After 5 years as Cabin Crew: nothing is hard if you have your wings

Lili worked for 5 years as Cabin Crew for Etihad Airways. She left the company when she was pregnant with her first child, but she has flying deep in her blood. For her “nothing is hard for those who got their wings”. Lili is brave, she followed her dream and started working for Etihad Airways in 2008, when there weren’t so many information about this company in the Middle East.

I was so excited to hear her story as it radiates passion and dedication. Nevertheless, Lili is a beautiful soul, a former amazing cabin crew.

How did you start flying? Tell us about your first encounter with aviation

Dear Anca, through this interview I hope to inspire young people to fly, to chase their dreams and do things with passion. I got to fly because that was my faith. I didn’t choose this job, this job chose me. I never thought that one day I will do this or that I will arrive that far, I think I didn’t allow myself dreaming so far. But then I got my wings and I learned to fly. I simply applied to all the jobs I thought were interesting, even for those abroad and one day I woke up with a phone call from a recruiting agency who offered me the possibility to attend an interview with an airline company from UAE. (I hadn’t even heard of this country.) Normally, I would have ignored such an invitation, because I was called to go in another city to attend the interview. I was 27 years old and I wanted to leave the country, to see how the world is. I succeeded the second time, therefore in august 2008 I arrived in Abu Dhabi. It was a whole different world, at first it was hard to accommodate with such high temperatures, but I had the luck to know someone from my hometown who made the accomodation easier. We are still very good friends till this day, and she is my connection with UAE and with the job among the clouds. I had 2 months of intensive training. We had courses till the afternoon, we arrived home at midnight and the next day we woke up in the morning to study and at 11 am we were going again back to the academy. It seemed liked my dreem job fit me like a glove. And it was exactly like that. I graduated with high grades at Safety and it was my strong point along my career

You worked 5 years for Etihad Airways. How was your first flight? Where did you fly?

The first flight was extremely difficult, I was supposed to be an Observer during the flight, but I had to work exactly the same as the others in order to satisfy all the passengers requests, it was a very interesting experience for me. The flight was full, on a small airplane (A320). I must say that even before knowing about this job, I was passionate about the shows on National Geographic related to airplanes (Aircraft Investigations, Disasters in air). There may be a destiny, right?

How was a day for an Etihad Airways flight attendant?

A flying day was a real ritual, because it meant the same make-up, the same hair style, same uniform and a Briefing before each flight. After this, you will walk proudly with the whole crew under the starring eyes of the passengers. The flights were mostly tiring, but everything was fine as long as the crew knew how to communicate and work in a team.  If this didn’t happen, the flight would be a failure, but each flight is a lesson. This job/world taught me to be grateful (for the fact that I was born in Romania and I had the chance to have an education, for the fact that I knew 4 seasons, and so on.), I learned to be the best, to be patient, to respect different cultures, to accept that we are all what we are.

Tell us a funny story of one of your flights.

Hmm, there were so many. I remember on the second flight as an Observer when my colleagues along with the Captain tried to prank me. Ah, a whole flight laughed when the copilot forgot to deactivate “PA” (public announcement) and all the passengers heard their private conversation after landing.

Have you ever encountered an emergency situation? How did you react?

Fortunate, I haven’t had serious incidents in my 5 years as Cabin Crew. I once had a gentleman who fell in a deep sleep and his wife thought he died. In this kind of situations most important it is to remain calm, to talk with your passengers and to ask the help of your colleagues. In general, I am a strong person, I don’t panic and I manage to deal calmly with this kind of situations and to be useful when needed.

Which was one of the great satisfactions that this job offered you?

Seeing happy people: that hand shake when they left the airplane, that “thank you” in their language, the joy of offering a smile. And not least, the joy of seeing and living for a short period of time in all those places I had the privilege to arrive to.

What will be the disadvantages of this job?

Oh, the minuses…yes, they are plenty. Seen from outside, it is a wonderful job, and nobody knows what it truly means. It involves a lot of physical work, not only mentally, it is about working long hours, taking care of people, washing toilets if necessary, cleaning vomit and the list goes on. The idea is that from the moment you arrived in the airplane till landing, the airplane is your home, and from the moment the doors are closed till opening you are there for anything that the passengers need and trust me a lot can happen: babies can be born, people could die, accidents can happen, and so on.

