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  • Translator: Queenie Lee Reviewer: Peter van de Ven

  • To skip the small talk,

  • I'm going to start off by asking you guys three questions.

  • So the first question is:

  • are any of you going through any sort of personal struggle right now?

  • Yeah, okay.

  • The second question is:

  • do you feel that you have someone in your life

  • with whom to share that struggle?

  • Yes, all right.

  • The third question is:

  • do any of you guys watch Mad Men?

  • So I know I'm way behind on my seasons -

  • I just started getting into Netflix -

  • and the other night while watching season number two, episode 12 of Mad Men,

  • I heard Anna Draper say this to a very lost Donald Draper.

  • She said, "The only thing keeping you from being happy

  • is the belief that you are alone."

  • This quote really resonated with me

  • because that's exactly how I felt

  • when I left sunny Southern California, three years ago,

  • to start my freshman year of college at Northwestern University.

  • So this is a picture of me,

  • my freshman year of college, first week at school.

  • That's me in the top left corner.

  • And another question for you guys.

  • Have you ever been out at a party, or event, or out with your friends,

  • and someone says, "Let's take a picture,"

  • even though you weren't totally in the mood to take a picture,

  • you weren't feeling that great but still smiled in the picture,

  • and it ended up on Facebook and everyone saw it,

  • and you're like, "That was me at that event."

  • So that's kind of what happened at this picture.

  • Also this picture, when I was out at a party that same week.

  • So these pictures, they made it to Facebook,

  • I was smiling in them, all my friends saw them.

  • "Looks like you're having a great time in college."

  • That's not really how I felt on the inside.

  • This is a picture of my diary,

  • that I started writing in that same first week of college.

  • I actually have it right here with me,

  • and I am going to read you my very first diary entry.

  • September 27, 2012.

  • I wish I could start out my first entry

  • with an ecstatic quote about life or how I love college so much,

  • but since this is a personal journal,

  • I can be honest and say

  • I've never remembered feeling more lost in my entire life.

  • I only three quarters know that everything will work out and I'll be OK.

  • I miss home and being surrounded by people who know me so well

  • and love me for all that I am.

  • And so that whole first year of college, I was plagued by this one question:

  • who am I?

  • I really had felt that I had lost my identity

  • in leaving my home in California, leaving my friends behind

  • to start college for the first time.

  • And it was until the end of my freshman year

  • when things were a lot better,

  • that I had to learn what Donald Draper did in season two, episode 12 of Mad Men,

  • that the only thing that had been keeping me from being happy

  • was the belief that I was alone,

  • and feeling that way in my first week of college.

  • I actually put out this query over Facebook,

  • one the last few weeks of freshman year.

  • I said, "Hi, everyone. I'm doing my final journalism project

  • on people struggling to adjust to college the first year.

  • If anyone is willing to talk to me about it,

  • please let me know and message me."

  • And I was shocked when within just a couple of hours,

  • I got messages from people all over campus.

  • A lot of them expressing their pain, their first year of college,

  • and I thought,

  • "Wow, if only I was able to talk to these people

  • that first week of school when I was also feeling lost and alone."

  • Actually one of those people,

  • she was someone I had met at one of those parties in the beginning

  • and we had just met and been surface level friends,

  • and that last week of school I interviewed her,

  • and we ended up sitting in the student lounge together

  • and sharing each other's experiences

  • and talking about how lonely we had felt that entire year,

  • and we were both, like,

  • "Wow, if only we had said this to each other when we first met,

  • we wouldn't have felt so lonely."

  • So she ended up becoming one of my best friends in college.

  • So that was the end of freshman year.

  • Then sophomore year things got so much better.

  • I ended up joining a sorority; I got super involved with that.

  • I was really involved with my journalism projects.

  • I co-founded a club called MIXED,

  • which is the Mixed Race Student Coalition,

  • and the whole idea was it didn't matter where you came from,

  • or what was your background, we all could share our mixed experiences.

  • I would be going out to all these parties, I had a lot of friends at that point,

  • but there would still be nights

  • where I'd come home from an evening out with my friends,

  • and I'd still feel terribly empty inside and I couldn't understand it;

  • I had just been with all these people.

  • I still felt pretty lonely.

  • You know, one of those nights,

  • I was Skyping with one of my friends from far away,

  • and we were having this very deep philosophical conversation about life,

  • and I said, "Wow, I wish all conversations could be like this.

  • This is awesome."

  • And he was, like, "Yes, screw small talk."

  • And I was, like, "Yeah, screw small talk. Why do we even make small talk?"

  • I thought, what if, when talking to our friends, co-workers,

  • or even complete strangers,

  • we could always just skip the small talk,

  • and instead talk about the things that really mattered in life

  • or things that you both actually really cared about

  • and wanted to talk about?

  • So I was, like, wait, screw small talk, skip the small talk.

  • We should make "Big Talk,"

  • and I thought the name was kind of cute,

  • and I didn't really know what to do with it at the time,

  • but I kind of just stuck it in my back pocket

  • and just thought about it for a bit.

  • And so that was the end of my sophomore year of college.

  • And then the following summer,

  • I was getting very involved in my journalism program,

  • and I had the opportunity to do some documentary projects abroad,

  • and I spent three weeks in Ecuador

  • filming a documentary about education reform.

  • Those three weeks were the best three weeks of my life.

  • We were travelling throughout the entire country,

  • interviewing strangers, everyone we encountered,

  • about education in the country,

  • and it didn't matter if we were gliding down the Amazon River,

  • or climbing the Andes Mountains,

  • or salsa dancing through the colonial streets of Cuenca,

  • everywhere we went, we were being open to new people, new experiences

  • and every day was a new adventure.

  • And the picture on the top right

  • was actually taken

  • when one day we had run into these professors at this university,

  • and they invited us into their villa overlooking the Andes Mountains.

  • We ended up drinking wine with them all evening and salsa dancing.

  • And I was, like,

  • "Wow, why didn't this ever happen with my college professors back home?"

  • There's something different in the way I'm approaching life when I'm travelling,

  • the way I'm more open to people,

  • and it invites these kind of magical experiences,

  • and towards the end of my trip,

  • I actually started getting really scared to go back home,

  • to my everyday life.

  • I didn't want to lose this magic - this magic of being abroad,

  • and I thought, you know,

  • how can I make everyday life feel this meaningful

  • and look this beautiful?

  • I had one more opportunity to travel that summer.

  • I went to Germany to do a documentary about the Holocaust,

  • and on one of my last days in Germany, I visited the Berlin Wall

  • and I came upon this question written on the Berlin Wall.

  • It said, "What do you want to do before you die?"

  • And this question really hit me

  • because I just finished the sophomore year,

  • going through my mid-college life crisis,

  • questioning: What's my purpose? Why am I studying journalism?

  • What do I really want to do with my life?

  • Everyone else is asking you that question too, constantly,

  • when you come home for summer break.

  • So I thought about it:

  • what do I really want to do?

  • I knew in part it was about building empathy between strangers,

  • as I'd kind of done through MIXED

  • and through my travelling documentary projects,

  • and I also knew I'd always wanted to start a YouTube channel.