something else. This is known as the flow experience. Flow requires a match between skills and challenge. The task must also require clear goals. Flow is about enjoying the journey itself. Try an exercise which is challenging and which you can receive instant feedback. To achieve good things, you must understand your insufficiency and imperfection too. Humans are incomplete and will not achieve perfection.

Pain (Martial Arts). Martial arts demonstrate how pain can be enjoyed. Pain is better than comfort without liberty. Punching can be good fun. In the past, martial arts were seen as a form of protection. Not anymore. Now, martial arts are more used to develop character than anything else. They are peaceful people. You can channel your aggressiveness into a safe channel and learn to be braver and more humble. Karate teaches you to be a good and honest member in society. Training in violence can actually help you to avoid violence in future. Do not deny your aggressive stance, but rather, learn to use them in a controlled environment. Pain and how you feel about it are two completely separate feelings. Even some women enjoy fighting too. For ballet, there is also a lot of pain involved. When dancing, you do not feel the pain. Pain is not a raw stimulus and that it is shaped by what we feel about it. Pain is better when you have a choice over it and that it is freely accepted. Pleasurable pain is a sign of freedom. It is your pain and you are autonomous over it.

Pain is a test of value: it sharpens our perception of what is worthwhile in life, and just what we are willing to sacrifice to get it. Exercise, precisely because of its discomfort, is a touchstone for an emancipated existence. – Damon Young

Consistency (Running). Murakami balances running and writing. He has a consistent routine. He has run marathons as well. Murakami has run marathons every year for almost 25 years. Running brings him mental benefits. Your mind will argue with the body. It keeps him fit and strong. Writing was a profession that required constant endurance. In the past, he was a chain smoker. Also, later, he started to eat healthily. Try to include exercise in your daily routine. Running on the treadmill helps as well. Let your body support the mind. Our lives are narratives and stories and we need to write our own plot. Consistency helps pull our life to find a purpose. Jogging can be a tool to maintain consistency in your life. Self-regulation is improved by exercise. Running is painful and exhausting. But to build consistency, you need to confront something that is not pleasant. Running allows you to overcome that pain. Even though he is slowing down, he doesn’t stop. Aim for a greater striving.

We easily become fractured, divided and conflicted. We can ‘lose the plot’. This is why we need the virtues of integrity and constancy. Integrity is achieved in changing circumstances; constancy over changing times. Both character traits are tendencies towards wholeness: virtues of consistency, which pull our stories together. – Alasdair MacIntyre

The really hard steps are the first ones. Not the first running steps – even those are enjoyable – but rather the impossibly difficult task of getting ready to run. If getting out of the chair seems difficult, then you really need to do so. – David Lebedoff

The Sublime (Swimming). The sea, boat and submarines. Water simply invades us. It doesn’t kid around. It was blissful in the water. The sublime requires both enjoyment and fear. The sea is huge and it is mind-boggling. The sea is also inherently dangerous. In the sea, you are never really in charge. When swimming, we use more muscle groups. It is also more tiring than other sports. In a chaotic situation, we are forced to work harder. Your adrenaline will start pumping as well. Learn to enjoy the power and size of water, even in a swimming pool. The beachgoer feels eternal and tranquil looking out at the sea. We become part of the water once we are in it. Water has also a role of god in certain cultures. The sublime reminds us that we cannot escape biology, pain and death. Humans are part of the cosmos. The world can be savoured.

When danger or pain press too nearly, they are incapable of giving any delight, and are simply terrible. But at certain distances, and with certain modifications, they may be delightful. – Edmund Burke

Instead, the sublime is a revelation of ordinary human contradiction: the reality of our solitude and smallness, together with the intimation of safety and immensity. We are isolated and feeble, yet somehow joined with the world of security and strength. – Damon Young

Oneness (Yoga). This chapter is on yoga. Yoga can provide a distinctive calm to us. Despite the weird poses, I am actually at ease during class. We are usually not aware of our muscles, even during physical sports. However, yoga allows you to feel that. Which of your muscles are tense right now? You get to concentrate on one part of your body at a time. You become more of yourself during yoga. We are making ourselves feel more at home. You get to lose yourself in the workouts. In some yoga, there is no need to distinguish mind from body. In Hatha yoga, your body is spiritualized. Most forms of yoga teach the transcendence of ‘I’. Yoga is not a state of mind, but the combination of physical and mental self. Many Westerners have taken up yoga. It is evenness of the mind. Yoga also helps to reduce stress and blood pressure. Meditation is at the heart of yoga.

