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  • I saw this chalk writing the sidewalk again. It has been about 2 years since I last saw this piece of advice. The last time I saw this it was spray painted on an discarded chair. Two years ago I had just moved into my own first apartment after calling off my engagement. I was also entering my last year of graduate school and I was smack dab in the middle of becoming my dream.

    Just like the chalk writing on a busy Manhattan sidewalk, getting your dream to stick sometimes means getting it dirty, trying to get it unto an uneven rough surface, and maybe even covered in shit. People often see the end result of a dream and think it magically realized, even if deep down they know it was not really that way. I have had several friends comment on how they think that I am brave for flipping my life up-side down by quitting my job, going to grad school, going broke, taking out loans, changing my hair and body and so on and so on. Then they comment on how they wish they were as brave as me, how they wish they too could quit their miserable jobs, chop off their hair and go to grad school and so on...

    Shit! I am not brave, I am simply pursuing being happy with same ferocity that people often pursue financial achievements because that is what my brain requires to stave off the dark corners it often wonders into. But I also feel lucky enough to live in a country where its still possible to follow your crazy dreams but of course, at a cost. There is always a price, and pursuing my dream meant giving up my sanity and happiness, although temporarily. Grad school shook my life up in a way I never saw coming. It took me out of my element, destroyed the work structure I was used to and forced me to learn new things at a pace I was not prepared for. And yet, it was the best grades I have ever gotten because I would be damned if I didn't give it all up to fuck around. But being unprepared and disorganized and sometimes lazy, becoming an insomniac again and being bad at what I was creating for the first time in a long time also meant spiraling out of control.

    Going through a major depression while in the throes of grad school and watching your 7 year relationship fall apart and all the money you have saved over the years while you worked full time disappear is no easy task. None of these things (except the money part) happened directly because of grad school, but it was a damn good catalyst. It was during thesis research class where I had my lightbulb moment and realized that I could show the connection between madness and creativity and prove that the current methods of treating madness are shamefully lacking.

    And so I researched, read, interviewed, lived it, and wrote. Slowly but surely, I wrote and I created. I invented as I went along, I improvised and I was hell bent on making sure that what I made was both right and original. I wrote about happiness and technology, and interaction design and creativity and the current healthcare system. I used my own life as a Guinea pig and wrote about my findings. I treated my life as a client and wrote my own mental health deliverable. I contacted the people who were trying to do the same, to hack their own healthcare and get better. I meticulously gave them credit in the references section. And then, something truly crazy happened. One of the people I referenced and kept in touch with asked me to speak at an innovative healthcare conference and tell my story. I was flabbergasted.

    Five months after I had submitted my thesis I found myself at a speaker's dinner the night before the big talk. It was surreal because at my table were the people from my thesis reference section. At my table. There sitting on my right were the amazing Regina Holliday and Katie McCurdy. On my left was the boy I met on my first day of grad school who had been my friend all along and was now much more. The next day this boy would be at the front row during my talk. He still sits in the front row for the talks that followed. That next day I met Jane McGonigal and Gretchen Rubin and others whose work was referenced and exemplified in the pages of my thesis. When your thesis reference section is at your dinner table you have pretty much become your dream because you are now living it. THAT is what becoming your dream means and it feels even better.

    So yeah, you can become your dream but you gotta be willing to give up everything in the process, including your sanity.

    Week 12 of 52 - Story a Week in 2014
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