A few months ago I applied to one - just one - graduate program. I was happy to be admitted but ultimately decided I wasn't prepared to go into debt for letters after my name.
I'm quite happy with the essay I wrote as part of the application, though - it concisely depicts my journey from studious kid to corporate cog to traveler to the....person I am today. I'm sharing it here in the hopes that you find it entertaining and maybe - just maybe - elucidating.
Our society is in a weird state. If studies are to be believed, people spend most of their waking hours working at jobs that 70% of them hate...For what?
When did we forget that the whole point of life is to be happy? When did we decide that spending most of our waking hours doing something we hate is going to achieve that goal?
I had always been a self-motivated, promising student, even when nothing was expected of me. I was 10 years old when my family moved to the States from Brazil, and after my first day of school, despite my limited English, I cracked open the books and completed the homework Mrs Patrick had assigned. The next day I turned it in. Mrs Patrick was taken aback and handed it back to me, but I insisted she take it and grade it.
I worked hard in high school. I majored in engineering in college partly because of the challenge. I chose to work in finance and dedicated six years of my life to the service of a bank because I wanted to be among the smartest people, and I had observed that many of them ended up on Wall Street. During the financial crisis, I volunteered for dirty jobs and was rewarded with tons of responsibility, my own office, frequent travel to Europe and a BlackBerry to boot. I was important. CFOs and CEOs asked for my opinion in meetings.
My life was on track. I made great money. I lived in New York City - which had always been a dream. I could buy almost anything I wanted. I had recognition. I felt important.
I did everything a high-achiever was supposed to do, and at first, things were swell. Occasionally in my 20s though, questions about my life path would float into my mind and I would brush them away. But the thoughts kept visiting and hanging around for longer; eventually they started morphing into “is this all there is?”
Soon, I felt lost. I didn’t know who I was or what I liked anymore. I executed on tasks, but I felt uncreative. I would travel to Europe only to get to know the insides of conference rooms. I felt trapped, my identity bolted to my desk, and I would longingly look out the window, thinking “when will I have enough money to….”
Travel. The answer to this question was travel. And one day in February of 2013 I realized I was never going to have enough money - such a thing didn’t exist in the paradigm I was living. So I quit, shattered the life I had known for 28 years with no idea of what would come out on the other side.
I left for Moscow on a one-way ticket in August of 2013. I didn’t have any plans, and I most certainly didn’t know if or when I would come back home because I wanted to live the opposite of the highly achievement-driven, trodden path life I had lived up until this point.
I loved traveling because it made me feel alive. I experienced things instead of ticking tasks off lists. My identity didn’t have anything to do with my work. I saw the sun every day. I felt good.
I wrote, I blogged, I dabbled in photography. I took risks, I hatched business plans. I failed and I got back up. I felt creative again. I remembered who I was and what I liked and I wasn’t scared to try different things. I had no plans but I figured things out.
Nine months and over 20 countries later, I decided to move back to my hometown of Miami, which was experiencing an incredible creative burst that had completely drawn me in. A friend at The Design Gym, where I had taken design thinking classes in New York shortly before leaving introduced me to Jess Do, another TDG alum who had recently moved to Miami.
Jess and I quickly realized we had a lot in common. We were both high achievers that left successful finance careers, stumbled into design thinking and realized it unlocked our creativity and thus made us feel incredible. There was no one in Miami championing this methodology, so we started Design Thinking Miami (DTM) as a meetup and soon were hacking our way through teaching courses to empower others with this knowledge. Within a few months, Miami Make Week and The Miami Foundation were knocking on our metaphorical door asking for us to teach workshops for them. Our community grew. Momentum built.
In the summer of 2015, nearly a year into the DTM experiment, I decided to leave my job at a startup foundation to focus on DTM full time. In addition to our community work, through projects and private workshops, we want to bring design thinking and all its positive creativity-inducing side effects into South Florida companies to make a dent in that 70% employee dissatisfaction.
I’m already working on the change I want to see in the world - to help people reconnect with their creativity, which I believe is a key to happiness. I’m hoping that this program will give me more tools and expand my horizons to more ways of creating a world where people remember that the whole point of life is to be happy and are able to make happiness a priority. To the program, I can bring the perspective of someone already working to create a community, a business and a movement.