The key is not to be obsessed over the development of muscles, but to enrol humanity in your fitness. This is what is known as intelligent exercise. Develop a fullness of character. Commit to a more balanced life. See fitness as a personal adventure. Try a variety of sports. Exercise can cure existential incompleteness.

Exercise base image2

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The narrator ‘I’ has cancer and spends a lot of time at home. I have a limited time to live. Mum suggested that I attend a weekly support group to treat depression. The group met every Wednesday in the basement of a church. Patrick was the leader who liked to talk about Christ. I’m Hazel, aged 16, and I have both thyroid and lung cancer. Isaac was a skinny guy who had eye cancer. I could communicate with Isaac, through sighing most of the time. I made friends with Augustus Waters. Suddenly, I wanted out from the support group. However, mum was resistant and wanted me to continue. I needed the help of an oxygen tank to live. Suddenly, a guy was looking at me. He was a hot and good-looking dude. Isaac was about to go for a surgery that would make him blind. Augustus was 17 and had osteosarcoma and was Isaac’s friend. He feared oblivion. I didn’t have proper friends apart from my parents. I encouraged Augustus to ignore his fear of oblivion and comforted him that Earth will die when the Sun dies out anyway. Peter Van Houten, author of ‘An Imperial Affliction’ was a good ‘friend’. Patrick often prayed for the group. Augustus started speaking to me now after the session. He believed that they were all in the heart of Jesus. Now, he started praising me for my beauty. I was started to get attracted to him and his mannerism. Augustus invited me to his place to watch V for Vandetta. Isaac had a girlfriend, named Monica. Augustus started smoking without lighting up the cigarette.

Augustus didn’t drive well at all. Your chances of survival largely depend on whether your parents still put you in school despite the illness. I wasn’t schooling for 3 years already while he still attended school at North Central. I had stage 4 cancer and my lungs were all infected. However, I was given a drug called Plalanxifor and I started to get better. In the past 18 months, the tumors shrank but I still had to rely on drizzled oxygen and daily Phalanxifor. His parents started preparing dinner for me. Augustus liked reading motivational quotes and encouragements. I do not eat meat. I explored the basement in his house and found a lot of basketball memorabilia. Augustus used to be at basketball before his legs got amputated. Deep inside me, I liked Augustus. I wasn’t very positive or enthusiastic about life, unlike him. My favorite book was an Imperial Affliction. Augustus wanted to read it as well. In exchange, I would read The Price of Dawn. Without Pain, How Could We Know Joy? Now, I felt like kissing him. He wanted to see me tomorrow for a second date.

Don’t tell me you’re one of those people who becomes their disease. I know so many people like that. It’s disheartening. Like, cancer is in the growth business, right? The taking-people-over business. But surely you haven’t let it succeed prematurely. – Augustus to me

My mum could tell I liked Augustus. It was my 33 half birthday and it called for a huge celebration. I was planning to meet Kaitlyn for a movie. Now, I also bought sequels for the Price of Dawn. My mum was always reading medical stuff and handling paperwork. I went shopping with Kaitlyn after a brief conversation. Kaitlyn was a good friend, but somehow after I missed school, we kind of drifted. I started reading Midnight Dawns before mum would pick me up. I liked the main character who always lived his life like an adventure. For those who knew my pre-existing condition, talking to them would never feel like normal. I liked being alone and indulge in my own fictional world.

