I’m an optimist. I believe in people and want nothing more than to make a genuine difference in the world. I do my best to look at setbacks and heartbreak as times to learn and grow, and I’ve been undoubtedly blessed with immense love and opportunity.
Which is why the next few lines are so incredibly difficult for me to write.
I suffer from depression. I’m a recovering gambling addict.
But first, let us take a step back.
When I started this blog as a junior in high school while living in Shanghai (for my dad’s job), I was on the fast track to “success.” I had tens of thousands of readers and on a routine basis, I received hundreds of emails from people all around the world telling me how much my writing had impacted them. Several readers even suggested that my words potentially saved their life.
I was humbled to say the least.
After graduating high school, I moved back to the United States to attend the University of Missouri both excited and was nervous to start my college career.
Several months into the university experience, there was a knock at the door.
A quick look through the peephole revealed a well-dressed guest: Depression.
He was back, insistent on coming in.
Depression had made his way into my life before, but at the time, I mistook him for just being sad.
This time, however, it was clear it was the start of a more serious relationship which continues on and off to this day.
The Best Years of Your Life
Having had the opportunity to talk to people from all walks of life all around the world, it’s obvious to me that the college experience isn’t for everyone. For many, it’s a broken and outdated system that does little to prepare someone for the real world. For some, it even does severe harm.
What’s often referred to as “the best time of your life” was nothing of the sort for me.
I certainly had my fair share of memorable moments during my four years of college, but more often than not, I was left feeling defeated, lost, and alone.
Despite my disdain for school, I had two amazing parents who valued my education and spent both time and money to ensure I could get a degree. They wanted nothing more than for me to live a good life.
And so I coasted.
I let the excuses of not wanting to be there hinder my personal and professional growth. I kept writing sporadically but quickly my momentum began to fade.
I soon started losing faith in myself.
I struggled to fit in. I became irritable and antisocial. I hated school, and hated myself.
There were weeks where I would just lock myself in my room and eat pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. I blamed everything and everyone, and I felt like I had no control.
I had endless ambition and nothing to show for it. My passions were left to die.
Instead of continuing to write and share my truths at A Boundless World, I started questioning my ability to tell stories, despite it being one of the few things that gave me great joy.
Depression was starting to affect how I thought, felt, and saw the world. And it wasn’t pretty.
How To Rack Up 20k of Gambling Debt
Despite just barely graduating university, I was able to leverage some of my social media skills to land a job at premier social media agency in NYC.
A fresh start, this was my chance to shine.
Less than a few months of calling the Big Apple home, there was another knock at the door.
He was back.
My work performance suffered, and every step forward meant two steps back.
My work performance suffered. I couldn’t focus. I struggled to get out of bed. Worst yet, rejected the many people who reached out to help.
Within three months, I had quit my first job in NYC. When someone reached out to help, I rejected them coldly. I started eating unhealthy and smoking a pack a day.
And then it got worse. I started to gamble.
Over the next year, I amassed over 20k in gambling debt. My life felt like it was spiraling out of control.
Sometimes I would gamble online for 15 hours straight between jobs. I would win big, then lose it all in a matter of seconds. Chasing my losses would soon ensue.
The dozens of credit cards I had for travel hacking soon became maxed out.
I remember several occasions when the urge to take just one extra step onto the NYC subway tracks overwhelmed me.
On the outside, I pretended everything was OK. My demons were invisible to even the closest of my family and friends.
I was lost. I was scared. Worse, I was afraid to ask for help.
What had I got myself into?
Moving To Chile
After struggling to find my way in NYC for close to a year and jumping from job to job, I finally decided I needed a change of scenery.
As luck would have it, my good friend Carlos Miceli was co-founding Exosphere, a learning and problem-solving community in Chile. I eagerly joined their second program in March, which lasted until May and continued to stay involved for their third boot camp which ended this November.
I took a chance. And can honestly say it changed my life.
I still struggled with my demons during the durations of both boot camps, but being surrounded by dozens of amazing people from all over the world was a reminder that I wasn’t alone.
One of the greatest sources of pain is our constant desire to run away from reality. We delay pain for the illusion of security now.
We say we aren’t depressed. We say we’re perfectly ok.
We say we’re happy at our jobs, but our thoughts say otherwise.
