“Some hearts beat only about 412 million times, which might sound like a lot, but the truth is, it barely even gets you twelve years.” –The Truth About Jellyfish

My sister-in-law, also a #girlboss (slash pediatrician), gave me a fabulous read for Christmas. As the mother of an almost three-year-old boy. . . I find it hard to muster up the energy to read things (outside of working hours) that require more than his attention span (currently that of a bumble bee). Until I read The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin.

I’m going to tell you a story about a special person, whose heart only beat for thirty years. As anyone can tell you, I’m no mathematician. I just spent about 15 minutes on my iPhone calculator trying to figure out, based on that excerpt, how many beats would constitute thirty years. And I’m still not able to get it. Sidebar: My math teachers were awesome, I think they just gave up and said “Listen, how about I give you a passing grade if you just leave me alone and stop asking questions?”

His name was Daniel. And he was born with Proteus Syndrome. Don’t know what it is? Google it.

His sister Kathleen and his cousin Amelia lived with me in college. So in a sense, Daniel felt like an extended part of my family. The thing about Daniel and his crew is that they treat you like family even if you aren’t. As Kathleen once said, “Listen I hate to break it to you, but there’s nothing you can do that will make me stop loving and caring about you. I might get mad at you, but we’re family and families don’t give up on each other. No matter how hard it gets.” As all college girls/roommates do, we had our ups and downs. And as all friends do, we have had our near years and our far years. But ultimately there’s a string, a common thread, that ties us all together. A little thing called love.

Daniel died the other week, after thirty years of changing lives like it was no big deal (which, in fact, it was a very big deal the way he changed people’s lives, for the record). . . And hitting well over the century mark in numbers of surgeries.

As I woke up at 3am to drive to Savannah for his funeral, and to be there for my “extended family,” all I could do was reflect, contemplate, and question what it all means.

And here are my top five things that I think we all need to keep in mind as women in the workplace, mothers, sisters, daughters, friends, you name it.

1.) You only get so many minutes in the hour, hours in the day, days in the week, weeks in the year, and years in your life. You better spend them wisely. Is it worth it to allow negativity into your life? Or is it better to let love permeate? Is it better to live a life ruled by competition than one guided by kindness and treating others how you’d want to be treated?

2.) The people in your life are there for a reason. You might not understand why. But every person is put into your life to teach you something about what it means to live. You might as well go ahead and accept this fact. Love one another. Live a life that radiates positivity, and refuse to engage in anything that doesn’t put good out there.

3.) Find your tribe, and love them hard. And though not everyone can be there for every tribe member every minute of every day, at least try to be there when the going gets tough. You don’t need a big tribe. Just the right people in it.

4.) Joy: sprinkle that stuff everywhere like it’s confetti on your birthday (or a random Friday). Because life is brief, and happiness matters.

5.) “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” – Muhammad Ali

Young adult literature is easy to read. For the young and young-at-heart, and all those in between who find themselves with less time on their hands to read than desired, I encourage you to pick up this book. It’s a good one.

And Daniel, thank you for the life you lived. You taught us all about what it means to persevere, and to live life to the fullest.

To find out how you can help with Proteus Syndrome, click here. For Daniel.