I re-read AIA again. The book is about Anna and her one-eyed mom. Anna has a rare blood cancer and started a charity ‘The Anna Foundation for People with Cancer Who Want to Cure Cholera’. Her mom falls in love with the Dutch Tulip Man. The Tulip Man claims to have cures for cancer and can help Anna. However, Anna doesn’t trust him very much. The author left the story hanging in mid-air without an ending. I called him to share about my readings and vice versa. Now, I was planning to watch a movie with my mum. Augustus was surprised by the lack of ending of AIA. Isaac was sobbing tremendously. Isaac was in a midst of a psychotic episode. The both of them were playing the Price of Dawn and Isaac was acting like a lunatic. It could have been relationship trouble between him and Monica. You will not die in vain. Monica couldn’t handle that Isaac would lose his eyesight. Isaac was deeply upset with this. Isaac started slamming the pillow and chair in the room. I still haven’t heard from the author of AIA on what the ending would turn out to be. Isaac slammed the trophies with Augustus’ permission.

All salvation is temporary. I bought them a minute. Maybe that’s the minute that buys them an hour, which is the hour that buys them a year. No one’s gonna buy them forever, Hazel Grace, but my life bought them a minute. And that’s not nothing. – Augustus

Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That’s what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway. Don’t you believe in true love? – Isaac

That’s the thing about pain. It demands to be felt. – Augustus

I met Kaitlyn and her boyfriend for coffee. I also attended classes at MCC 3 mornings in a week. Worry is a side effect of the dying and I started to worry. Augustus thanked me for the book and analyzed it deeply. Maybe the book was meant to end halfway and abruptly. The author was a recluse. He started writing to the author and received a reply from his assistant. Is there a point to living? Is there meaning in suffering? The author replied that he could not be continuing on this book. I started writing to the author too. Caroline Mathers was Augustus’ ex-girl friend. However, Caroline passed away. Okay will be our always. Isaac was free from cancer after the surgery. However, he was blind. Isaac wanted to leave the hospital. He still was thinking about Monica. Isaac’s mum was in the room by his side now. I bought Isaac some flowers. The author finally replied me. However, he refused to answer my questions on the book’s ending but welcomed me to visit him at his place. I immediately had the urge to head to Amsterdam to visit the author. However, I had to find a way to raise the funds since my parents were broke. I already used my wish from the Genie foundation to head to Disney. Augustus called me when I was at home. He brought a bouquet of bright orange tulips to me and suggested heading for a picnic. My dad and Augustus related well on topics like basketball. I was still worrying about the upcoming PET scan. He brought me to a park and then a museum. Everything Augustus brought was orange and it meant to represent Holland. Augustus reprimanded me on my short term thinking for my wish. He wanted me to preserve the integrity of the Wish as an idea instead. He hadn’t used his wish yet. He wanted to visit Amsterdam as well. The genies were ready to grant them their wishes.

But I believe in true love, you know? I don’t believe that everybody gets to keep their eyes or not get sick or whatever, but everybody should have true love, and it should last at least as long as your life does. – Isaac

My mum was surprised about the Amsterdam trip. The doctor advised my mum to follow us on the trip as well. I told Kaitlyn about my encounter with Augustus. Kaitlyn had just broken up with Derek, her boyfriend. Caroline Mathers died from brain cancer. I realized how similar I was to Caroline. Pain is a blunt and nonspecific diagnostic instrument. I didn’t want to hurt mum anymore. I started reading Caroline Mather’s little notes. Augustus touched me.

I felt a sensation of sharp pain inside of my brain now. I screamed in pain. I was now admitted into the ICU. Alison was my nurse. Now, the hospital again drained the fluid from my lung. There was no tumor growth spotted. Augustus was waiting at the hospital for me. I eventually returned home after 6 days. Sleep fights cancer. I finally met Augustus since my episode in the hospital. The Amsterdam trip had to be postponed because of my illness. ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars / But in ourselves.’ I desperately wanted to travel despite the new setback.

I missed you, too. I just don’t want you to see…all this. I just want, like…it doesn’t matter. You don’t always get what you want. – Hazel

Dr Maria admitted that the drug has side effects but she will continue administering it to me. It was a Cancer Team Meeting. The problem was that taking the drug caused fluid accumulation. I hated the cancer team meetings as it was depressing. The fluid draining became more frequent. My parents banned my travel until I was better. Augustus has the ability to make me laugh and delight me. I looked at the swing set my dad gave me when I was young. Augustus visited me to view the swing set. We placed an ad for the sale of the swing set. ‘Desperately lonely swing set needs loving home’. ‘No matter how hard you kick, no matter how high you get, you can’t go all the way around.’ I sold it to a guy named Daniel Alvarez. The author was expecting me in a week’s time. My parents eventually allowed me to travel.

