One of the highlights of my recent trip to San Diego with my cousin Andrew Sia was visiting the famous Before I Die wall in Hillcrest. Located on the side of the Alibi restaurant, this large chalk wall serves as a public piece of art that is constantly changing, thanks to the daily contributions of the passerby who decide to scrawl some of their deepest secrets. Each week starts with a freshly cleaned wall ready to be filled with secrets of people admitting their sexuality to their parents, finding love, or accomplishing their dreams.
The original Before I Die wall was first created by Candy Chang on an abandoned house in New Orleans as a tribute to one of her deceased loved ones. Thanks to the international art community, there are now over 70 walls located throughout the world, with the list growing each day. While some people may chortle at scribbling down indecent jokes or profanities, this global art project forces onlookers to go inside themselves and think deeply about the meaning of mortality as well as their purpose here on this planet.
At first, I only had the intention to visit this wall for a touristy photo-op, but upon reading the numerous entries written into the wall, something hit me – what am I going to write?
After visiting this wall, I couldn’t help but contemplate a lot of things that have been buried beneath the torrential thoughts that make-up my brain. I, like many others, have a deep fear of the unknown, and death is no exception to that. What happens after our time here on Earth? Is there actually a paradise beyond our world, or does life as we know it just…end?
When I was a teenager, I had an immense amount of anxiety about death and dying. I had never thought about my own mortality until my eating disorder began deteriorating my health. There was a point in time where, as I forced myself to throw up after every single meal, I was throwing up blood and was dealing with heart palpitations. Dealing with these episodes on a daily basis struck me with so much fear that to this day, I still can’t quite put those feelings into words. Before seeking counseling and discovering that at any given moment I could face heart failure, it never occurred to me that I spent nearly 12 years of my life punishing myself for my shortcomings rather than overcoming them and pursuing my dreams.
After undergoing tons of therapy, recovery, and several emotionally and physically painful relapses, I have finally come to a better place in life. I think after staring death straight in the face I’ve discovered that human life is so fragile, and anyone can die at any moment from even the most trivial of accidents. Understanding that I could have lost my life at such a young age before accomplishing any of my goals has given me the undying drive to chase after my dreams.
Never have I once before written down my dreams from the perspective of facing death, so after scribbling on this wall I found so many emotions welling up from within me. There are so many things that I want to do before I die – see the Northern Lights, jump out of a plane 12,500 feet in the air, get stuck in a blizzard in New York… but then I thought about the things that really matter to me in my current place in life and realized that the things that I want to do in the next 5, no, 2 years, will be the things I want to achieve before dying.
5: Visit all the countries on my bucket list
With the exception of going to Disney World, Canada, and the Phillippines as a young child, I’ve yet to leave America to explore other cultures, even though the Mexican border is less than 100 miles from where I live. Even worse, I have barely traveled outside of California as a grown adult, with the exception of somewhat local destinations like Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Salt Lake City. There is a whole entire world out there that I want to see before I die. I want to visit Japan and see the cherry blossoms bloom. I want to ride a camel in Dubai. I want to swim with the whale sharks in Belize. I want to visit the 7 wonders of the world… I want to see the many beautiful things that have been created by nature and the majestic structures created by ancient civilizations that once were in existence.
I am very fortunate to have been born and raised in America, but I also feel like my American upbringing has also led me to a lack of cultural diversity within my lifestyle. Aside from being around the Filipino culture at home as a child, I have not yet immersed myself in the thousands of other cultures that the world has to offer me. The world is my oyster… a very big one that I am hungry to explore.
4. Come to terms with my body image, insecurities, and sense of self
There is a truth that is commonly known amongst people who have faced eating disorders before: no matter how far along you are in recovery, your disorder will always be a part of you. Having lived with bulimia for over a decade has definitely shaped the person I have come to be in both good and bad ways. Through recovery, I’ve become such a strong individual who prioritizes self-worth. Through suffering, I have also felt how incredibly lonely life can be when you are in so much pain that you can’t even begin to explain it to someone else, even if they are willing to listen and help you.
