I stumbled upon the “graffiti” to the left earlier this year while on a walk through my neighborhood. I stopped and immediately took a picture because it was so striking. I paused and read the words. I didn’t know what it was all about, and I didn’t know how to feel about it because this wall is continually being graffitied by kids and painted over by the city.
This didn’t seem like graffiti though.
I only recently heard the story of Candy Chang, the artist who created the Before I Die project. She’s an artist who is uniquely using public space as a way for people to connect and be heard.
The canvas she chose for this project was an abandoned house in her neighborhood. She turned the walls into a huge chalkboard and painted the giant words, “Before I Die I Want To…” with blank lines and chalk for anyone who walked by to write in their thoughts.
She had no idea what to expect. What she found was that the wall filled up quickly with comments that spanned the range from funny (“Before I die I want to be tried for piracy”) to moving (“Before I die I want to hold her one more time.” “Before I die I want to be myself.”)
Her inspiration came from losing someone she loved dearly. It caused her to reflect and struggle with death, and it also put her life in perspective. She found that maintaining this perspective was challenging in everyday life, and her project aimed at finding a way to keep this perspective alive.
Walls have now been created worldwide, inspiring communities to share their dreams publicly.
Chang’s intention to turn neglected spaces into welcoming ones is becoming a reality. Getting to know our neighbors in this way and documenting what really matters to us as we change and grow carries a uniting factor, as well as reminds us that wherever we may be in life, we are not alone.
Death is an uncomfortable subject. We often don’t deal with it until it’s forced on us through loss. Facing our mortality is sobering, but it can be a powerful incentive to step into our lives and relationships fully. In Chang’s words, “Thinking about death clarifies your life.”
I’d like to invite all of us to create an online wall right here. In the comments section, finish this sentence: Before I die I want to…
I’ll go first.
Before I die I want to be a mother.
Write your dream and inspire others to live theirs. Let’s remind each other we are never alone.
Photo by Monique Minahan