I headed to the Support Group. Michael had passed away. Isaac and his mum showed us for the support group as well. ‘Living our best life today’. I visited Isaac’s house. We started playing a game where Isaac gave the instructions and I directed him. I didn’t want to get together with Augustus because I will hurt him eventually.

Mum and I shared a suitcase. We were now busily packing before our departure. Dad cried when he was sending us off. Augustus came to the door when we picked him up. They were on their way to Amsterdam. Augustus went to get a burger and didn’t return. Soon, he came back. Augustus has the habit of placing cigarettes in his mouth without smoking it. I kissed Augustus on his cheek. We ended up watching 300 together. He was now re-reading AIA. Augustus loved me and he confessed.

It’s a metaphor. He puts the killing thing in his mouth but doesn’t give it the power to kill him. – Hazel

I happen to know the answer to that question. There are seven billion living people, and about ninety-eight billion dead people…There are about fourteen dead people for every living person. – Augustus

I’m in love with you, and I’m not in the business of denying myself the simple pleasure of saying true things. I’m in love with you, and I know that love is just a shout into the void, and that oblivion is inevitable, and that we’re all doomed and that there will come a day when all our labor has been returned to dust, and I know the sun will swallow the only earth we’ll ever have, and I am in love with you. – Augustus

We reached the Netherlands. Amsterdam was a city of both sin and freedom. Augustus wore a black suit and I wore a beautiful sundress. Amsterdam looked nothing like the US. Now, we took the tram and travelled to Oranjee, a restaurant. There were 2 bottles of champagne waiting for us. We were over-looking the river. The champagne tasted great in my mouth. The asparagus was awesome. The food was simply too good. It was like a perfect date night. It was actually Augustus’ death suit. Cremeux was served for dessert. The author paid for their wonderful meal together. I thought about the possible endings to AIA again. Now, we were watching the canal from the park. Caroline liked to play alone in the playground in the past. She was always moody but he liked it. After chemo, Augustus started to marvel at the world and the excitement it brings.

Yes, I believe in an afterlife. Yes, absolutely. Not like a heaven where you ride unicorns, play harps, and live in a mansion made of clouds. But yes. I believe in Something with a capital S…Always have…I don’t believe we return to haunt or comfort the living or anything, but I think something becomes of us. – Augustus

…but I believe humans have souls, and I believe in the conservation of souls. The oblivion fear is something else, fear that I won’t be able to give anything in exchange for my life. If you don’t live a life in service of a greater good, you’ve gotta at least die a death in service of a greater good, you know? And I fear that I won’t get either a life or a death that means anything. – Augustus

Oh, I wouldn’t mind, Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you. – Augustus to Hazel

I started to get nervous. Today was the day when we would meet the author. My mum wasn’t joining us and was heading to Rijkmuseum and Vondelpark. Peter wanted them out at once as he hated Americans. It was his assistant who promised that Peter would meet them. Peter was very mean towards them and commented that Augustus had developmental delay. He never read many of my letters. Peter was a douche. Peter had a drinking problem. It was his assistant who used his money to treat me and Augustus. There are only two emotions, love and fear. Zeno was famous for his tortoise paradox. I was satisfied with his answers and I wanted to know the truth. The hamster gets adopted by Christine. The Dutch Tulip Man wasn’t a con man but was God. I kept insisting I wanted closure for the characters. I smashed the scotch from his hand and it smashed across the ground. Augustus quickly pulled me out from the room. I started crying and Augustus promised me he will write an epilogue. Now, his assistant wanted us to visit the Anne Frank’s House. She drove us to the house. Peter has become a monster and was an embarrassment to his family. Apparently, the world is not a wish-granting factory. Now, we watched a video of how the Nazis invaded Frank’s house. It took me a great effort, but I finally reached the top of the house. 103,000 Dutch people died in the Holocaust. I prayed for the war survivors. Anne almost made it, but she didn’t. I kissed Augustus in the house. Otto Frank was surprised by the depth of Anne Frank’s thought. Most parents don’t really know their children. Now, we were back at the hotel. We kissed again in the elevator. We were now in Augustus’ room. I removed his shirt. I allowed my arm to feel his stump, the thick scarred skin. Augustus was too tired and he fell asleep.

