I'm a slow reader.
This is something I need to be very open about early on to properly set the scene here.
I'm a slow reader for many reasons. One, I never learned the trick of speed reading. Two, I like to try to understand what I'm reading, even if it means reading and re-reading multiple times. Three, besides reading the news online (constantly), I don't read that much, period.
But there's something else you should know about me. I don't shy away from a challenge. When I'm determined to accomplish something, I see it through. And when I get obsessed with something, I can get really obsessed.
With that in mind, let me tell you about the state of my life in March 2012, when I began a project that I'd argue dramatically changed my life, for the better.
Things weren't going so well. I wasn't happy. Sparing you of the boring details, I was posting Facebook status updates like this:
"When life gives you lemons, make lemonades. When you go through tough times, have faith things will get better. Never dwell on the past; instead, look to the future. Thank you family and friends for being there for me."
Nice words, yes, but those who know me well picked up on the fact (rightly) things weren't quite right in my life.
I felt I needed a shake-up in my life. And that's what happened. I decided to make a career change, abruptly leaving my job at NBC News, and coming back to where I was happy in a prior phase of my life, The Huffington Post (thanks for allowing me back!).
It was risky. For one thing, you're not supposed to leave a job after just three months. It was a period of transition. And with that transition, I wanted God to be with me.
So, I started reading the Bible. This is something I had tried to do many times before. I was raised Catholic, but I could never find myself to read the whole thing; it's just so long, and I'm a slow reader.
But I felt my life was in a potentially perilous situation. What if going back to HuffPost didn't work out like I hoped it would? I turned to prayer. And I told myself I'd read the whole Bible for 100 days. Easy enough with technology -- I could track 1 percent of the Bible read per day through iBooks on my iPad. I decided to tell the world and update my progress each day with a Tumblr, so others could hold me accountable if they saw I stopped posting (I never did stop).
What Happened Next
Now, say what you will, whether you're religious or not, but I'm happy to report that those trying times, and stormy clouds, quickly evaporated as I started reading the Bible. I began reading Genesis during my last week at NBC News. My first day back at HuffPost shortly thereafter was amazing. I felt so welcome and truly at home again.
In between, I had the opportunity to take a rare vacation, as I never took time off when I started at NBC News. During the trip, I met a girl on a train who made me smile and exchanged notes with her. (Nothing came of that for those hoping for a more romantic story, she had a boyfriend, but at the time it gave me a nice lift in spirits.)
Then, when I got to Chicago, I somehow landed a front-row seat, at the last minute, to a hockey game against Blackhawks rival the Vancouver Canucks. (Hockey is my favorite sport. Vancouver is my second favorite team to my hometown Buffalo Sabres. Vancouver scored less than 30 seconds into the game, on my side of the ice. It was a thrill, captured on video.)
Back in New York, one April day, I was walking down Broadway, and one of my favorite players growing up (former Yankee) Bernie Williams was there meeting people, and I got to meet him. Days later, actress Jenna Fischer (Pam on The Office) favorited one of my tweets after I had the chance to see her husband speak in the flesh on their new movie. Days later, someone direct messaged me on Twitter out of the blue and asked if I wanted to go to a Yankees game and meet Yankees catcher Russell Martin. Do I? To top it all off, he personally drove me to Manhattan after the game from Yankee Stadium.
These things just don't happen. You need to have some serious luck. Or somebody upstairs looking out for you (you never know, right?).
Reading the Bible daily on my iPad was becoming so immersed in my mind, body, spirit and part of my routine that at times, I physically wanted to kneel on the subway in prayer as I read on the commute to and from work. I never did that, but I did find a routine of standing all the time as I read, and balancing myself without holding onto anything. I'm not sure why, it just became a thing. Perhaps it wasn't just physically balancing myself but a sense of being spiritually and mentally balanced as I read too; it was refreshing.
Nearly everything around me seemed to take on great meaning, spiritual meaning. I'm not sure if I was overthinking things, going crazy, or something was really happening. For example, this random chair showed up one evening on the subway as I was reading the Bible. I had never seen that before! Was it a spirit of some kind? My deceased grandfather? God? I thought a lot about things like that.
