After she experienced the death of someone she loved, New Orleans resident Candy Chang was grieving and thinking about death—and life. Thinking about death, she wrote,
helped clarify my life, the people I want to be with, and the things I want to do, but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wondered if other people felt the same way. So with help from old and new friends, I painted the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.
And people did pick up the chalk, reflect, and share. The original project in New Orleans was a success, and Candy and her friends built the Before I Die Toolkit, so that people all over the world could create their own local Before I Die projects. Before I Die walls have been created in Abu Dhabi, UAE; Beijing, China; and Cordoba, Spain; in Xalapa, Mexico; Yankton, South Dakota; and Zürich, Switzerland.
This project is an amazing way to think about community, mortality, and our individual and collective aspirations. "Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life," says Candy Chang. Looking at the photos of the Before I Die walls around the world is inspirational, and makes us want to take a moment to think about our own answers and ask you: How would you fill in the blank?
Candy Chang has released a TEDTalk: What do YOU want to do before you die?