Feel Love, Be Free, Live Life, And Other Things To Do Before You Die

Treva & Candy Chang

Me and artist Candy Chang

What do you want to do before you die? Who do you want to be? How do you want to live?

Taiwanese-American artist Candy Chang’s urban art installation project “Before I Die” is not about death. It’s not a bucket list of things to do and see before you die. Rather, it’s a thought-provoking way of looking at how you’re living right now.

Are you realizing your potential in life? Have you achieved your goals? Are you honoring your highest good? Are you getting the love you deserve? What are you grateful for? What’s still missing in your life?

Life’s greatest questions now have answers, and they can be found on a chalkboard near you.

In September, I moderated a panel discussion at a conference sponsored by the Motion Picture Television Fund (MPTF) called Deal With It: A Women’s Conference, held at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills. Part of the program included a breakfast keynote address by Chang. In her show-and-tell presentation, she introduced the audience to her piece “Before I Die,” a powerful, soul-searching exploration of the human condition.

I was blown away by what I saw and what I learned.

Before-I-Die-New-Orleans-Candy-Chang

A Before I Die wall in New Orleans

PAIN AND SUFFERING ARE UNIVERSAL, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Candy Chang created “Before I Die” as an interactive global art project that invites ordinary people to share their personal aspirations, desires, hopes and dreams in the unlikeliest of spaces: on public walls, on abandoned buildings, on city streets. Not exactly typical places for self-examination and confession,  but that’s what makes it so striking – the combination of its logistics AND the collective emotions it stirs up.

before-i-die-writingsBONDING + CATHARSIS = ART

After losing someone she loved and falling into a depression, Chang initially created this experiment on an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood as an anonymous place to help heal and share intimately with her neighbors. The project gained global attention, thanks mainly to the curiosity and passion of its participants. Since its inception, over 1000 Before I Die walls have been created in over 35 languages, in over 70 countries, including Kazakhstan, Iraq, Haiti, China, Ukraine, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Argentina, and South Africa.

Before-I-Die-05-writingWE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER

The walls are “an honest mess” of the longing, pain, joy, insecurity, gratitude, fear, and wonder that you would usually hear only in the confines of a therapist’s office or church confessional. Publically, the project brings communities together by fostering honesty, trust, support, and understanding. Privately, it allows people to let it rip.

And boy, do they let it rip. With a simple piece of chalk, people bare their souls and unload their consciences. Responses on Before I Die walls range from hilarious to heartbreaking, from gutsy to gut-wrenching. You laugh, you tear-up, but most of all, you THINK. And that’s the purpose of the project: to be contemplative and comforting all at the same time.

BEFORE I DIE I WANT TO….

“I want to live 100%”

“I want to abandon all insecurities”

“I want to be fearless”

“I want to get my wife back”

“I want to do a cartwheel”

“I want to figure out how to let go”

Before I DieIt goes on and on, because life’s to-do list goes on and on. It never ends, and nor should it. We’re all imperfect creatures, works-in-progress that keep seeking and evolving. Everybody’s got some chalkboard goal they would like to achieve this lifetime. The question is: are you willing to make it happen, or are you willing to make peace if it never happens at all? I think you have to be prepared to do both. Whatever you do, don’t wait. Life’s too short.

During her presentation, Candy Chang handed out Post-It notes to the conference attendees to scribble down their deepest, most innermost Before I Die thoughts. Afterwards, they were assembled on poster boards outside the hotel banquet room. Like the responses on walls around the world, these were just as poignant, moving, and excruciatingly honest. You could feel the grief and hope in every word.

My response is included somewhere in these Post-It notes. I can’t tell you where, but I can tell you this: I could’ve written any number of them.

It’s good to know I’m not alone.

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The Clooney Effect And Why It’s Good For Smart Chicks

George & AmalTo all my girlfriends lamenting the lack of men wanting intelligent, independent, self-reliant women, I say phooey! There are plenty of good men out there looking for good, substantive women. Don’t believe me? Just ask George Clooney.

