After my dad’s death, I did everything I could to numb my grief. I partied endlessly throughout high school, nearly every night. It wasn’t until I entered college, and my body was covered in eczema from all of my suppressed emotions, that I took a break from partying. By that point I had been diagnosed with ADHD and began taking adderall. The combination of my upbringing, the adderall and my desire to be self sufficient drove me to cut everything out of my life that wouldn’t help me accomplish the latter.
I pursued an engineering degree, not because I loved it, but because I knew that it would enable me to have a stable financial future. I worked endlessly to be the best in my class and joined a prestigious general contracting firm upon graduation. While I have a lot of respect for the firm, construction culture meant that I was working 14 hour days on average and I never had weekends for myself. I kept my head down and shut out everything that was creative and restorative until I became fully disconnected, ultimately losing my true identity.
Then, in 2019, I lost my best friend Jenny. We both grew up in Santa Cruz and despite being older than me, she joined her younger brother and I at Cal Poly for engineering, a couple years after us. Growing up in a family of engineers, engineering was second nature, but she was always curious about what else was out there. Together we would dream up what else we could do instead of engineering and construction. She had so much energy and enthusiasm about her -- some of the characteristics that I loved most.
Always being one for adventures, my friend went ice climbing one day with another friend in Mammoth Lakes. While climbing, there was a rockfall that killed both of them instantly. Losing her was such a shock and I still hadn’t fully grieved for my father. I struggled to exercise, gained weight and slipped further into misery at my profession. After a while, I realized that I loathed what I was doing. I had spent over 10 years suppressing my creativity, working around the clock, only putting my job first, missing out on times with loved ones and if I kept going down that path, I would lose myself for good. Although I had worked so hard to get to where I was in my career, was perceived as very successful from the outside eye, and although it was beyond terrifying to make a change, it was time for me to start a new chapter.