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Before I Die

As artist Candy Chang grieved the death of a loved one, she thought about death a lot. She wondered if other people did too, and if they did, what exactly they were thinking about. So, she and some friends painted a giant chalkboard on the side of a dilapidated building in their New Orleans neighborhood, stenciling line after line: “Before I die, I want to…”

            Days later, the wall was full of the hopes and dreams of her community, bringing together the unlikeliest of people and reminding them that they are more same than different.

            Chang told her story to a capacity house during the opening general session at MPI’s 2013 World Education Congress and invited participants to add their thoughts to meter boards just outside the ballroom in The Knowledge Hub. Nearly 500 people responded. Here’s what they said.

  • Nearly 100 people mentioned travel as something they want to do before they die. Locales included the overarching “globe” and “Europe” to the specific “Antarctica,” “Machu Picchu” and “Bora Bora” to the improbable “space.”
  • More than 45 people want to change the world or make a difference in some way.
  • About 40 people want to live life to the fullest, or “live fearlessly.”
  • A significant number of people want to find love or get married (30), have a baby or start a family (25) or have grandchildren or great-grandchildren (13). Two people specified that they want to adopt a child.
  • Some 27 people want to honor themselves, be at peace or simply be happy.
  • Being rich is popular. More than 20 people want to “win the lottery” or “be financially secure.”
  • Twenty-five people want to see their children be happy or succeed, though I am sure most of our community’s parents do!
  • Thirteen people hope to lose weight or maintain their healthy lifestyles. Six people said they want to run marathons or, in one case, the Ironman Triathlon.
  • Eight people want to own their own businesses or, specifically, be their own bosses.
  • Seven people want a cure for diseases such as AIDS, cancer, Rett Syndrome, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Also hitting the seven mark were a) be respected/heard and b) stop worrying about things I can’t control.
  • Three people have lofty career goals—organizing the Olympics, the Academy Awards or a UN World Summit.
  • Other popular responses included finding purpose, learning a new language (or three in one case), enjoying retirement and obtaining a degree (or CMP).

 And, of course, there were quite a few head-turners. Here are 17 of my favorites, in no particular order.

  1. Be on the cover of FORBES magazine
  2. Touch a piece of art in a museum and not get caught.
  3. See a female U.S. president.
  4. Gain immortality.
  5. See you all here in 50 years to refresh this list.
  6. Meet and legally marry my next gay partner.
  7. Study gorillas in Africa.
  8. Be CEO of The Ritz Carlton
  9. Take the day off.
  10.  Own a bar in Brazil.
  11.  Be a guest on the TV show, The Colbert Report.
  12.  Motorcycle in all 50 U.S. states.
  13.  Become a yoga teacher (One person added: “Me, too—for men.”)
  14.  Become a professional clown.
  15.  Try Olympic-style bobsledding.
  16. Visit every Disney theme park in the world.
  17. Plan the perfect meeting.
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Conversation (8)
  • Jo Timmering August 27, 2013

    I want to go to Alaska to visit  2  great grandchildren I have never met.
    Since I have 14 grandchildren and 8 great grand children I want to visit each family. 
    there is nothing like family to make your life complete.  I would say my children have been busy making biger families since 2 of  them have 5 children each.

    although I do like the idea of owning a bar in Brazil. 

  • Graziella Del Grande August 27, 2013

    take the cruise around the world and learn every culture....
  • Stuart Kopple August 27, 2013

    Wow that is so cool.
    It would have been even better if the comments could have been posted live via our VIZ:140 platform.
    Viz:140 is a professional Twitter visualization tool.
    The comments could have been broadcasted to all attendees live,

    Maybe next time!



  • Robin Wharton August 27, 2013

    Great list!  I would like to put this article on my website, is that allowed?
  • Jason Hensel August 27, 2013

    Hi Robin,

    You can republish it on your website as long as you attribute it to our site and author with a link back to this story or website. 

    Thank you,

  • Carolyne Wallace August 27, 2013

    I loved being able to add my own thoughts to the board and reading them throughout the duration of WEC. Thanks for the synopsis and sharing some of the more unusual comments.
  • Patrice Chase August 27, 2013

    In addition 
     to traveling the globe and bringing home magical memories to cherish deep in my soul and to share! My hope is one day "kindness" is recognized as the universal language.

  • Replica Watches October 13, 2013

    I love what you got here, love what you saying and the way you say it.

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