You are a side effect of an evolutionary process that cares little for individual lives. You are a failed experiment in mutation. – Peter van Houten

It was our last day in Amsterdam. Now, we tried the Dutch coffee. Amsterdam was a beautiful city which supported cycling. Augustus wanted to head back to the hotel. Augustus felt that I was more than human. We were in my room now. His PET scan results were bad and he suffered a relapse. He was sorry he didn’t inform me earlier. I hated the injustice of this all. ‘The world is not a wish-granting factory.’ Augustus. Now, Augustus was condemned to not leading a life of meaning.

I lit up like a Christmas tree, Hazel Grace. The lining of my chest, my left hip, my liver, everywhere. – Augustus

I don’t think you’re dying. I think you’ve just got a touch of cancer. And it is my privilege and my responsibility to ride all the way up with you. – Hazel

We were on the flight home now. We had champagne into our glasses. Augustus’ chest started to hurt. My dad knew about the cancer relapse in Gus. My dad read AIA in his free time and was disappointed in the lack of an ending. Even the Universe wanted to be noticed. The next day, I visited Augustus at his house. He was receiving new treatment to try to find a cure. Monica completely dumped Isaac and failed to contact him again. I was the healthiest as compared to Augustus and Isaac. I bought a dozen eggs under his instruction. We drove to Monica’s house. They started throwing eggs at her car. Monica’s mum realized it and hid in her home.

I visited Augustus in hospital after a chest infection. His heart was working too hard and he had to be confined to a wheelchair now. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. Two weeks later, we met at the park to drink champagne again.

Augustus had late-stage cancer now. He puked out his breakfast. He recited me what he thought of the ending of AIA. Nostalgia is a side effect of the dying. He had to be tube-fed. We kissed again in his bed. Now, we played Counterinsurgence 2: The Price of Dawn.

The next day, I visited his house again. He pissed on the bed. Now, he was getting increasingly tired. He always thought he was special. I always felt he was in his own way.

I don’t care if the New York Times writes an obituary for me. I just want you to write one. You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you. – Hazel

I just want to be enough for you, but I never can be. This can never be enough for you. Now this is all you get. You get me, and your family, and this world. This is your life. I’m sorry if it sucks… – Hazel

Augustus called me at 2:35am. He was stuck at the gas station and wanted me over immediately. He didn’t want me to call 911. His G-tube was malfunctioning. Now, he was covered in his own vomit. Augustus visited the gas station to buy a pack of cigarettes. He was humiliating. Now, he was pitiful and miserable and desperate. Cancer just wants to be alive.

A few days later, he was moved back home. However, he was under increased dosages of medication. He eventually woke up and wanted to go outside. It was a cloudy day.

This was the Last Good Day convention. I had to prepare a eulogy before heading down. I chided my parents as they tried to prevent me from heading to the convention. I drove to the church. Augustus was now ghoulishly thin.

Augustus Waters was a self-aggrandizing bastard. But we forgive him. We forgive him not because he had a heart as figuratively good as his literal one sucked, or because he knew more about how to hold a cigarette than any nonsmoker in history, or because he got eighteen years when he got eighteen years when he should have gotten more. Augustus talked so much he’d interrupt you at his own funeral. And he was pretentious: Sweet Jesus Christ, that kid never took a piss without pondering the abundant metaphorical resonances of human waste production. And he was vain: I do not believe I have ever met a more physically attractive person who was more acutely aware of his own physical attractiveness. But I will say this: When the scientists of the future show up at my house with robot eyes and they tell me to try them on, I will tell the scientists to screw off, because I do not want to see a world without him. And then, having made my rhetorical point, I will put my robot eyes on, because I mean, with robot eyes you can probably see through girls’ shirts and stuff. Augustus, my friend, Godspeed. – Isaac

