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From a young age, I was always the imaginative kid in the neighborhood. I distinctly remember my fifth-grade attempt at hosting a backyard carnival – complete with tickets, games, and a makeshift "ride" involving a wheelbarrow. Admittedly, the ride didn't last long - come on, who did I think I was... super girl, but it was a glimpse into my burgeoning creativity.

Despite my early imaginative tendencies, art wasn't initially on my radar. A discouraging incident in first grade, when a teacher chastised me for coloring outside the lines, left me with the belief that I simply couldn't "do" art. For years, it seemed like a useless pursuit, just something to pass the time.

Fast forward to my college years, and I was well on my way to a life in dentistry, having earned a chemistry degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz. But then, a encounter at work changed everything.

As a dental assistant, I had a bizarre incident while taking routine x-rays for a patient. As he sat in the chair, I noticed he was talking to me, yet I heard nothing and therefore couldn't make out a word he was saying. Instantly I went from feeling fine to frantically worried and confused.  His lips were moving so I knew he was saying something, but I couldn't hear or understand anything he was trying to say. As he sat there, I smiled and pretended all was fine as to not freak myself out even further.  I left work brushing it off as a fluke, odd, one-off incident, but it marked the beginning of a tumultuous journey I was about to embark.

Months went by with no improvement in my symptoms.  I was very difficult to comprehend others due to not being able to hear them and when I could hear them, I felt like they were speaking a foreign language to me even though I knew they were speaking English.  My depth perception was so poor that it made driving very dangerous.  Outwardly, I tried to maintain composure, but inwardly, I was terrified.  My mom who was a phone advice nurse for Kaiser was at a loss and could not figure out what I had.  Countless doctor's appointments and tests yielded no answers, leaving me in a state of despair.  I would come home directly after work and just lay under my covers hoping to sleep off whatever it was.

As my symptoms worsen, my depth perception became so poor that it made driving very dangerous.  At times, I was unable to judge the distance of the car in front of me. I remember just praying I wouldn't accidentally rear-end them. I eventually quit my job and abandoned my dreams of dental school to focus on my health. It felt like my brain was trapped in a constant fog, making it impossible to connect with the world.

Then, a pivotal moment arrived when my friend asked a simple yet profound question: "Why don't you do something you're passionate about?" I sat with this question for some time and eventually it set my mind in motion, and after much contemplation, I discovered at that moment I had two passions: fashion and teaching.

I chose to pursue fashion design and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco. The experience was a revelation. For the first time in my academic journey, I found joy in learning. I walked into classes with an ear-to-ear smile because school was now an exhilarating adventure. The fog that had shrouded my mind started to lift. Occasionally it would return, especially when my immune system was weak, but after a year or two, it became a thing of the past.

Through this transformative process, I uncovered something that had long gone undiagnosed – depression. I was grappling with severe depression without even realizing it. My artistic journey took flight in fashion school, and from that point forward, I never looked back. Today, I am not only a designer, an artist, and business women, but also an advocate for mental health awareness, understanding that our creative pursuits can be the light that guides us out of even the darkest of times.  

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