Back in 2016, Pharrell joined the NYU Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music to host a masterclass with select music artists. One of students was then emerging folk artist Maggie Rogers. The session was fascinating and Pharrell’s reaction to it is now a classic:
Pharrell to Maggie Williams:
Wow. I have zero notes for that. And I’ll tell you why: you’re doing your own thing. It’s singular. It’s like when the Wu-Tang Clan came out, like no one could really judge it. You either liked it or you didn’t but you couldn’t compare it to anything else. And that is such a special quality and all of us possess that ability but you have to be willing to seek. And you have to be willing to be like real frank in your music, and frank in your choices. […] And your whole story, I can hear it in your music. I’ve never heard anyone like you before and I’ve never heard anything that sounds like that. And that’s the kind of thing that’s a drug for me. And that’s cool.
Pharrell to the entire class:
I want all you guys to know that you possess the ability to do that for yourselves. You have to be willing to use elements that are not necessarily popular. You have to be willing to play music or have music in your songs that doesn’t sound popular. […] That’s what I pride in my entire career on is fusion. To me, the Reese’s Cup is the most incredible invention of all time. And it seems very simple but think about it: chocolate on its own is amazing. […] But so is peanut butter. Peanut butter is amazing! But somehow someone said claps and one of the most amazing things happened. Two things made a third. That’s what happens when you allow different worlds to collide and find the most beautiful angle in it and screenshot that and that being the bed of your song or track. That’s where it is.
A little over two weeks ago, I felt a pain on my right hand—which is what I use to write with—specifically around my ring and pinky finger. It was uncomfortable enough to prevent me from typing, let alone designing. I knew I had to see somebody for it because it wasn’t just any type of pain: it was difficult to do regular everyday tasks like opening a water bottle, but it was also numb enough to realize it wasn’t just a regular muscle issue.
This is worrisome because like most people, I need my hand to do anything. And especially for me, I need my hand to do the thing I’m paid to do, which is to design user interfaces (with a mouse and keyboard). I already have a pretty ergonomic setup: I have a standing desk at work and at home, an ergonomic mouse, a mousepad with wrist support, and a keyboard rest with wrist support. And still, a problem persisted.
I went to see an occupational therapist in Union Square (thanks to my girlfriend Sara who is also a designer and currently seeing one).
The pain was on my hand but the issue was elsewhere: I was diagnosed with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome:
Cubital tunnel syndrome is neuropathy of the ulnar nerve causing symptoms of numbness and shooting pain along the medial aspect of the forearm, also including the medial half of the fourth digit and the fifth digit. It is caused by compression of the ulnar nerve at the elbow region
Basically, I have my ulnar nerve is pinched in my elbow area, likely from flexing it too much. I have it flexed in the day for my job, and I also have it flexed at night while I sleep. This pinch nerve causes pain, numbness, and tingling around my ring and pink finger.
I currently experience discomfort anytime I have my elbow flexed, but it has become much better since going to therapy.
This setback—while relatively minor and treatable with time, presented a very interesting juncture in my career: should I start thinking of a life outside design? Or specifically, should I start thinking of a life outside of doing the design myself?
I’ve been a manager before (and to be honest, I’m probably at a point where I’m a better manager than I am a designer) and have delegated design work to others. But this conundrum felt different: the thing that I found to be where my greatest value lies was challenged because I literally could not do it. It felt like an athlete going through an injury, but also, different—athletes don’t change jobs just because they’re injured (unless it’s career-ending).
For me, I had to dig deep and really evaluate where my greatest contribution lies. And maybe this was my sign that while I enjoy designing, and it’s a core part of who I am and it’s one of my best assets—specifically being strategic, systematic, and technical on top of foundations in interface and experience design (which I’ve worked hard to really develop the last few years)—that designing the pixels may not be where my greatest value is.
It’s all the things around design that I bring to the table that is extremely rare and extremely valuable. Can somebody else design better and faster than me? Absolutely. Can somebody lead product and design simultaneously, make hard decisions with conviction, and build it with a strong sense of strategy specific to a business, and build it with a passion for and deep understanding of product, design, and engineering? Yes, but very few.1 How many people can do this in consumer startups? Even fewer. And how many people can do this in consumer healthcare pre-product market fit? That list becomes extremely small.