I can’t talk about our love story, so I will talk about math. I am not a mathematician, but I know this: There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s 0.1 and 0.12 and 0.112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. A writer we used to like taught us that. There are days, many of them, when I resent the size of my unbounded set. I want more numbers than I’m likely to get, and God, I want more numbers for Augustus Waters than he got. But, Gus, my love, I cannot tell you how thankful I am for our little infinity. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. You gave me a forever within the numbered days, and I’m grateful. – Hazel

8 days after the pre-funeral, he passed away. Still, I was shattered. It was unbearable. His FB wall page were filled with condolences. I started reading them. I was angry as many of them did not know Augustus well and did not make an effort to keep in touch. You get all these friends just when you don’t need friends anymore. My parents held on to me for hours on end.

It was the funeral procession now. I walked up to his body. His eyes were closed. I placed a pack of cigarettes into the coffin. Peter was there and he graced the funeral. Without pain, we couldn’t know joy. Funerals, I had decided, are for the living. Someone started playing his favorite song. Initially, I didn’t want to continue attending the session because it felt like an ordinary funeral. However, my parents wanted me to show respects. Peter hitched a ride from our car. Peter van Houten continued drinking his whiskey. I thought the world only consists of two types of people: Peter van Houtens and my parents. I felt that I had already seen all pure and good in the world.

Omnis cellula e cellula: All cells come from cells. Every cell is born of a previous cell, which was born of a previous cell. Life comes from life. Life begets life begets life begets life begets life. – Peter van Houten

I visited Isaac’s house to play games with him. Isaac now talks to a computer with voice. I still couldn’t get over the death. Isaac mentioned something about the sequel to the book. I was hoping Augustus wrote it. I wanted to head over to his house. I was shocked when Peter was in my car. Peter wanted to apologize. Peter mentioned that I reminded him of Anna. ‘Pain is like fabric: The stronger it is, the more it is worth.’ Peter also lost a family member. He had a daughter who died from leukemia, like Anna. The book was all about her. He left. Augustus’ parents allowed me to search his computer. There was no trace of any sequel. I decided to leave after that.

But what we want is to be noticed by the universe, to have the universe give a shit what happens to us – not the collective idea of sentient life but each of us, as individuals. – John Green

Gus’ dad found a black notebook near the hospital bed. Unfortunately it was empty with the first few pages torn off. I headed to the support group next day. I started searching the place for the missing pages but couldn’t find anything. Isaac started chatting about love. I headed home and refused to eat dinner despite my mum trying to persuade me to. My mum was taking social work and was taking exams. She was keen on helping others in her line of work. My mum would be the new and better Patrick. My parents vowed to stay together no matter what. My dad wouldn’t be Peter van Houten.

Kaitlyn was on the phone. She suggested that Augustus might have mailed the missing pages to van Houten instead. I contacted his assistant for help. It was Bastille Day today. We headed to the park for a picnic. Later that day, I visited the cemetery to see Gus again. Peter’s assistant replied via email and there were 4 emails. Gus was obviously sick when he wrote the 4 letters. He wrote a eulogy for her. A lot of people want to be remembered at their death.

It occurred to me that voracious ambition of humans is never sated by dreams coming true, because there is always the thought that everything might be done better and again. – Hazel

The marks human leave are too often scars. You build a hideous minimall or start a coup or try to become a rock star and you think, “They’ll remember me now,” but (a) they don’t remember you, and (b) all you leave behind are more scars. Your coup becomes a dictatorship. Your minimall becomes a lesion. – Augustus

Hazel is different: She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the Earth. Hazel knows the truth: We’re as likely to hurt the universe as we are to help it, and we’re not likely to do either. People will say it’s sad that she leaves a lesser scar, that fewer remember her, that she was loved deeply but not widely. But it’s not sad, Van Houten. It’s triumphant. It’s heroic. Isn’t that the real heroism? Like the doctors say: First, do no harm. – Augustus

You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you. – Augustus