I truly believe that there are life-changing scenarios that people are placed in that completely alters their perspective on social acceptance and self-worth. Although blogging has forced me to come out of my shy little shell, I definitely still feel that I have a very strong and impenetrable wall I’ve built over the years. As hard as I try to take it down, it just can’t be torn down overnight. It’s not that easy.
Life can be lonely within the confines of these walls, and it can be frustrating at times to know that I was the one who built these walls around myself. I am taking steps to bring them down, and one day I want to feel 100% completely comfortable in my own skin around others. I am a far more courageous and outgoing person compared to the shy and anxious person that I used to be, but I would love to see myself in a few years and be proud of the person that I am, with zero hidden insecurities.
3. Make my parents proud
It’s taken me years for me to come to the conclusion that my parents are definitely not nor have ever been my enemy. Growing up in a household where our culture was drastically different from the typical American home made me feel very misunderstood by my parents as a teenager, and therefore, very isolated.
As an adult, I am taking strides to cultivate a healthier and closer relationship with my parents. Now that I am seeing my parents grow visibly older, I am realizing that my years left to spend with them on earth is limited. This realization has given me a crazy obsession with success because I want to make my parents proud before they leave this earth. Although I’m sure they are proud of me now, I still desire the success of such magnitude where my income will allow for me to buy them a home back in the Phillippines and pay for their monthly expenses. My parents deserve the world. I just want to be able to give that to them, just like they did their absolute best to provide for and raise me.
2. Make my first million (and keep it)
I don’t believe that my income goals are in any way lofty or impossible. After diving into the blogging world, I have met several affluent bloggers who make hundreds of thousands per month – we’re talking six figures on a monthly basis. I recently interviewed Michelle Schroeder-Gardner of Making Sense of Cents who is living proof that bloggers are fully capable of making almost one million dollars in a single year.
I have no doubt in my mind that I will get to this level, so I would love to see 6 figures in my bank account and keep it at a minimum of 6 figures for the rest of my life. I know that money is not everything, but after dealing with so much financial insecurity I would love to have the permanent feeling of wealth and abundance. Let’s face it: having enough money is definitely a grounding and secure feeling.
There are so many things I desire to do with my money rather than disposing it on lavish things. I want to be able to have a good amount of money saved up in the event that something happens to me or my loved ones because it’s never guaranteed that we may wake up tomorrow morning.
1. Grow old with someone
There are so many things I aspire to do before I die, but I would love the opportunity to share these memories with a special person in particular. I am not saying that I don’t believe my current partner isn’t the right one for me as I am optimistic about our future together – I am just so young, and realistically, I never know what will happen to us within the next few years.
Back in high school when I first started dating, I never thought that infidelity, dishonesty or jealousy existed in real-world relationships and that these issues were just things on TV. I was very naive and inexperienced, so when it personally happened to me, I then finally understood why people spent so much time going from partner to partner.
It is very hard to find a partner who you want to spend the rest of your life with. With the many dating avenues that we now have at our disposal and the flippant approach that millennials have when it comes to relationships, it almost seems like finding a partner who wants “forever” is almost like a dying breed because they can always find someone new.
Regardless of who is standing alongside me when I am older, I would love to have someone there with me. I would love to travel the world with someone, get married to someone, buy a home with someone, have children with someone, and grow old with someone. Just like most people, I don’t want to pass away without someone else at my bedside.
I honestly really didn’t think that visiting this wall would warrant a blog post filled with deep thoughts about life ambitions and dreams, but I definitely feel like writing on this wall can bring out a lot of emotions that many people would not expect to unearth. If you want to visit the Before I Die wall in San Diego, you can find it on the corner of University and Richmond Ave. in Hillcrest, posted on the wall of the Alibi dive bar. Be sure to check out the official website to find one of over 2,000+ walls across the globe that’s closest to you.
What about you guys? What are the things you want to do before you die? Let’s chat in the comments below.