I always felt like an outcast as a designer because while I deeply care about design, I care just as much about all the other things outside of the design itself: the business and product strategy as well as the engineering capabilities required to make the design happen. So I put it upon myself to learn all of those things: business, product strategy, and front-end engineering, while getting better at my design skills. And I did so not because it was something I thought would propel my career, but more so I was just interested in building things better. It felt natural for me to learn strategy and front-end engineering as key parts of design, because they are two very important anchors around design decisions.
And looking back, it’s actually funny because I always measured my worth around the things that I felt were necessary to be a great designer, while discounting the things that truly made me unique.
So I’m taking this moment while I’m going through this Cubital Tunnel Syndrome to take a step back and appreciate the things I’m really good at. I’m taking it as a moment to not just measure myself based on my perception of what my job is as a designer, but to double down on the things I’m naturally drawn towards: and ultimately that’s just building better technology products for people through product, design, and engineering. I can care less what the title is. I just know that, thankfully, I now have the opportunity to do more of what I want to do and know I’m really good at.
Adam Mosseri of Instagram and Evan Spiegel of Snapchat are two examples who started out as designers that eventually became this. Not to say I’m anywhere on their level but there are many companies led by engineers and salespeople and very few by designers who led product & design.↩︎
I was listening to my meditation app this morning and it was about perfectionism. Specifically, battling these voices in our head that claim we are not enough—whether through societal expectations, people in our lives, or purely from conditioning.
I struggle with this too. Present tense. It feels like I’ve been constantly chasing my whole life an ideal that I feel like I’ll never become. I wanted to be a great writer when I was in school, then I wanted to be a great designer when I got into the workforce. I don’t feel I’m either of those by any measure.
But whose measure? And why I am I measuring in the first place? And what is the measure?
When I was growing up, I was writing and designing because I found joy in it. It was intrinsically valuable to me for no other reason than I loved doing it. It didn’t matter what anyone else thought, or if anyone else knew for that matter. I sat down with a piece of paper and I applied myself, put my heart into something, felt challenged, but I kept going. Yes, there were many things I wanted to do that at the time I couldn’t, but I kept trying and kept learning and kept doing. I wasn’t measuring against anything. Technically, I don’t even think I was measuring against myself. There was no “I must be 1% better everyday!” or anything like that. I just did it because I liked to do it and I kept going because that was the thing to do. I woke up and was excited at the idea that I get to write and design. Then I went to sleep excited that I get to do it all over again. So now I ask: where does this notion of needing to measure ourselves come from?
In a global competitive landscape, where we celebrate “winners” because of who has the “edge,” everything has become about getting better for the sake of getting more. More money, more status, more prestige in order to buy more material things, get bigger apartments, dine at fancier restaurants, so on. And it’s created an atmosphere where everyone is trying to sell expertise and appear to be an expert because it sucks to be seen as a beginner. We must compete. We must not seem inadequate or mediocre or lackluster. Everything needs to be a masterpiece. Our egos are on the line and no one dare their egos be hurt.
I want to battle this. I want to go back to being a beginner. I want to go back to trying things because it’s fun to try and there is joy and beauty and innocence in trying. There is no shame in starting and the reward is in the doing itself.
Let’s go back to that. It starts with me willing to be a beginner each day. And being excited that I get to do it all over again. So long as I’m alive, there’s opportunity. Not to improve for the sake of some external reward, but to make art and feel what it’s like to be human.
Like my meditation app said: “I am Good. I am Whole. I am Worthy.”
When it’s all said and done, all I want is a life well-lived.
I want to have lived a life where I tried my best to be a good man, a good husband, a good father, a good son, a good brother, a good friend, a good citizen of the world, and ultimately, a good person. That’s all I can ask for, and I’m honestly satisfied with that. If I did my best to be all of these things, I can die a happy man.
