Mind your MIBs: What almost dying taught me about appreciating the little things

Written and illustrated by Josh Martin.

In the game of marbles, you’ve got your mibs and you’ve got your taws.

The mibs are your small, everyday marbles that fill your playing area …

… while your taw is the larger, fancy-schmancy marble you use as your shooter.

And although players tend to prize the big taws in their collection, I think it’s important to appreciate those little mibs too. It’s a good lesson for outside the marble ring as well—and one I was reminded of back in January of 2008. 

You see, that’s when I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia.

I was 27 years old and cancer was the last thing on my mind. The doctors told me I would need many rounds of heavy-duty chemotherapy, radiation and ultimately a bone marrow transplant… And that I had a 40 to 50 per cent chance of surviving.

So that sucked.

However, I was determined to do everything I could to beat this thing. And for me, it started with a list.

During one of my first nights at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, I pulled out the journal my friend Rachael had given me. And at the top of a new page, I wrote the words:


I then proceeded to write anything and everything that came to mind about what made life so awesome and so worth fighting for. Before I knew it, I had a list that was 118 items long.

Looking back at my list, there’s a number of things that stick out. The people in my life certainly made a strong appearance—my parents, brothers, sisters, friends, cousins, aunts, uncles.

But the list was also jam-packed with life’s little simple pleasures and experiential riches. Things like:

Lying on what could very well have been my deathbed, I wasn’t worried I’d miss out on getting a bigger house, fatter paycheque or sexier job title. I wanted to live so I could continue to enjoy
life’s little, everyday awesomeness with the people I loved.

My near-death revelation is hardly a new idea. Philosophers and world religions have long touted the virtues of living in the moment and appreciating the little things.

But in our milestone-obsessed society, we tend to look to achievements down the road for fulfillment.

I’ll be happy when I’m married… when I’m making $80k… when I have a thousand followers on Twitter. We become so preoccupied with the destination that we lose sight of the amazing little things along the way.

And don’t get me wrong: those big marbles—the taws in our life—are important. Goals, achievements and milestones inspire us to be better, to try harder, to reach new heights.

But as my list reminded me, as great as accomplishments are, there’s tremendous satisfaction to be found in the little MIBs: the Moments In Between.

I’m happy to report that my treatment was a success and I’m now completely cancer-free. Going through leukemia was a gruelling journey, but an enlightening one as well.

It taught me to not pin my hopes for happiness on far-off or one-off accomplishments. It reminded me to live in the moment and helped me embrace the everyday awesome.

Whether it’s sunrises (#78 on my list) …

sandwiches (#99) …

Or even a good fart (#58).

In short, it taught me to mind my MIBs.

Click here to check out the video version of this story.

Josh Martin
Chief Adventure Officer (yes, I made that up)
Josh Martin is the founder and chief blogger at Badge of Awesome. He lives in southwestern Ontario, Canada and is the author of "Misadventure Musings: Lessons learned from life's awesome and absurd moments" and "Going on a Bear Hunt: Five things cancer taught me about overcoming obstacles."

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