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The Fire.

How will you feel if you wake up one day and you’re forty and you’re dying of cancer? Will you be able to say you lived your life doing what you were meant to do?” – Abe

I was 23 years old. The attorney I was interning for, Abe, was in his 40s and he would succumb to his cancer later that year. But in that moment, he challenged me to chase my passions. For the first time, someone gave me permission to live a thorough and fulfilled life.

I try to remember who I was at 23. I was frustrated. I knew I was meant for a creative career path, I just didn’t know how to get there. I had all these dreams and goals. I wanted to be a world-renowned artist like Barry McGee or Futura 2000. I wanted to be heard. I felt invisible in my country, in my school, and home. I wanted to grab the universe by the face and say, “Look at me! I have something you need!”

That fire burned deep inside. So, we built this locomotive – The Hundreds – and shoveled that coal deep into its belly. This train, it took us to faraway places and we got to see the world. We picked up so many people along the way and shared the journey with new friends.

I don’t know what would’ve become of me if I never met Abe and stayed being a lawyer. Perhaps I would’ve been able to quell that fire. Or maybe it would’ve manifested into charismatic advocacy. I like to think that I would’ve started a clothing brand at some point anyway. Perhaps I would’ve still written a book. What I’ve recently realized, however, is that Abe wasn’t telling me to pursue my destiny as a streetwear designer. When he said to do what I was “meant to do,” he wasn’t specifying a job title. In fact, if you remember, I wanted to be a renowned gallery artist and I never became one.

What Abe was talking about was acknowledging my curiosities and desires: the fire. I’d spent my life running from it and being bewildered by it. He was hoping I’d recognize those flames and harness them instead. Otherwise, this thing would consume me instead of setting the world ablaze.

Whatever that fire is in your life – whether it’s work or personal – I urge you to stoke it and tend to it. There is a lush existence awaiting, and it’s meant for only you.

This morning, I woke up and I turned 40. And I can answer your question with confidence, Abe.

photo by Ja Tecson 

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