My younger self would think it’s such a cop out answer because it’s not filled with things like leaving a legacy, amassing generational wealth, trying to be the greatest at something, or being extremely successful and wealthy and famous—things that on the surface are the things that people ought to want. But wisdom comes with age, and age comes with contentment, and contentment comes with peace of mind and accepting that I won’t be able to do all the things I want to do in this lifetime or be all the things that I want to be because life has inevitable tradeoffs and compromises1. And that’s fine.
Is this accepting defeat? I used to think so, but now I don’t. If anything, it’s this acceptance that gives me a sense of great calm and freedom. Being attuned to the finitude of life and that it will all come to a screeching end and the fact that I don’t know when that will be for me instead helps me focus on the things that I value the most. It helps me become one with the things that I do really want for myself, and not because of the external rewards that it will give me (though make no mistake, those are also part of the equation) but because I value the intrinsic rewards that something might have for me if something gives me joy in and of itself.
Many of the things we think we want are simply conditioned—things that society has taught us to want even if we don’t actually want them, or mimetic—things that we only want because they’re wanted by others because it gives us a certain type of status. But in Kendrick’s words, if you take all that bullshit off, what do you have?2 I’m human so I’m also guilty of these things. And I’m not a monk so I’m not sure if I can truly rid myself of desire, but it helps to build the awareness and to at least have the courage to constantly ask the question: What is it that I really want in this life?
An even bigger sign of maturity is understanding that this is also temporary. That the things I want can change at any moment in time because life is dynamic, and I have permission to change my perception of what I want and how much I value what I want because I’m a constantly evolving entity who is engaging with the universe. And maybe most important of all, that having or doing the things that I want does not mean I will no longer experience pain in my life and that I’ll attain perpetual happiness. Quite the opposite. It’s merely a reflection of my values and who I believe I am and where I believe my trajectory should go at a given moment in time. So what’s the value if they might change anyway? Is this just an excuse, an escape hatch, an out in case I don’t get them? I don’t believe so. This will get meta, but having a list of things that I value in and of itself, I believe, is valuable in of itself. It’s manifesting a direction, and having a sense of direction especially a
written one is more valuable than not having one. It allows me to see where I want to go and who is the person I need to become and what are my barriers to achieving them and what it is that I need to do on a consistent basis in order to get there. The exercise is valuable in itself not just because of the nature to orient towards a particular future, but because it demands a thorough inspection of who I am and how I see myself at this very moment.
And that is beautiful just by itself. Just as how it was beautiful when I imagined of what I wanted when I was 9 years old when my imagination started to enter new levels, and when I was 14-years old when I was exploring my creativity as an immigrant high school student in Yonkers, New York, and when I was 23-years old desperately trying to find my way in the world after college. And it will be beautiful each time I do this exercise because of all the reasons I stated above.
So what else do I want aside from the things I’ve listed at the beginning of this post, as of February 2023? And more importantly, why do I want them (purpose) and what do I need to do (path)?
There are a couple main themes and specific objectives that I came up with. And my guiding question for this is: “What would I do if I only had a few years to live?” It was a good forcing function to really understand what I want out of my life:
I want to have platforms for creation to make soulful things that inspire and positively impact others.
These are platforms I can leverage to create things because I want something to exist, because I want to inspire others, and because there can also be external reward. To do this, I need to:
1. Use Feel Eternity, my company, to create beautiful impactful things that I want to see in the world
My greatest asset is my ability to design and my greatest gift is my imagination. My calling is to make the world better, and it starts with being a designer—continuing to sharpen my skills and create assets that maximize and spread the impact I can create.
What I need to do:
Dedicate time to improve my design skills on a daily basis
Dedicate time to design a conceptual project on a weekly basis
Dedicate time to work on and expand my business systems (high-value products and services that have a drastic measurable difference for people who use them)
2. Use my blog and social platforms as a creative outlet to refine my worldview and share what I learn along the way
Writing gives me peace. It’s my favorite medium to use to express myself. I’ve loved writing since I was a child, and even went to university to get better as a writer (and my original goal was to be a professional writer). My purpose more than anything, is because I love writing and it gives me clarity and helps me become a better person.
What I need to do:
I need to write something every week. Do I need to post it publicly? Maybe not, but I need to develop the writing muscle again.