Do you miss flying? How is your life now? What plans you have in the future?

Yes, I miss it, even if I don’t have time to think about it and my baby girl is offering me all the joy and satisfaction I need. I was still working for Etihad Airways when I got pregnant (I had a long distance relationship with my husband, he was in Romania, and Lia happened on one of our escapades in Istanbul). I flew for 2 more months with her in my belly and my last flight was the longest one. What can I say? It was an amazing experience, I will always say that, I am glad I had this opportunity. If I had another age when I left,  I would have arrived far… I left from a FJ position (First and Business Class Attendant), and I was about to become Cabin Senior, but I didn’t had the opportunity. I have a tattoo “Alis Grave nil” (Nothing is hard for those who have their wings)

Best regards,

Lili.

Prepare yourself for the upcoming interviews with the big airline companies. Attend one of our How to be Cabin Crew courses and make a step  towards your dream. Details and registration here.

Three major airlines, one single flight attendant: Antonia’s story

Antonia Talianu is one of the flight attendants who amazed us with their life stories. Now 32, she is a graduate of the Faculty of Journalism and Mass Communication, at University of Bucharest. Seven years have passed since Antonia went to Middle East to make a dream come true. Although it sounds like a cliché, she always wished to fly. At the early age of 15, she got a job that could allow her to travel, doing it whenever possible. Antonia told us how life as a flight attendant gave her freedom in many ways, from the way of thinking to the financial leeway. In a few months, she will become a mother, accomplishing her dream of having her own family too.

Oman Air, Etihad Airways, and Emirates Airline – an impressive chain of Gulf carriers for which you have worked. How did you find out about the interviews and how were they conducted?

To be sincere, at that time, you could gain access to more information only after getting hired by a Gulf airline. Unlike now, when there are so many forums, Facebook pages, or even personal development and professional counseling programs. I have found out about Oman Air from a job offers website. After applying, I was invited to a hotel, together with other 500 girls. It was the first time Oman Air was coming to Romania. The interview process took three days, and with each day passing, we were fewer and fewer. Eventually, 20 girls were chosen, but it was only me and a girl from Piteşti who had the courage to embark to Oman.

For Etihad Airways I’ve applied while I was already flying for Oman Air. I wanted a change, to really see the world, as Etihad Airways had many more destinations. The interview was quite difficult. I flew 45 minutes from Oman to Abu Dhabi. When I arrived at the Etihad head office, I noticed there were not more than 1000 girls who had come for the Assessment Day from all over the world. We started talking and I had around me there girls coming from America, Australia and even Venezuela. Some of them looked like real supermodels. The interview wasn’t different from that of Oman Air. It was a tough selection, lasting one day. We had no time to waste, but only to stay focused. At six o’clock that evening, we were 20 girls and boys waiting for the face-to-face interview. After that, I returned to Muscat, back to my work. In two weeks, I received my visa through an email, together with my air ticket.

Emirates, I have to admit, was my last attempt to live in the Middle East. As a First and Business Class Lounge Supervisor, I wasn’t flying anymore. They contacted me after finding my profile on a website, so that it wasn’t necessary for me to apply. At first I thought it was a joke made by my friends from Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways being the only airline offering low-fare tickets not only for family, but also for friends. What followed was a Skype interview. After two days, they invited me to a face-to-face interview, sending me an air ticket, the visa and the hotel reservation. Out of the ten Romanian women coming in Dubai for the interview, I was the only one successful. After two weeks, I moved into a studio and started the training.

How long did you work for each airline and how were you promoted?

Oman Air is the airline of my soul. It was there where I have learned everything about culture, religion, mentality and behaviour. I have lived there for three and a half years. But I can honestly say it was thanks to Etihad that I become more mature. They are stricter, but also more respectful. I have been working there for one year and a half. Lastly, Emirates seemed incredibly relaxing to me; I was a different person then, more mature and with some experience behind. Besides, I used to work four days and have the next four days for rest.

At that time, Oman Air didn’t have its own system of promotion. After three tiring months of turnaround flights on a Boeing 737, I have shifted to Airbus 330, which meant flights to Europe and layovers, finally. It was the period when Oman Air was purchasing bigger airplanes, starting its flights to Europe.

