Do you remember where you were when you realized your purpose in life?
I was sixteen years old, watching a pair of Hawaiian hawks screaming in flight. I had never seen hawks before. I did not know they existed in Hawaii.
Watching in disbelief, I did not yet realize how important this day would become.
Earlier that morning, I was a lost kid, sent to an outward bound program (thirty days in the Hawaiian wilderness) as an alternative to going to a DH (detention home). In the years prior to that, I was searching intensely to “find my place in the sun”, to be excellent in something, better than anyone I knew. I excelled in getting into trouble and was on a path of reckless misbehavior that eventually landed me here.
As the hawks tumbled through the sky, locking feet and tumbling, I watched with my jaw dropped open.
“What is that?” I asked my instructor. “‘Io, Hawaiian Hawk,” he replied. “They only occur on this island – nowhere else on Earth. They are endemic to Hawaii.”
I was flabbergasted. Why was I never taught about this in school? I learned about all the animals the Polynesians brought to Hawaii but this is the first I heard about animals that evolved here.
Later, as I sat drawing the hawks from memory, my instructor asked me “You’re a really good artist. Have you ever thought about doing that for a living?” Laughing, I said, “Only five crazy French guys have ever done that”.
A few moments later I received an anointing. “I’m a better artist than anyone I know. I’ll use my art to get other people passionate about nature. I’ll find a way to make this happen and I will succeed or DIE TRYING!”
I was more excited and ambitious than ever in my life. I was also relieved to at last find my reason for living: To get people STOKED about the world around them through my art.