Share what I write and what inspires me if I feel it’s worth sharing
Create playlists every month. Music is a time capsule for me and I’ve enjoyed creating mixtapes in the past (with designed posters). Shout out to Joe Kay of Soulection and Virgil as huge inspirations for this.
3. Use the companies I’m working with as engines for innovation and change to help the underserved
I’m fortunate to have worked on professional projects that have changed people’s lives. They were enjoyable to build because I’ve got to work with really smart talented people and it required a lot of creativity and courage. Having this is a great advantage because it’s both an incredible opportunity to learn but also to apply those learnings in real life, build something special that can change a lot of people’s lives for the better, with the potential to be rewarded handsomely for it. Most of all, I have the skills and experience and the autonomy to do this.
What I need to do:
Really be a leader and spearhead projects that I believe will move the needle to help the business survive and thrive
Design processes and systems that will help the creation of these projects to be more effective and efficient
Put myself out there and meet people who are also working in the space to help the entire community
4. Publish things that encapsulate my thoughts & ideas
This can only happen if I start exercising the writing muscle starting with this blog. Short posts lead to longer essays. Longer essays lead to books. And poetry carries a unique beauty and power in the way that it can captivate through words with harmonic feeling. I love to write because they are tools for change: change in someone’s perspective, opinion, belief, and ultimately, action (if only for myself). There is power in curiosity and persuasion and making others see things in a way that moves them (especially me) into being.
What I need to do: Write.
5. Help others in their journey.
I used to be obsessed with “impact at scale” but real impact starts on a 1-to-1 basis and when you give without asking or needing anything in return. There’s so many people I can help: starting with my own community, my fellow peers, and others who aspire to do what I do. And there’s so many ways to help: money, time, advice, support, and generally just trying to be a good human being.
What I need to do: Be open. Reach out.
There’s more but they’re deeply personal and I’d rather keep them close to the chest. But these three main themes—(1) being a good man, (2) having platforms for creativity and impact, and (3) creating bodies of work that reflect my life philosophy through art—are enough to give me a sense of direction that align with my main values of Play, Create, Love. They help me learn, connect with people, and most of all, connect with my deepest truest self.
Ultimately, they help me lead a good life that I’ve defined for myself. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
What brought this home for me is a video from Struthless titled “How to find your Direction in Life (a guide).” The three main points: 1) We are on a finite timeline, 2) Compromise is inevitable, and 3) We need to cultivate self-belief (which requires questioning your limiting beliefs).↩︎
Though I’ll always pick up when you call (When you call) Only want me around just to break your fall, I’m leaving I just really want your night and day (Night and day, night and day) But you can’t even give me your 9:30 (9:30) When you say you would When you say you would (Like you say you would) Why do you say you could if you can’t?
Across the record, Joseph airs stream-of-consciousness musings on fear and hopelessness with apparent ease and warmth, sounding like he’s ready to welcome the confidence to overcome. He first established that vision as a founding member of Birmingham musical collective OG Horse, which also included childhood friend and fellow singer Jorja Smith.
And we spoke in past tense Reminisce ‘bout back when our spirits used to dance with each other We been smokin’ gas, yeah, this is so romantic I never wanna press fast forward You treat me like I’m more than a pair of skin and bones And that really made a difference in my story Life will take its toll, but whichever way we go Know I’m right here by your side, shawty
Artificial Realities: Coral presents Refik Anadol Studio’s ultimate visualization of years-long research on compiling a comprehensive dataset of coral images with the aim of raising awareness about climate change through art. This site-specific Data Sculpture on display at the World Economic Forum 2023 is inspired by the ocean environment and the plight of the coral reefs and uses approximately 100 million coral images as raw data. Combining science, technology, and visual arts, the artwork emphasizes the preservation and sustainability of corals.
Tomorrow may never come, for you or me, life is not promised I ain’t no perfect man, I’m trying to do the best that I can with what it is I have… My Umi said shine your light on the world Shine your light for the world to see My Abi said shine your light on the world Shine your light for the world to see
I’ve just unlocked something monumental regarding my own relationship with anxiety.
