I lived a vibrant and passionate life as a child, 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 those 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, unsatiated. I had arrived at the palace of reason, the incumbent source of my success, and the next hoop on my treasure map. 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. At this moment, college imparted its most important lesson on me: Any path that is not my path is a lie, any journey that is not my heart’s journey is a road not worth traveling… In short, my heart, passions, loves – these are my greatest treasures to be cultivated, protected, and shared with the whole world. College had forced me onto a path of wisdom seeking and of self-reflection. College had incited in me a spark, a seed, a growing maelstrom.
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 my tree 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 my truths 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 and 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 reach the sun. 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 traveled 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 and the world, 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 handholds in 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. I witnessed the truth: all people are the same and all people deserve love and the opportunity to love. I wanted to do something to elevate the people who found it hard to dream.
Finally, after 6 weeks in Asia, 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 in Middle Earth was one of the hardest times of my life, and because of that, the period of time in which I grew 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 responsibilities, my friendships, my society and set out 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 had loved it, I had 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 finished reading the biography of Steve Jobs written by Walter Isaacson and with that done 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 – 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 unraveling 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.
I lost myself because I was not living as a conduit for myself to manifest in the world, but for someone else to use. My destiny is to help people achieve their dreams. If a human is a conduit to manifest God or Love or whatever word fills the void of what we cannot describe, then my job is to be a conduit cleaner. I am striving to change the world, helping people realize their dreams. 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 their innate desire to grow and serve. When humans commit to living life authentically, there’s no stopping us. I won’t stop growing and learning until I have lived up to my neverending potential, all with the purpose of helping people manifest their true selves.