Etihad Airways is an airline that cares for your personal development. So after six months, I applied and received the Cabin Senior role, being in charge of the whole Economy Class. My wide experience with Oman surely had a say on it.

In case of Emirates, it is not easy to get promoted, being a ground employee, even already a supervisor. In order to reach the next level, you must speak Arabic. Although I speak, write and read in five different languages, it did not make any difference.

For which one of the airlines did you most enjoy working and why?

I have most enjoyed working for Oman Air, as I had the chance to acquire everything step-by-step. The Omani people are extraordinarily friendly. That is why I have stayed there for three and a half years, starting from the Economy Class and after three months progressing to the premium classes. Wage differences weren’t too big between classes, but this was my opportunity to deal and interact with high society and royalty.

What was your favourite destination and why?

My favourite destination will always be London. I like to call this city “the country with all countries”. In my opinion, like any other big city, London makes it possible for you to experience different cultures, nationalities and various foods. I have long been fascinated by London. From Etihad I received the chance to visit it very often, through the monthly flight schedule which is built on your level of speaking a certain language.

What were your day off activities while living in Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai?

In Muscat you don’t have many possibilities, except clubbing and exploring Oman. I have been hiking, visited oases, slept in a Bedouin tent in the peaceful desert and also found a family, with whom I still keep in touch, even now, after seven years. As for Abu Dhabi, there is a beach and entertainment everywhere; moreover, your cabin crew ID card lets you join all of the clubs and exclusive parties in town. About Dubai, I could say it was made for partying; but, as I had already experienced it, I preferred instead going to the beach or escaping everywhere around the globe for four days.

How would you describe your flight attendant experience at Oman Air?

My experience at Oman Air gave me the confidence I needed to get through all the interviews. I have always felt confident in my knowledge gained there, as well as in my life experience. My advice to both my friends and others who just look at my photos will always be to leave for the Middle East. What you learn there compares to nothing. Some of my happiest moments were those when I was taking by the hand a passenger afraid of flying, saved a life on board, and made someone smile through a small gesture. I could also improvise a vegan menu for someone who couldn’t have meal. I consider it the only possible way to resist tiredness and time zone changes.

Why did you give up flying?

There comes a time in life when you realize you want something else. Personally, I gave up flying because I was dreaming to have my own family and I didn’t want to lose any time. I have seen the world and spent all of my holidays in America, exploring each state one by one. My passport is out of blank pages for visa stamps. I had the opportunity to live an extraordinary life, filled with experiences and lots of things to learn.

How did you feel during your last flight?

This question makes me smile. My first and last flight had been both to Beirut. My colleagues used to nickname me “Dubai – Beirut”, which represented Oman Air’s longest flight; I was flying there at least four or five times a month. So I ended my flight attendant career with a last flight from Abu Dhabi to Beirut. They called me while I was at my base, in home standby, packing to come back home to Romania. I was on call until the very last moment.

How’s life in London, now that you are done with aviation?

Life is what you make it. In London, you have freedom and opportunities to do whatever you want. I don’t work in the aviation field anymore, but as an assistant building manager in an office building, I still get to meet pleasant people of many nationalities. The difference is not so significant, except now I am always on the ground, working from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and having my weekend free.

You can prepare for the upcoming interviews by attending our two day intensive training in Rome. Find more information about the course here. 

10 things I learned while being a flight attendant for 10 years.

I spent 10 years and a half of my life among the clouds. Being a cabin crew for Qatar Airways, I spent 12.000 hours in the company’s uniform and I visited 209 cities. Those were the most beautiful years in my life, the years in which I learned so much and made me the person I am today.

These are 10 life lessons that I learned during my carrier:

  1. The flight was my confident

My destiny was to do what I wanted, meaning to travel the world back and forth. Firstly, I learned to find my inner peace and to fulfill my adventurous thoughts. For me, flying transformed into my confident, becoming an inseparable asset in my daily life.

  1. I surpassed myself

I searched to reach a certain ideal model, although I have been told that the ideal model exists only in our imagination. I tried to reach the 5* standard that was imposed by the airline company, learning to surpass myself every time. From being a simple flight attendant, after 5 years I became Cabin Manager and after only 1 year I reached the highest step, being Cabin Service Director on board at Airbus and Boeing airplane, finishing by becoming the one thing that I wished, being a trainer.