I was reading The Courage to Create, a book published in 1975 by existential psychologist Rollo May and it introduced a powerful framing of anxiety that I hadn’t considered before but is potentially life-changing. I guess we’ll see.
I’ve felt different kinds of anxiety all my life. But there is one type which I was struggling to pinpoint, explain, and put into words. I knew it was different because it has especially been crippling the past few years of my life. I feel bouts of inexplicable emptiness, sadness, and oftentimes meaninglessness, which if you know me personally, might sound surprising because I can come off as a deeply engaged and passionate person full of joie de vivre. But this feeling isn’t exactly new, I just felt it a lot more recently.
This type of anxiety has both been chronic, something I felt regularly, but also has caught by surprise, often when I least expect it, and sometimes even in the most bewildering times, like when things are actually going great in my life. It has been particularly troubling for me because by any standard of measure, I’ve never felt more blessed: I’m healthy, I love and am proud of what I do for a living, I feel like I’ve never been better and confident as a designer in my entire career, I have a wonderful partner I love and continue to grow with, I have a great place I live in with food and warmth never an issue, I’m surrounded by love from family and friends (should I choose to be surrounded by aforementioned love, which is another topic on its own). In short, I’m at a point in life where I feel I have everything I need.
And yet, there is a nagging feeling inside that was ravaging me from within. It was like a boogeyman that would arise from the night after a hard day’s work filled with joy, pride, and satisfaction. Bam. It would hit me, not like a speeding train but more like a slow moving truck and I was half-expecting and yet I still couldn’t move away from it. And it would send me in a spiral. And this lingering dread haunted me on a regular basis. And my defense mechanism would be to retract from the world, to distract myself so I would not feel this simmering pain, and I would be in my own head and pretend everything is okay, until I wake up the following day, and do the cycle over again. Now, I’d still do my regular habits and things would seem fine, and I’d have a great day, and it would come back at night like clockwork.
What was deeply confusing for me was I do not recall feeling this particular anxiety this deeply when I had none of the things that I have now. Almost a decade ago I was struggling with where my future was headed, I did not have the same security I feel now, I didn’t have any money, access to food and warmth was not as easy, my relationships were not where they are today. I was still anxious then but that one felt clearer to me. It was an anxiety for survival: Am I going to make it out of my situation? Am I going to improve my life? Am I going to make something out of myself? But I did not have this feeling of emptiness that now feel despite having all the things I only dreamed of not long ago. By every definition, I should feel fulfilled, and yet I feel a deep void within me that I can’t quite put my finger on. What is it?
I hesitate to give it a name because I don’t think I’ve quite unlocked or understand it fully yet. But what I’m slowly discovering is what I feel deep down is an anxiety related to creativity, or lack thereof. Specifically, an anxiety felt because I haven’t been creating things that I felt allowed me to create meaning, an internal urge that is not related to any extrinsic reward or achievement at a job or anything else. This is purely related to a process of trying to create art for its own sake, to derive meaning out of life through one’s own lenses. In other words, I’ve been ignoring a calling I feel deep inside to try to carve out a “universality of meaning” through my own creativity.
This sounds really abstract but not for artists. Rollo May pointed out a study in which people where given Rorscachlike series of tests, and a group of “normal” people selected “the orderly, symmetrical cards as the designs they liked the most—they like their universe to be in shape.” The same test was given to “creative persons”—those who were recognized by their peers as having distinguished contributions to their field:
But the creative persons selected chaotic, disorderly cards—they found these to be more challenging and interesting. They could be like God in the Book of Genesis, creating order out of chaos. They chose the “broken” universe; they got joy out of encountering it and forming it into order. They could accept their anxiety and use it in molding their disorderly universe “closer to their heart’s desire.”
