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.
- Be on the cover of FORBES magazine
- Touch a piece of art in a museum and not get caught.
- See a female U.S. president.
- Gain immortality.
- See you all here in 50 years to refresh this list.
- Meet and legally marry my next gay partner.
- Study gorillas in Africa.
- Be CEO of The Ritz Carlton
- Take the day off.
- Own a bar in Brazil.
- Be a guest on the TV show, The Colbert Report.
- Motorcycle in all 50 U.S. states.
- Become a yoga teacher (One person added: “Me, too—for men.”)
- Become a professional clown.
- Try Olympic-style bobsledding.
- Visit every Disney theme park in the world.
- Plan the perfect meeting.