  1. I learned to be strong and independent

As a flight attendant I learned to be a very strong person and also independent, easily adaptable and holding my destiny in my hands. Many times people told me, till the moment they actually spoken to me, that I seemed unapproachable, full of mystery, but they changed their thoughts after they saw that I am actually an open-minded person with a complex personality. In fact that’s how I liked to be in an airplane: humorous actress, confident, who played the role of a doctor, chef, bartender or firefighter, with grace, delicacy and naturalness.

  1. I learned to always smile

The most important advantage of a cabin crew is the smile! I figured out that everything I do on board, by putting a big smile I increase its value. My attitude has changed completely when I was smiling and it was easy to work in team.

  1. I learned to take care of myself

As a flight attendant, image means everything. All eyes are always looking at you, even if you are on board or in the airport. I learned to always take care of myself, to pay attention to my image, for my respect and also for the company that I was representing. I wore with dignity my uniform, and because of it, my confidence increased considerably as the years passed by.

  1. I learned to anticipate

During my career I observed how passengers always appreciated when I anticipated their wishes, investigating us, with curiosity, with which magic we read their minds. Therefore, studying each character on the flight to different places of the world, I learned to read minds even before boarding and anticipate some of their needs.

  1. Safety is the most important thing

From my trainers I learned that safety is the most important thing: my safety, the cabin crew’s and then the passenger’s one (especially in this order). I always followed safety procedures exactly as we were instructed, preferring to make a short service on board, instead of putting my colleagues or passengers in danger.

  1. Discipline, order, punctuality

As a cabin crew member I learned that discipline, punctuality and order are the qualities you need to have from the start, otherwise you will not resist in this world.

  1. There is no room for NO in a flight attendant vocabulary

I learned from my Service on board instructors that working in team it’s in fact an activity to get to know your colleagues in order to make your guests on board pleased when they arrive at the final destination. A service is considered excellent when we succeed to not use negative expressions and the word NO is missing from our vocabulary.

  1. Homesickness will never disappear

As cabin crew, I learned that flying can’t cure only one thing: missing your family, your home and Romania (in what concerns me!). At one moment, somebody said to me that the cities from the Middle East are like train stations in transit, in which different persons are going up and down, but in which the majority comes back to the origin station. The life that I build for myself for over a decay in my black Delsey suitcase of the company was a happy one, but which kept me away from my family. In 10 years as cabin crew I always had close to me old and new friends, lovers, but nothing could replace my family and our own traditional holidays spent home.

You can prepare for the upcoming interviews by attending our two day intensive training in Rome on 9-10 July. Find more information about the course here. 

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The Flight Attendant That Had As Passengers Madonna and Ford Coppola

If you cross path with her, you are sure to look back again. Great hair, long legs, an enviable waist. When I first met her, she was wearing a grey suit, high heeled ankle boots and red leather gloves. In short, she was appealing to the eye. Our students gazed at her and couldn’t take their eyes away. From the moment I laid my eyes on her, the sparkle in her eyes vanquished me, and the way she firmly shook my hand, made me understand that in front of me was a strong and very determined person. Later on, while hearing her speaking to our students, telling them about her career in the aviation, I realized that I was right. I was pleased to discover Nadia to be a wonderful woman, the kind you would like to meet every day: hard-working, ambitious, modest, that didn’t forget her roots and continues to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. Nadia made quite an impression on me from our first meeting, so, when opportunity for an interview arose, I did not hesitate.

Nadia Pamfile has been a flight attendant for the private aviation for 9 years. Luckily, immediately after graduating the Aviation School, she went to an interview, successfully passed all the tests and fulfil her childhood dream: to be among the clouds. The beginning was hard, as her parents never wanted her to pursue such a career and Aviation School costs exceeded by far her budget. So, she worked hard, struggled even more and was finally able to raise the money. She kept all this a secret, never telling her parents about her plans. Until one day, when one of her father’s friends spotted her on the hallways of the Aviation School. And that was the end for Nadia’s secret but her beautiful career has made even her parents change their opinion regarding aviation.