Reading “accept their anxiety” was a lightbulb moment for me. The anxiety I feel is directly tied to this immediate tension between being a particular kind of person and seeing chaos everywhere. And in that very moment of this realization, anxiety exists. This is not a new or special feeling. I’ve felt this since childhood. The differences was, even in moments where I felt I was fighting for my survival some years ago, I “accepted” this anxiety and did my best to create order out of chaos, to create meaning out of meaninglessness, despite my lack of skills and resources. I wasn’t as good nor was I equipped, and yet I still tried with all my might to create something—through writing, through design, through art. I tried to make sense of the world around me wrapped in emotion and vulnerability because I felt like I had nothing to lose and because it was a compulsion that I needed to address. In a sense, maybe it was my survival mechanism. Whereas these days, I’ve thought of this creative process as a tradeoff—one where I am putting forward progress in my career, my job, my status, my finances in the back-burner should I choose to spend my finite time creating. I viewed it as costly because in logical terms, it didn’t add to the things I already had. It wasn’t an “investment” towards my future and creating had an “opportunity cost” to the things that do.
But the real cost was I no longer felt alive. I felt pain I didn’t know how to cure. I have all these things that I didn’t have before that I can’t even enjoy because I knew something was missing deep down. I viewed this anxiety as something to rid of, something to distract myself from, something to ignore, but it only came back to me, day after day, night after night, week after week, with a deep sense of dissatisfaction even when I have everything I could need.
This is when it occurred to me that this anxiety is actually a calling. That sounds absurd to read because how can crippling anxiety be seen as a calling? First, one doesn’t feel this particular anxiety if they don’t feel this tension between how the world is and how the world can be. This same compulsion to turn chaos into order feels like a curse because it is ever-present, it is not something one can just get rid of, and in a way, it may be something one can never fully satisfy themselves of. For some people—and I’m in this category—things can perpetually be better because things aren’t good enough. But more specifically, these kinds of people felt like they need to do something about it.
But in this exact moment of tension is where passion can come alive. Rollo May describes passion not as a “quantity of emotion” but rather a “quality of commitment”—it is precisely this openness and desire to confront the encounter that creates passion. You can’t confront the encounter between yourself and this moment of tension unless you first accept the anxiety. And you want to confront the encounter because it just might lead you to ecstasy—this heightened sense of consciousness, a “temporary transcending of the subject-object dichotomy.”
As much as it is a curse, this is when it occurred to me that this particular anxiety is also a gift. It is an itch to be scratched, one that can only be relieved by accepting the anxiety, confronting the encounter, and having the courage to create something, to make something that was not there before, to create meaning out of meaninglessness, to hopefully reach ecstasy no matter how fleeting.
And this is only possible through the artist as a vessel, to allow themselves to be open and receptive to the things around them, to how they’re feeling, to the ebbs & flows of life, but to also have the courage to create not just to relieve themselves of this anxiety, but to make something out of it that hopefully contributes something new to the universe.
Radical love & radical gratitude for everything is a tough concept to understand. We can’t possibly love and be grateful for everything that happens to us. Sure, we can love and be grateful for the good things in life, but it’s difficult to love and be grateful for every minor annoyance, for unsavory people, for difficult times, for traumatic experiences, for extreme hardships. And maybe we don’t have to. Not everything needs to have a positive spin on it. Sometimes shit is just bad.
Or can it be more?
In the thought exercise of radical love and gratitude, we might be able to radically accept things, situations, events, and people, and see things for what they plainly are. And through it, to see ourselves in the process as a totally separate and detached being from all of these. That we have our own reality, and our own person, and we are our own individual and it need not be consumed by everything else around us. That through radical love and gratitude for everything, we might radically love ourselves and be grateful for our own lives, no matter what has happened in the past, what is happening in the present, and what might happen in the future. To radically love and be grateful for all the things we don’t want to do, for people we encounter that we would rather wish to not be in our lives, for difficult challenges that send us to our brink. That it might be through these things that we can hope to find the things that we do want to do, find people we would love to spend time with, and find who we really are and what we are made of in our heart of hearts.
When there seems like there’s nothing to love and be grateful for, it challenges us to look around—literally look around—to your left, to your right, to your up, to your down, to breathe the air around you, the see the sights around you, to smell the smells around you, to hear the things around you. To laugh at the absurdity of life and existence, to smile at all its pains and wonders, to cry at its surrealness and beauty. To absorb all of it, and be mesmerized by your very presence within it, as you play your own unique part in the vastness and history of the entire universe, without judgment, nor regret, nor attachment. Just as you are this very moment, you have already altered the shape of history and the depths of time.
