Almost a decade ago, while devastated by troubled parents and broken relationships, I was walking down the street completely psychotic, when I heard a voice whispering: ‘Slow down. This is your life. Tell him’.
I have spent the past decade trying to figure out what those words meant. And I think I’m almost there:
I was going too fast in life and a Bipolar Disorder was the only means to slow me down. But I had to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del first.
I was living everyone’s life, my parents’, my boyfriends’, except for my own. But I had to move continents to come to that realization.
I hope one day I find the courage to tell my Leonardo that I love him, but for now he’s just a mosaic man.
September 2, 2013. Monster Mike sat across the table from me at breakfast. He was a tall eighteen-year-old kid, with a choppy beard and long blond curly hair. We were trying to figure out what personality one of our schizoid fellow patients had taken on today, as she shuffled down the common area in her pajama’s, and he goes: “You do realize you are just as crazy as the rest of us right?” Well, Mike, actually I don’t agree, I think to myself. I am not ‘crazy’. But since I was admitted to this psych ward as a mental patient, who was I to judge? So, I decided not to say anything, just gave him a big smile and took a bite off my sandwich. Today was my 31st birthday. And I was just diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder.
Just do it
“So, tell me, how’s your job? Do you like it?” My mentor asked one day while I was in his office helping him on his iPad. “Sure”, I said, “but I’m looking into new opportunities”. “So, what is it that you want most out of your career”, he continued. “Or in life, or with this company?” I took a moment to think about it. But I knew what I really wanted. I had wanted this since I was twelve years old. “What I really want is to live and work in the US”, I said. “Just do it”, he replied.
And so it went. I took a trip to Nike’s World Head Quarters to talk to some people about a job that had opened up. I must have been crazy, looking back. Flying all the way out to Oregon in my own time, on my own budget to apply for a job on the other side of the world. But for me, it wasn’t just a job. It was the pursuit of a dream. A dream I had had since I was a high school student. And now, twenty years later, I had an opportunity to make this dream come true.
But, Christmas passed, new years’, and life went its normal course into the new year, days went by like nothing had happened. Until one morning, I was called into a room by my manager. We small talked a little about the weekend. Then he looked at me very serious and said: “you’re going to leave us.”
I got it! I did it! I was going to America!
When I finally made it to my business class seat, my first business class trip ever, I realized I had travelled the world, lived abroad, but this was different somehow. I was all alone, no boyfriend, no colleagues and there was no plan or project. This was a one-way ticket to the rest of my life, I thought.
As time passed, I got used to my new habitat. I made friends, went hiking and camping in the mountains surrounding the city and enjoyed Portland life, with its Thirst Thursdays in the Pearl and rooftop BBQs. And I became a Snowboard coach for a local high school, which meant going up to Mount Hood twice a week. Life in Portland was good.
I learned how to appreciate life at campus too. I saw Phil Knight – the founding father of Nike – while having lunch at the Mia Hamm building. Visited a celebration for Serena (Williams, the tennis player), after winning her 23rd Grand Slam: ‘Greatest Ever, Greatest Ever’, we chant to her in the Bo Jackson sports center. I also managed to get a ticket to a special lunch with Nelson Farris and Jeff Johnson, the companies’ storyteller and the first employee. They were Nike celebrities. People you read about in Shoe Dog. But here at the heart of Nike you could listen to their stories firsthand. And finally, one day after lunch I passed Mark Parker, our CEO, he worked in the building next to mine. I gave him a polite nod, then he turned and said ‘Hi’… Oh My God. The CEO of Nike said hi to me!
I didn’t know at the time those would be my final months in the US. But my dreams had come true and I had a sense of magic, what if I dreamed up something else, could I have that too?
My Leonardo is not my baby daddy, not my provider and neither my roommate nor my brother. My Leonardo is my lover, in bed and out. He’s the one who asks me to come over three times after a night out, he shows interest when I’m prepping for my birthday party during his night shift. And he’s the first one to congratulate me at midnight on my birthday. I know who my Leonardo is.
You are a sweetheart, my friend with benefits. You are a disaster, a gangster, a criminal, but oh so entertaining, interesting and exciting. You tell me your heroic tales and I listen all night with awe. You are so smart and gifted, but ten years too young. You are an international, who has lived in different countries. I know you adore me. I know who my Leonardo is, I just haven’t met you yet.
My brother and I in Oregon – USA, 2018