Knowing perfectly well the truth, we deny our sexuality in fear of what others might think.
And so we hide.
We avoid having the difficult conversations. We avoid doing the things that need to be done.
For the longest time, I refused to admit I was both depressed and addicted to gambling. Instead, I repeated the lie that I was OK.
I wasn’t just sad. Being sad on occasion is a normal human emotion. I struggled with more than just feeling sad.
On days when my depression is at its worst, my judgment becomes cloudy; my body becomes heavy, and I’m overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion.
The only way to describe depression is to have felt it.
I’ve grown up with a roof over my head and have never worried about if I was going to eat. I’ve traveled the globe, lived on three continents, and have been given endless opportunity.
How the fuck can I be depressed? I felt immense guilt. It wasn’t until I acknowledged that no one is immune to depression that I began to accept it.
I reached out to those closest to me. I started taking better care of my physical and mental health. I read James Altucher’s book “Choose Yourself” which saved my life.
I still struggle of course, but I’m putting in the work and giving it everything I have.
A Living Paradox
I may never completely overcome my depression. Who knows?
But I do know this,
I’m happiest when I ship my art to the world.
I’m happiest when I write.
I’m happiest when I record.
I’m happiest when I hit “publish.”
I’m happiest when I have deep and meaningful conversations with people who are trying to leave their mark on the world.
I’m happiest when I solve problems. I’m happiest when I connect people. I’m happiest when I study tech.
I’m happiest when I read. I’m happiest when I’m still. I’m happiest when I’m with my friends and family.
I’m happiest when I build things that matter.
And I’ll likely live the rest of my life fighting my frequent guest.
Writing this post has lifted an immense amount of weight off my shoulders.
And yet, I’m scared shitless.
Will people think I’m crazy for writing this? Will my future career be affected by this? What will all my friends and family say who had no idea?
He’s just doing this for page views! His life can’t possibly be that bad! What a fraud! He will never amount to anything. He’s so unstable! A spoiled rich kid!
I’m confident. I’m insecure.
Depression And My Gift
Despite some days struggling to get out of bed and wanting to give up, the one thing that keeps me going is knowing that maybe, just maybe, I can leave a mark on the world.
Depression is a curse. It’s a curse because when it hits, there’s very little you can do but embrace it and let it pass. In an instant, things can turn dark.
But it’s also a gift.
It’s a gift, because it’s taught me how to be a better human being. It’s taught me empathy. It has shown me that we all are just trying to do our best.
On a regular basis, I look eye to eye with depression and many times I let it win. But over the last few months I’ve been taking active steps to make sure I’m in the best spot I can be.
I’m so passionate about what I do here at A Boundless World because I genuinely believe that we aren’t meant to struggle. We are here to make a difference.
How To Change The World
With endless opportunity, we’re so overwhelmed and scared to death of coming up short that we do nothing.
Instead, we read list posts on how to live a better life. We sit on the sidelines admiring our idols fantasizing “why not me?”
You change the world by living it. You change the world by facing your fears. You change the world by surrounding yourself with people who want nothing more than to see you fly.
You change the world by loving yourself.
You change the world by accepting your truths, your reality. You change the world by not hiding from who you are.
You change the world by solving problems. You change the world by dreaming big and taking one step every single day.
Sure, we’re all dealt bad hands. But I refuse to eat from the tree of abundant excuses. And so should you.
My life’s mission is to share my truth. Not through wearing an inauthentic mask that looks good on paper, but by sharing my deepest struggles and triumphs because that’s what matters.
I won’t let anything or anybody prevent me from changing the world.
This is my truth. This is my story. Depression and demons be damned.
If you know someone who is struggling to find their way it would mean the world to me if you shared this with them. Sometimes a few sentences are all it takes to remind us we are never truly alone.
Special thanks to Katrishia and Lilibeth for their editing insight as well as to many people who have helped me grow and become the person I am today. Special thanks to my mum, dad, Aj, Sammi, Aunt Ann. Thanks to Belen, the Brazilian crew, the Exo family, Drew, Johnathan, the college roomies and the many others who have encouraged me to share my truth. Also thanks to Kevin Breel, Brian Cuban, and James Altucher who inspired me to write this.