If you didn’t notice last Sunday, George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin quietly celebrated their one-year anniversary, and I for one, couldn’t be happier – happy mostly because he married Amal in the first place.

Confirmed bachelor George had his pick of all kinds of Hollywood babes: from actresses to models, to a dancer with the stars. But Amal, the accomplished international human rights lawyer, eventually won out.

Score one for the smart chick – and score one for George too – who married someone probably smarter than him.

Call it substance over style, but Amal had a little something her competitors didn’t have: world-class brains. It doesn’t hurt that she’s also f-ing gorgeous, but clearly it was her f-ing gorgeous intelligence above all else that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. If this isn’t a thumbs-up for female brainiacs everywhere, I don’t know what is.

Thanks to George and others of his ilk who want women with some smarts, we have the Clooney Effect.

The “Clooney Effect” is a phenomenon coined by biological anthropologist Helen Fisher. In her fifth annual study on American singles for Match.com reported by The Atlantic, she surveyed 5,600 singletons across the country to see what they desired in a partner.

Her findings refute the age-old economic mating theory that men are afraid of “over-educated” women. They’re not, she concluded, and I happen to agree. Men really do want to meet/date/marry women who are smart and successful – and if they happen to be smarter than they are, so what? If they’re more successful, who cares? Substance is the new sexy.

But it gets better. According to Fisher, men aren’t just looking for their equals, but for their superiors. The vast majority – 87% – said they would date a woman who makes more money, is more intellectual, and is better educated than they are.

What the Match.com study shows us is that guys nowadays are attracted to women with lives and careers just as much, if not more than, stay-at-home wife types. There will always be domestic goddesses and homemakers and the men who love them, but the new trophy wife is someone who’s kicking ass everywhere, not just in the kitchen.

There are some people though, that think the Clooney Effect is full of shit.

In the cynical, but excellent article “Ladies, The Smarter You Are, The More Likely You Are To Be Single,” writer Lauren Martin presents a harsh counterview.

“Unfortunately, for women, intelligence many times hinders our travels and keeps us from the promise land. Because, for all you bright and educated women out there, what you feel is real…intelligent women are more likely to be single.”

Her article speaks to “the broad spectrum of woes women feel as they sit alone Friday nights with no one to discuss Nietzsche or read lines from Proust with.” Now, I don’t know too many guys who want to sit around discussing Nietzsche on a Friday night, but I get what she’s trying to say: men don’t want women with whom they can converse and who challenge them.

So what do men really want? Not smart chicks, according to this article.

What men want, Martin believes, is a woman who “isn’t ever going to let her career come before making dinner and pleasing them first.”

“Deciding what kind of woman you are is like choosing between a rock and a hard place. If you’re stupid, you’re not taken seriously, but if you’re smart, you’re taken too seriously. Women everywhere are flailing under this double-edged sword. A beautiful, attractive female isn’t desirable for her mind, and those with strong characters are seen as threatening, masculine and undesirable.”

TheWire.com financial reporter John Carney agrees in “Why Do Smart Men Date Less Intelligent Women?” that “successful men date less successful women not because they want ‘women to be dumb’ but rather because they want ‘someone who prioritizes their life in a way that’s compatible with how you prioritize yours.'”

Like I said earlier, there will always be men – especially high-powered, alpha types – who prefer to take the old-fashioned view on dating dynamics. They don’t want to be challenged, tested, or upstaged; they don’t want to have to think; they don’t want to compete. In other words, they don’t want their balls busted.

Sorry, but the last time I checked, having brains was right up there with having a nice rack. Guys dig it (just ask my husband).

Ladies, the truth is, the smarter you are, the more likely you are to make good choices, the more likely you are to have good self-worth, and you’ll set your bar higher – not just with men, but in life.

So be proud, smart chicks of the world. You’re the new trophy.

 

 

Photo credit: Eastfjord Productions / Shutterstock.com