Hello everyone, as you may recall, a few months ago, I was on the verge of oblivion in light of life circumstances. My father had died, my family had fractured, leaving me alone, and all my money disappeared going to my father’s hospital bills. All plans I had and the world I knew had fallen apart–something I thought I would be used to after living the Third Culture Kid life and moving around a lot and going through twelve schools. Here I am now, happy and positive, having had my epiphany that came from ending up on the streets, being betrayed by “friends” I thought I knew, and nearly dying. Below is an edited version of an e-mail I sent to my professor, summarizing what I went through after I lost my father, money, and all hope.

Hello! I’m back here in California. I just wanted to let you know that I’ve gone through a lot in the past few months that makes them seem more like a few years, and as a result, I’ve come out a new man.

I arrived on 16 July after a long, harrowing series of events that can best be summarized by a purgatory experience after going through hell.

As I recall, the last update I had was that I was sleeping on the floor of a dirty house and with less than a hundred dollars in my pocket. I had moved to the east coast after losing my father and money to start a new life in Pittsburgh with a friend I had known from community college, who had convinced me there were jobs and it was a great place to expand my network, especially since cost of living is cheap. What I did not know was that his ulterior motive was to use me as an eventual stream of income to pay for his bills, a scapegoat to blame for his own sins, and more that is probably best left unmentioned.

Needless to say, I made my way to New York City to find answers, feeling that I would find some there, which I did when my best friend of 13 years met me there and abandoned me, leaving me on the streets alone. As it turned out, I ended up being stranded there, homeless and alone, sleeping on subway trains, the floor of Grand Central Station, park benches, the back of buses, and the streets by Times Square. Sick, alone, and miserable, I realized that I had more than I thought I did. My cell phone and charger were there, my friends are there even if spread across the world, and my education. I made a phone call to a friend and he gave me $1500 to get out of New York, get my remaining belongings in Pittsburgh and sell them, then on the Greyhound and back to California. I called up another friend and told him the situation, and he gave me a chance to stay on his couch in Los Angeles until October 1st.

Shortly before my return, I ended up in the hospital, the weight of the emotional duress, the lack of nourishment from not eating, and the viruses that I contracted from being on the street took their toll on me, and I ended up in critical condition in St. Mary’s in Pittsburgh. My father appeared to me as I lay on the bed, and I told him I wasn’t ready to join him before he disappeared. Then a girl I loved once appeared and told me to be strong, that I would be okay and I just have to get up and keep fighting because she would be waiting for me. I woke up from the bed drenched in sweat, but suddenly well, and not sick at all. I could suddenly breathe again and my body wasn’t weak, but it wasn’t in fighting condition either. I discharged myself, and went to get my belongings, then a couple days later, hopped on the Greyhound.

It was when I was on the Greyhound from Pennsylvania to California that I realized the true blessing of my education, especially from UCLA. To be amongst people who had no ambitions, constantly on drugs, selfishly pushing each other around for more seats, homeless, or fighting for petty things like the right to drink alcohol on a bus that prohibits it, I saw where I could be if I had not had my education, and if I had not had my will to survive and succeed. I did not judge them, because it was then that my lessons in life had finally sunk in: acceptance and appreciation.

I knew it was just a transition, and it was a learning experience. By the very end when I arrived back on 16 July 2010, filthy from five days without a shower, tired from carrying my suitcase and two bags, and weary from the physical and emotional abuse I had endured from fellow passengers, I stepped off the bus in Downtown Los Angeles and after crawling through all that shit, I came out a clean man. I raised my fist to the sky and shouted with joy for being blessed with a second chance at life.

On the same day, my friend picked me up and I went to another’s house, showered, and got ready to see the sea on Santa Monica Pier. The sea is the one place in my life where I truly feel connected to this world and life, and for the hours I stood there in silent meditation, I felt as though that was the best conversation with the closest friend I had ever had.

As I walked away from the sea, I got a phone call and a friend asked me to meet him at the Promenade. Within an hour, I had already secured a temporary source of income tutoring someone visiting from Japan every day in English. The next day, I had expanded my network when I walked into an event with my camera and recorder, and as a result of my passion for world affairs and writing, I made friends with people who said to submit my articles any time to their magazine and they’d consider publishing my writing.

Over the past 2 weeks since I’ve returned, I have looked at this city I once scorned with new eyes, accepting that it isn’t perfect and appreciating what it has in comparison to everywhere I had gone to, as well as realizing my own self-worth. I have made new friends and grown closer to those I already have, for they care for me and love me. Every day I wake up thinking how fortunate I am and thanking the Universe for what I have, especially because I have a chance to make myself better, starting from zero and having nobody but myself to care for and use that opportunity to ascend.

I’m focused on signing up for temp work, but I’m also confident in the jobs I am applying to because my positive attitude tells me that after going through the worst, everything gets better. This is especially true because when I was at my worst, I fought hard to make sure it wouldn’t get worse than that, and realized being at my worst wasn’t so bad, but I could walk out of it a better man. Nobody has to stay anywhere forever, and I should know this having been bounced around the world. Soon I will know if I have a job at STA Travel in Westwood, and amidst that opportunity, I have other options lined up.

Whether I am in UCSD next year or backpacking in Iceland, or wherever the Universe guides me through, I am confident I will be fine because I have true wealth, which I measure through the relationships I have with other people, the self-respect and love that we should all have, and my education. The funny thing is, I made a wish for this once. I had walked into my room and saw three candles that said “Dreams Come True” and I wished for the love of my life and I to be together, for wealth and success in grad school and life, and for my father to not suffer anymore. I never bought them and nobody brought them to me either. So I lit them and went to sleep and had a dream where all of these wishes came true. The first part has yet to come true, but the second part is happening already, and I feel like The Richest Man in Babylon now. The third part ended as it did, and my father is in peace in the next world. So here I am now, making use of what I have now, trying to make the candles three for three.

Pittsburgh is not a TCK-friendly city. My experiences there did not help it either. It doesn’t matter how cheap a place is or how many jobs are there: if I’m alone and have no friends, nothing can compensate for that. I have friends throughout the world, and I am not alone. So I returned to where my friends were and wake up with new vigor for life.

To conclude, I learned something valuable in my college sociology class. The lessons of reality have been very helpful for me in life, and we can create our own realities. And I choose to recreate my reality into something beautiful, happy, and wonderful. It has infected many I have come across, simply because they can see it in my eyes, smile, and carefree attitude. Every morning, three times I say to myself when I first wake up, when I look in the mirror, before I step out the door, the following: “Fabulous. Awesome. Wonderful. Lovely. I’m having more fun than they are. Fantastic. Beautiful. Isabella [name of the girl who appeared when I was in the hospital], I love you. I’m going to get into UCSD for grad school.” The order doesn’t matter, but my day begins once I’ve done my morning ritual and stepped out the door.

From recreating myself and shaping this new reality, an idea came to me, and now I have begun work on my most ambitious project to date: Tabula Rasa, an organization dedicated to opening the minds and hearts of people, inspired my my experience as a Third Culture Kid and aimed at helping my fellow TCKs use our mixed blessing from a life of wandering. I will share more of this with you as time goes by. These are conclusions I have drawn from the lessons of reality and knowing we can step outside of it and recreate it. And with that, I know things will get better, for they already are. They are wonderful, I feel fabulous, I can do so many awesome things, life is beautiful and people should know how it is lovely by having more fun, and because of all this, I will achieve great things.

It is by will alone I set my mind in motion.