Another subway encounter: A woman gave me a ping pong ball eye ball. An image and story you need to see to believe, documented here. It had "Always believe in angels" written on it. Needless to say, that one got me thinking.
More good things happened.
I went for a walk one day and somehow got this photo of the Verrazano Bridge in New York.
I got to witness a beautiful First Holy Communion ceremony that reminded me of my childhood (not even realizing I was about to attend one, just stumbling on it).
I don't know, it's the little things in life; and these things were much more visible to me than usual.
I was also more adventurous, willing to experiment more than usual.
Well known as a picky eater, I tried sushi for the first time in my life in April.
Weeks later, I did it again.
I started smiling as I walked around the city (who does that?). I got weird looks.
During these past 100 days, my dad randomly found a deal online for a trip to Ireland, a trip for one, from NYC. Knowing it's a lifelong dream of mine, he emailed it to me. I said OK, wow, this is meant to be, and after some research (yep, this was legit) booked the trip.
I took a DNA test and another dream of mine -- literally one of my biggest dreams of the past 10 years (genealogy's a big hobby of mine) -- I found a living relative with my last name, living in Ireland today. For context, most Irish records have burned in fires so it's nearly impossible to find family there. I knew DNA was my one hope. It so happened a relative took the test too and I found him. I hope to meet him when I go to Ireland in the fall.
My New Worldview & Giving Back
I started realizing my view on life was changing, ever so slightly, and as all these good things happened, I was thinking, wait, really? Why? And what do I have to do in return?
I was becoming more spiritual, more reflective. I pondered the meaning of life more. I wrote a post on the importance of being humble and humility and constantly asked myself during these past 100 days how can I help others more, do more for others?
I made sure to block out more of my time that was usually for myself for others. I spoke with countless students and young professionals these last few months, including a few journalism classes, heard their stories and shared advice. I've talked with folks on the phone, helped strangers around the city (specifically looking for those who seemed in need, confused or just looking to chat) and helped strangers online too.
I surprised my family last-minute by coming home for Memorial Day Weekend. We went to an amusement park like old times.
Now a lot of these experiences are experiences I'd argue I'll never forget. Especially being such a transitional part of my life. (We've all been there, right? The mid-20s, what am I doing with my life?)
And the words I read in the Bible were so strong, so meaningful, and they spoke so loudly to me that they seemed to jump off the page. There were many "aha" moments, epiphanies of sorts. Feelings of, YES, I've felt this way before, or YES, I can relate with my own life. The fact that a book so many hundreds of years old can speak to someone like that in this modern world is really amazing, in my opinion.
I just want to thank God for somehow giving me this idea to read the Bible, cover to cover. It made me reflect a ton, learn a ton and I absolutely feel more spiritual, and more happy. As I've said, I also have strived to put myself secondary to the happiness of others, especially now that I'm happy myself.
I'm on a mission now. Because even though these 100 days are now in the past, I can still carry out all that I've read. This Tumblr, with the 100 verses that spoke most loudly to me (one for each 1 percent of The Bible), is something I can constantly refer back to for words of wisdom that I can apply to my life every day to be a better man and a better human being. In fact, I'm going to put them into the physical world in the next few days, either print them out or write them all out on poster board, so I can see them all together every day in a prominent spot where I live.
Whether you're religious or not, this is what I experienced reading the Bible for the past 100 days. I struggled many times with this wrap-up post. But this is what I experienced. And say what you want, but I kind of feel it's a modern miracle my life has turned around the way it has. I'm feeling so much better and I now have meaning in my life, a clear mission as I said. This is what I sought out for when I started this project. I couldn't ask for anything more.
As the Book of Revelation (the last book I read and for that reason most on my mind today, Day 100 of this project) says, we'll never know what hour this world will end. But it will end. It's an important perspective, everything we know in this world will come to pass. It's why I want to live every day to its fullest, and continue to practice what I've learned these past 100 days in my daily life. I hope you'll consider reading the Bible too, and maybe you'll experience similar feelings with an open mind.
Below are 25 verses from the Bible that inspired me the most: