After the death of someone she loved, artist Candy Chang went through a long period of grief and depression. With time, she felt gratitude for the time they had together and eventually she found clarity in her life by contemplating death so much. But she struggled to maintain this perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. So with help from old and new friends, she covered the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the sentence, “Before I die I want to _______” so anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.
It was all an experiment. By the next day the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing. Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, abandon all insecurities, straddle the International Date Line, see the leaves change many times, be someone’s cavalry, hold her one more time, be completely myself… People’s hopes and dreams made her laugh out loud, tear up, and feel consolation during some of her toughest times. She understood her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and she remembered that she is not alone as she tries to make sense of her life. The Atlantic called it, “one of the most creative community projects ever.”
After receiving many messages from people who wanted to make a wall with their community, Candy created step-by-step resources. Today, over 2,000 Before I Die walls have been created in over 70 countries thanks to passionate people around the world.
I want to abandon all insecurities.
I want to get my wife back.
I want to straddle the International Date Line.
I want to eat more everything.
I want to tell my mother I love her.
I want to see the leaves change many times.
I want to be completely myself.
I want to be a Youtube sensation.
I want to see what I'm like as an old man.
I want to live off the grid.
I want to sing for millions.
I want to be ok with not understanding.
I want to see my daughter graduate.
I want to follow my childhood dream.
I want to build a school.
I want to hold her one more time.
I want to find stillness.
I want to have a student come back and tell me it mattered.
I want to eat all the carbs I want.
I want to hold a public office and be honest.
I want to go home on time.
I want to love recklessly again.
I want to create something beautiful.
I want to make music in New Orleans.
I want to make a livable wage.
I want to save the wetlands.
I want to make peace with the ones I love.
I want to not be homeless.
I want to see my students become teachers.
I want to listen more.