When I first started college I thought I would become a doctor. I majored in physics and chemistry, and I had great plans one summer to spend all my time studying for the MCAT and getting ready to apply to med school. However, my roommate was heavily into computer science and game design, and I was intrigued. Instead of studying for the MCAT I ended up teaching myself programming and how to get around a linux console. And I was hooked.
By the end of the summer, my roommate and I had formed a company with three more of our friends and began building a game. Like all entrepreneurs, I wore many hats. As creative director and engineering manager I touched coding, project management, animation, and building tools. Our team grew, and I thoroughly enjoyed being in a room with a group of brilliant people who could improvise, turning our ideas into reality and watching as we kept trying to one up each other with something even more amazing. It felt like digital magic, but then like many things that are a passion, it became work.
Beware Your Bliss
I fully agree with Joseph Campbell’s exhortation to follow your passion, your bliss, but I learned, sometimes you need something more. In addition to passion, we need to know what we’re doing is meaningful. Video games weren’t enough for me, so I went back to my original plan, took the MCAT and began getting ready to apply to medical school while continuing my work with my friends. Then, another disruption — we were acquired by Linden Lab, the creators of Second Life.
Suddenly what we were working on was infused with meaning as we became involved with what looked like an opportunity to fundamentally change how people interact with each other. I was pulled away from medical school a second time. Again though, over time my work started to lose meaning as I spent more time dealing with bugs in various graphics cards than building a virtual world for everyone. I loved engineering, but I knew I needed more.
During my time at our game company, I had become a volunteer for a hospice program as I needed an outlet where I felt I was having an effect on others’ lives. I would find whatever ways I could to help. Sometimes that meant not doing anything other than listening to someone’s story, just being present. One day I took a walk with a patient a few days before her death. I watched her take everything in. She spent five minutes just looking at the beauty of a flower one last time. I was so honored to be there for her, and I realized that being present can be enough. When Jean reached out to ask for help building an app to help people through the most important events in their lives, I knew it was what I wanted to do. I knew it would have more meaning than any project I’ve had in my life.
My goal for the Flower app is to create those special moments of connection when people are present for each other and realize they aren’t alone. Those moments that give us meaning. And, I have found the meaning in my life I was looking for.