When Breath Becomes Air had been on my TBR list for a long time but I could never bring myself to actually go buy a copy and then get about to reading it. The simple reason was that everyone I know who has read the book had reviewed it saying that it is a melancholy book and one has to be in a certain kind of mind frame to make sense of the story and not go down the depression route.
Now I am not taking depression lightly but that was not something I planned to head to. I am one of those people who try to look for a positive in almost everything. The silver lining, you may call it. I just could not fathom why would people knowingly do something that they know will bring them emotional pain (that’s another debate that we will get to maybe later).
Then one day, Rahul mentioned that When Breath Becomes Air is one of his favorite books and he’d gift to anyone and everyone who would read it. I mentioned that it has been on my TBR for a long time and voila! He gifted it to me somewhere around my Birthday (yes, I am treating it as a birthday gift).
And thus started the journey with Paul Kalanithi.
I was expecting it to be a melancholy story from the beginning but to my utter surprise, it wasn’t so.
I know it is an autobiography but I will call it a story because I think that is the way it has been worded so that people can relate more to it.
The story starts with a boy who has questions and he seeks answers to them. He made me look back to the time when I was that age and wondered about many different things. Though the story had nothing to do with me, it was nostalgic in a sense. Nostalgia that was infused with fulfillment.
It further went on to show how life progresses and how plans are re-planned as the world does not revolve around one individual. It talked about how finding meaning to one’s life is an ongoing process rather than something done just once. It is an ongoing process because the changes as a person changes with the experiences he and she has had.
It talks about how dreams and goals can be stagnant. It talks about how one can be passionate about one thing all their life and then suddenly that fire is extinguished to burn a candle of another dream. One may hold on to the cherished experience that was once one’s life but it does not do to hold on to what was and what could have been when the future is a canvas (irrespective of the canvas) that can still be painted in many new different ways. Ways one explores himself or herself.
This cannot be taken as a spoiler as everyone who has picked the book up or will pick it up knows that Paul Kalanithi died of Cancer. The books he wrote so people know what it is like to be on either side of the table when it comes to cancer or doctor-patient relationship, he also leaves people with hope.
He lets people see that his life may have been cut short but he did not give up. Not even when death was standing right beside him.
In my opinion, that is the message one must take from Paul’s (I am using the first name because after reading the book I feel close to him) story.
Do not lose yourself.
I am glad I am ending the book with a 5 star read.