I grew up as a vibrant and passionate kid, always looking for some way to imprint my own personal reality onto the world, whether this was building a fort in the woods and pretending to be hiding from the enemy or creating my ideal character while playing Dungeons and Dragons. The world was my canvas and my brain was my paintbrush. I loved searching for tributaries with which I could deliver my reality into the lives of others. This has never gone away, but for a while, it was hidden. When I was thirteen, I enrolled in Monument Valley Regional Middle School, my first real public school experience. I had grown up moving from town to town, partaking in new but familiar forms of education in Montessori Schools, Waldorf Schools, and the like. I was creative, unique, and altogether a weird kid. When I entered into the abyss of public education, the creative bug I had was squashed by the vigorous factory-esque machinery of regimented recesses and silent study time. I lost my spark in the storm of the incessant buzzing of bees, who I thought held the keys to success. I chased shadows, silhouettes of my future self as I thought he should be – successful, popular, attractive, all the middle school attributes of greatness. I was entrenched in my own pit that I had been digging, seeking the treasure I thought lay under the Earth. For years I kept walking down this path, losing sight of the sun, the trees, unable to feel the breeze on my face or the warmth of a summer day. Each moment was spent in pursuit of this dastardly lie – that who I should be is defined by others, by the masses, by my parents.
When I arrived at college, age eighteen, I was immediately displeased, bored, insatiated. I had arrived at the palace of reason, the incumbent source of my success, and the next hoop on the destination map that had been found at the bottom of the aforementioned pit. I had reached success part one, I had been afforded the gift of knowledge and of learning. I did it… And yet I felt empty. It was lackluster, it was bland. I realized that the map had been a deception, written over the years by the controlling forces of society, the invisible hand of the market, I had been played. In this moment, college imparted its most important lesson on me: Any path that is not your path is a lie, any journey that is not your heart’s journey is a road not worth travelling… In short, one’s heart, passions, loves – these are one’s greatest treasures to be cultivated, protected, and finally shared with the whole world. College had forced me onto the path of wisdom seeking and of self-reflection. College had incited in me a spark, a seed, a growing maelstrom. For this I am eternally grateful, and who knows, maybe that’s the point of college.
So, for the next year or so, in the midst of discovering new classes, new friends, new excitements and remorses, I began growing my own tree, lost for half a decade, found once more. I sheltered it from the cold of the judgemental world, protected it from the speculation of those closest to me. After it had grown into a small sapling, I started to show it to people, share my tree, my fire, my storm. I showed it around and it shocked people, some hated it, some were scared for me, some looked upon it with awe and realization. I began imparting myself onto the world once more, as I had done when I was a child. I was again the creative, searching, excited, and wise child I had been.
Yet still, something was off, my heart was morose, a twisted knot like one on an old tree took root inside me, a constant reminder that I had yet to find the answers I needed. I was overwhelmed by sadness, I felt like I was wasting away, not letting myself grow, as if my sapling was stuck as just that, a young, inexperienced tree, unworthy of greatness, unable to create change. I was scared I wouldn’t grow taller so I took off into the world, searching for more nutrients for my sacred tree, fire, storm. I travelled to far away lands, walking the streets of Asia, longing to find a source for growth, some good soil, some good wood. I began to scratch the itch of my unconscious mind, learning about people, about myself, and about how everything is interconnected and how opportunities lie in every connection. The world began to take on a new light, I could see the next handhold on the wall I was scaling. I started to read books again, I consumed everything I could get my hands on, my eyes were ablaze with the passion of growing, learning, and becoming better. If there is one thing I can say about myself, it is that I am always striving to better myself, to beat yesterday’s me and grow into the best version of myself I can create tomorrow, sometimes to a fault. It’s a treacherous path.
Finally, I was back at school, trapped once more in the perpetual swing of society’s pendulum. I felt the boredom returning again, different yet stemming from the same source. I was happy, or rather content, with where I was. I was content, yet unfulfilled. I knew there was more, I knew I could be more, do more. I wasn’t satisfied. I lived in this land of lackluster for a few months as I waited for the next chapter of my life to roll around. I was transitioning, transforming, adapting, and it felt slow, arduous, and terrible. Eventually, I was off to study abroad in New Zealand, the land of elves, hobbits, dragons, Middle Earth. I was back on track, returning to my roots, or so I thought.
My time here in Middle Earth has been one of the hardest times of my life, and because of that, the period of time in which I have grown the fastest. I felt myself slipping away, I recognized that I had no purpose in life, no driver, I was empty. I identified that I was afraid to be myself, even the thought of being me, authentically, and without hesitation caused me so much anxiety I physically felt pain. Every moment was a scrape against the blackboard, a moan of the sick. I was dying, not living. So I set aside my responsibility, my friendships, my society and took off on the quest to find myself, my purpose, my heart. I devoured books about how to be confident, searched my soul for meaning, experienced the greatest moments of sadness I have felt to date, lost track of days and weeks and finally found myself sitting on a bench in the gardens crying as I finished reading the last chapter of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I had read the book before all the way through and loved it, had my mind blown by it, but I hadn’t taken it to heart, I hadn’t recognized the truth it held for me. That sunny Wednesday afternoon I had finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and with that done I reread the last chapter of Zen. Things clicked for me and I realized that I had been lost, my soul had been watching me bumble my way around for years, yearning to reconnect, but knowing the time hadn’t yet come. I walked into the forest and looked up at the sky and time slowed down, everything became sharp – I could see each vein in every leaf – clear, sounds disappeared, and I felt myself descending into my body. With a metaphysical kathunk, my soul had been welcomed back into me. It was the most amazing feeling I have ever had. I had put in the work of unravelling the knot in my chest, massaging my way through the growing pains, and after seven years of aimless wandering, I had been formed, wholly, once more.
Now, as weird as this all sounds, I think it happens to everyone. People lose themselves when they forget that we live to be a conduit for ourselves to manifest in the world, not for someone else to use. People are constantly ignoring their hearts in favor of the trend of today or the security of tomorrow.
I am an artist, a creator, an imaginer, a diviner. I am an inventor, an Atlas carrying the hopes of tomorrow. I am striving to change the world. Fear is an impediment, distractions, in any form, a cause for aimlessness. I have always felt as if my true potential is locked up inside myself, surrounded by walls or growing inside of a shell. I have always wondered how to let out the dragon, how to unleash the power. I can’t say I fully understand how yet but I can wager a pretty good guess. I believe that the power of humans and thus humanity lies in every individual’s heart, in their passions, in their connection to their loved ones, and in their innate desire to grow. When we, as humans, take the time to connect to our literal life source and when we commit to living life authentically, there’s no stopping us. I don’t know exactly what I want to do or how to answer the common interrogatory question of ‘how will you change the world?’ but I do know that I won’t stop growing and learning until I have lived up to my own insurmountable, mountainous intentions for my life.