One meeting was enough for our students to get irremediably high on her. For as long as she spoke, they drank her every word, and paid attention to all of her gestures and pieces of advice. Nadia spoke from the heart, put her soul on the table and told them both the highs and lows of such a career. I was impressed with her modesty, her ” motherly” tips given to the students, the way  she chose to paint this job and the simple human she chose to remain, after 9 years of flying and interacting with extremely important and influential people (such as politicians or businessmen).

“I followed my dream with all my heart”

1. Why a flight attendant and not any other job?

I had a big dream that I simply followed it with all my heart. As a child, when I was about 11 or 12, a lady-friend of my mother’s, a Romanian married to a German, living abroad for a long time, used to visit us. She was a flight attendant in Germany and was a lady in every sense of the word. Calm, fine, stylish, kind, a beautiful woman inside-out. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. And to see the world. Without knowing, this woman has influenced my entire life. But it was somehow also “the hand of fate”, because along the way I always felt the positive vibration and support of the Universe.

2. How were your beginnings?

As I already told you Anca, “I pursued my dream with all my heart” I reflected, did some research, worked, put aside every penny and had the exam at The Aviation Academy of Bucharest. I passed the medical and theoretical tests, after succeeding, I  was grateful and hungry for knowledge at all courses, and soon became head of my group. And two weeks after my graduation, following the advice of a colleague, I went to an interview like a babe in the woods, without knowing much about the company itself and what it meant exactly. But I had the chance to be selected and in a couple of months’ time I started to fly. This is the story in short.

Oh my God … I do not know when nine years flew. Time flies and I fly with it. I was again, as at the Academy, eager to know, curious in the positive sense of the word and always very grateful for everything that was happening to me. A feeling I still preserve, moreover, has grown significantly. I had the chance to learn from valuable people. Even today, I am glad to meet every new colleague that I get to learn interesting things from, be it connected to the job or not. I appreciated, and still do, every person met, every event, employment or place visited. And I may say it from the heart that I rarely felt I was working.

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3. What did your parents say when you told them you wanted to work “among the clouds”?

Dear God, a more definitely “NO” couldn’t have been said. My parents are ordinary people who at that time only saw in this job a huge risk. Things have still not changed much :). Out of too much love and the urge for protection, our parents are sometimes taking the risk of putting an end to our dreams. I am glad I didn’t give up. And my dream never lost its intensity. Today I know that, whatever my child decides to do, it will be his decision and he will get all the support he will need from me.

4. How was your first flight on the job?

  Stunning and uplifting. Obviously, I have not slept all night, and the day after, a lot of questions were running through my mind. Although I was a school graduate, it was all very new and different. But things unfolded smoothly, without any incidents and soon, the very first day I might say, it all became natural, part of my life. I will never forget that my first flight was Bucharest – Venice (a two-nights stay) – Cairo – Bucharest, and while in Venice, my parents came to see me because it was close to where they live. It was a very touching moment, especially since my family did not believe even for a moment that I will fulfil my dream. Maybe this too constituted a motivation.

5. Tell us a cheerful cabin story.

Oh, there are so many, some are funny, others touching or heart-melting and some others scary. I would not know which one to tell first. You do realize that funny things happen everywhere, in every field, why not in aviation too? Especially when people are “imprisoned together” in a restrictive area, they tend to behave slightly differently than normal, some become more permissive, more childish, others the exact opposite. It was very funny when a head of the state with a fear of flying, asked me to go sit next to him during the take-off and landing. And after that episode, to thank me, during a dinner at his residence where we were all invited, he himself served me stuffed cabbage rolls. My colleagues made fun of me for this episode for a very long time. And there would be a lot to tell, I could even write a book.

6. Have you ever came across an emergency? How did you react?

In nine years, positive and less so things happen. But I was lucky and never met very serious emergencies. We had “bomb threat”, “strong turbulence”, “skid off” situations and so on, but I was lucky and we have all been fortunate. I acted naturally, with calm. These are the kind of moments when you surprise even yourself on how calm you can react and in the evening, while at home, pondering the day, you are still amazed.

“This profession has been my life coach”

7. What was the greatest satisfaction this profession has offered you?

I would not be who I am today if I haven’t had this job, and I say this with all my heart and with gratitude. Of course genes and the education you receive at home matter, but luckily I  had the inspiration to choose a profession that cultivates a lot and satisfies in all of life’s aspects. This profession has been my life and character coach, it “polished” me, made me question myself, built me up. And the fact that I travelled places I didn’t even know existed  before, (for instance Bhutan, with the capital at Thimphu) has also played an important role.

