May 17, 2018

“Be grateful for what you have.”

It's such a simple concept, yet I’ve always understood it at such an abstract level. Until now.

In the past six months, I’ve moved, started a new job, and, overall, have changed my lifestyle quite a bit. Real talk, though, I didn’t (fully) feel the positive effects of all this change until about six weeks ago. I truly feel grateful and peaceful every. damn. day. And I have Samantha Allen to thank for that.

Sami was a beautiful soul, 29 years young.

She battled a rare type of cancer on and off for the past decade. Luckily, she was consistently healthy for years at a time, which allowed her to do incredible, superhero-style things on this planet.

For example: Every single day, no matter how terrible of a day, Sami’s alarm went off at 8 p.m., prompting her to say something she was grateful for.


Sami suffered so much and in a very rapid period of time—losing the ability to swallow, to speak, and ultimately, to walk. Despite each major function that she lost, she still did this gratitude exercise every. damn. day. She still identified something, the simplest thing, that brought her joy at 8 p.m. each night.

Sami lost her battle two months ago, a major loss to so many people. Even for someone like me, who knew her distantly, her story was heart wrenching. How could a young, carefree, beautiful, yoga, and sun-loving girl get as sick as she did? Even moreso, how the hell did she handle it all so peacefully??

Gratitude. That’s how.

Sami accepted her circumstances the way they were.

That did not mean she felt they were fair. She just understood at a deep level that there are things in this life that we cannot control. The more we appreciate exactly where we are and exactly how it is, the more peaceful we can feel inside.

The more we appreciate exactly where we are and exactly how it is, the more peaceful we can feel inside.

By accepting her incredibly unfortunate fate, Sami turned the baddest of the bad into the most beautiful experience possible for her family, close friends, and the thousands of strangers who followed her journey. She truly started a movement. She has affected my way of being and that of so many others.

It is super easy to be grateful when you just left a nice dinner with your family. And trying to be grateful when you tack on that extra beach day and call out of work? Done and done. Please, do not stop feeling grateful for these things.

“Try being grateful when you hit your head.”

These words, spoken by Sami’s cousin in a eulogy, really helped connect the dots for me. When your day is absolute crap, try to say thank you anyway.

When your boss is breathing down your neck, be grateful that your job pays for the apartment that you love to come home to.

When you’re freezing your tush off waiting for a cab, be grateful that winter is coming to an end. Be grateful that you rested so much more than you would have if it were summer. And if and when things get really dark and you’re truly suffering, I promise you can find one thing to be grateful for.

When your day is absolute crap, try to say thank you anyway.

I’ve been wanting to write about this ever since Sami passed and I started feeling the impact of the 8 p.m. alarm move. Something that went down this past weekend inspired me to finally get pen to paper (aka thumbs to iPhone).

I was lucky enough to celebrate my beautiful friend’s bachelorette party over the weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona. I decided to extend my stay to get one more pool day in. My day did not go as planned.

While the sun was at its peak, I wasn't basking in its warm rays. Instead, I was at the police station. My wallet was stolen at the hotel pool. A man strolled in while the gate was left open and ran off with my stuff. Thankfully, the police caught him pretty quickly and my wallet was returned.

There are so many what ifs here: What if my lovely bride2be was still there and had to end her magical weekend on such a low? What if they didn’t catch him and I couldn’t get home to New York because my ID was gone? What if he was dangerous?

Life is so precious and so much bigger than our day-to-day stuff. But for most of us, that is so hard to remember.

So here’s how to remember:

Set a daily alarm for 8 p.m. Label it “gratitude reminder."

As I wrote this last night, my gratitude alarm was buzzing. I felt grateful that I was safe and sound in my apartment and that I have this platform to share my (aka Sami’s) message with you. I hope you feel more and more grateful every day.

This article originally appeared on Medium.

Read next: How Gratitude Motivates Us to Tackle Our Goals)