It might be difficult to radically love and be grateful for everything. But through this exercise is how we remind ourselves of the radical love and gratitude we can give for ourselves, if no one else. You are not just a human being. You are a moment in time, an entity as grand and as complex as any star floating in space. You are a miracle, you are here, and you belong.
Growing up, I was always about sharing my work: I shared things I drew, things I wrote like blog posts and essays, things I designed like posters, MySpace Pages, and websites, and even things I made like beats. I even shared skateboarding tricks even if I didn’t feel particularly good, but at least I felt like I was doing all of these things from the heart and out of pure curiosity.
It was about self-expression.
And yes, while much of that had to do with me trying to find my identity with a little bit of ego involved—I wanted to show I can do and show people I was good at it—there was still fear involved. Fear of embarrassment, self-doubt, and criticism. Who did I think I was to be sharing these things? But at the same time, I used my youth to shield myself from these fears. I was young and experimenting a lot, and felt like I had the freedom to make mistakes. If anything, my courage would bring me exposure and respect. I was willing to just give things a try because they piqued my interest. This continued on till college where I continued to explore my potential and what I could do. There was also definitely a superiority complex because I felt like I was better at a lot of things than my peers.
But overtime, this prolific nature got clouded by other things. Now, because “career” was on the line, I felt impostor syndrome more deeply. I became more aware of what I couldn’t do and how far I was from where I wanted to go. I felt Ira Glass’s “The Gap” in a way I hadn’t before. And it felt like if I show what I’m doing, it would reveal how much of a fraud I was—that I wasn’t really who I said I was nor was as as good as I thought I was.
And because I lived a very public life before that was very much fueled by ego—I wanted to look cool and sound authoritative, this eventually lost its appeal. I felt my insecurities deeper. Now, each thing I shared—all the good things felt like it was disingenuous. Or at least, it felt very showboat-y to me and I just didn’t want to be that person because I do not live a perfect life. There are a lot of things I’m afraid of, a lot of things I feel are holding me back, and going out into the public life felt like it was not authentic to these things I’m feeling deep inside. Overall, I just wanted a more private life so I can keep my private thoughts to my private self. And there was a sense of freedom in people not knowing what I’m up to (especially things in my personal life) and I no longer had this obsession about other people’s validation.
I think this had its time. I needed this in order to mature. To recalibrate at a personal and a subconscious level (therapy helped with this tons). And to just take control of my life because so much of it felt like it was not in my control. I had a lot of stresses at different parts of my life and I wanted to keep them close to the chest. And in a way, maybe I needed to in order to process.
But now, I feel a newfound hunger within me. I’m creating a moodboard and so many of the inspirations in it are creatives who are very public about how they work. They are prolific people who are constantly creating, collaborating, and sharing their process. Because of this, they are constantly inspiring people and making them think. This got me thinking a lot of Virgil who worked non-stop and just shared so much. Its superhuman levels how prolific he was. His process was chaotic, and no matter what people thought of his work, he at least had a point of view and wanted to put it out there, like he was running of time…because he was.
This speaks to me because if I really want to explore my potential, and be a “vessel from which my purpose is to be delivered,” I likely would have to get back to my mode of sharing: sharing my work, my thoughts, my inspirations, my lessons learned. And not for the sake of ego or for other people’s validation. But purely to help even 1 person out there to believe in themself and pick them up from tough times, as I was picked up by the people that inspired me. And do it in my way, totally authentic to who I am, and not making myself to be something I’m not.
In Virgil’s words:
Everything I do is for the 17 year-old version of myself.
I should think about 17-year old Jomi and think about how much energy, passion, and emotion he had. He wanted to put so much love and creativity in all he did. He wanted to get better everyday and try all the things. He would share things that he felt helped express himself. He wasn’t afraid—or he was, but he still did it anyway. And I need to do it for that person, but I also need to channel that same energy. I need to do it for him. And I need to do it for others like him.
Dreaming is powerful. And trying to reach our own dreams helps liberate others. And that is why dreaming in public is even more powerful. It might just collectively help us make our dreams a reality.