9. You have been flying for over 9 years. What do you feel like missing in your life right now?

Honestly? Absolutely nothing. I have wishes like any other human, but I am perfectly happy with my life, my choices and the thought that eventually all we wish for comes true, if we work hard enough.

10. How do you integrate personal life with being a flight attendant?

It’s a particular job. It’s not an office job with eight hour working program and weekends off . Therefore it is not always easy to harmonize these two aspects, personal life and profession. But nothing is impossible. As there are special professions, there are also special people who can understand  and with whom you can come to a favourable agreement for both parties involved. See, I say “agreement”, as if love were a business!

11. I know that over the years you have invested a lot in yourself. You attended various courses, learned foreign languages and so on. What has determined you to do all these?

My continuous urge to self-educate, grow beautifully, improve, to be a better person inside-out. And I honestly think that I have so much more to learn, I must have achieved at most a tenth of the potential. But it is a need I have always felt and don’t think is directly linked to being a private flight cabin crew. I think if I chose to be a mechanic, I would have done the same. But I am grateful that I have the time and can afford it, financially speaking, all of the above being advantages my profession delivers.

12. What duties do you have as a flight attendant on a private jet?

A simplified answer would be: security, safety, comfort and service on board. But in addition to these, long before the boarding we already provide protocol services. And I say we, because usually I am part of a team. If it is an official flight, sometimes we have to meet, or be in touch with the personal assistant or the head of the protocol, establish all the details of the flight: special requirements in terms of food, drinks, flowers, cabin perfume, seat layout, children on board, animals, travel program, everything taking into account the policies of the countries we fly to, customs regulations and so on. After that,  draft a catering order according to the requirements, choose the company to deliver it, send the order, constantly remain in contact with that company, the day of the flight receive it on board 2 or 3 hours in advance and make sure everything is accurate. Then, wait for the passengers – all sorts of general or internal ” protocol procedures” occur, followed by the actual flight during which we operate the service of a restaurant / 5-star hotel, trying as much as possible to take care of every detail with professionalism and dedication. Our work is finished only 3 or 4 hours after that flight.

“I WANTED TO BE A CABIN CREW, BUT NEVER THOUGHT I WAS GOOD ENOUGH”

While I was a flight attendant, I had no worries! Every roster was different, every flight was different. Besides, the crew you worked with were also different almost every time.

You had to be ready to face unexpected situations, be professional and positive.

Turbulence? Keep smiling! Annoying passenger? Keep smiling!

Read Beata’s story

13. What celebrities have you had the opportunity to have on board?

I’m awfully grateful to say that I have met and been influenced by people that are very good in their fields, real stars, heads of state, exceptional people, people who I once secretly admired only in magazines: Madonna, Eros Ramazzotti, Francis Ford Coppola, 50 cent, Amr Diab etc, many personalities, members of the royal families in the Middle East region whose names probably would not ring a bell and countless heads of state, official delegations, consuls and prime ministers whose names I unfortunately cannot mention out of confidentiality reasons.

14. What advice would you give to a future flight attendant?

It’s easy to give advice. We can all do that, but we are all so different and create very different situations around us, so that, I do not know how my advice would help. To however answer your question, I would say to first of all follow their dreams. Stay rational and open to opportunities, whatever they may be, to choose with the heart and follow their intuition. Not to forget who they are and where they come from. And especially: to be proud of their origin, and their behaviour to be the ambassador of their country. You must first give in order to receive, and it all begins with respect, gratitude, kindness, dedication, passion. They are generic tips, so very simple, suitable to any profession, yet so very important. It is a profession where you can easily “be carried away” and if the “foundation” is not very strong, you can easily get lost too.

I would tell them not to choose a career exclusively for the money. They are important but aren’t everything. To meditate and invest their income intelligently because being a flight attendant is not a job that you can do after you retire. Not to forget to respect their chosen profession and consequently themselves – the moment you put on the flight attendant uniform, you become member of an aircraft’s crew and your life gets on 2nd place,  for the lives of others become our priority! And not so important, but still important: invest in yourself! Because if life one day takes away everything from you, you still have yourself!

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