Today is my 46th birthday.
I spent last night in somewhat anguished contemplation and spirited debate with my wife about my role in society and whether I’m actually done, effectively retired.
After we kissed and made up (the spirited debate took the form of a shouting match, like it usually does whenever my symptoms are getting the better of me) I sat and thought some more about what I would want to do if education and money were no object.
I’d want to write, sure, but that’s more of a hobby right now. I mean something that will make a difference in the world.
For many years, I’ve had the idea of starting a non-profit organization that would help others with what became a growing list of causes – last-chance financial assistance to keep the lights on, the roof over their heads, food on the table, etc.; granting wishes to deserving people (i.e. getting someone who’s overcome a disability to rejoin the workforce a car to get them back and forth to work); and so on. The list at one point was five long and I knew that while I may want to help other people with a non-profit, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do.
Then I read this blog post about the lack of scholarships that are available to people who suffer from mental illnesses. This was always something that was on the list of things that I wanted my charity to do, but never was the primary objective.
I read that blog post and realized that I need to start my charity, and it needs to be a scholarship fund for those with mental health issues.
To sum up one of the points the blog post makes, people with mental illnesses oftentimes find the linear progression of education a difficult thing. There are often interruptions due to what we often call a “bad day” but what it actually a flare-up of our symptoms. It’s hard to focus on that midterm when you can barely drag yourself out of bed to feed yourself. And a lot of times, scholarships and grants aren’t so accommodating when the results that perpetuate the funding are sidetracked by a mental health issue.
My charity would take that into consideration when granting scholarships. It would understand if there were struggles and really celebrate a student overcoming them and achieving academically.
I also found an article from Forbes about the basics of starting a charity. It’s obviously not in depth, but it gives me hope that I can start something despite not having the funding for it in my own pocket. That’s what’s kept me from starting this all this time (okay, that and the wandering mission statement).
So happy birthday to me. I think I might have discovered that my purpose in life is attainable.
And that’s the best birthday gift I could hope for.