I would sit alone in the school bathroom with my heart and mind racing. My palms sweating. My body trembling.
I was 17 when I first started experiencing terrible panic attacks, often multiple times a week, sometimes even multiple times a day. Panic attacks that have continued to stay with me for more than a decade.
At the time, I was worried I was going crazy and terrified that if my friends found out, they would look at me differently.
Through the years of navigating anxiety whether through therapy, medication, journaling, etc -- I've consistently found the best remedy is really authentic connection with someone else.
I like to call these Soul Friend moments, where someone goes the extra mile for you during a stressful or challenging time in your life. And it's appeared in my life in both big and small ways.
For example, after being rejected at a job interview, one of the startup's Co-Founders, Mark, noticed how devastated I was, so he took me out to lunch to help me navigate my job search. Not only that, he told me to go home, write up what my dream job would look like, and he'd review it with me. One month later, I moved to the Bay Area knowing almost nobody but him. He was so generous with his time -- inviting me to a number of events and introducing me to incredible people until I finally realized and landed my dream job at the time -- to work under him.
Another example was when I was applying to college -- not only is the college application process stressful but it is filled with panic-attack inducing questions like where will I be in 9 months? Who am I going to live with? What if I don't get in to the schools I want? Just when I least expected it, a Soul Friend moment appeared -- there was an English teacher named, Dustin, who likely noticed how worried I was about my grades and he not only offered to help me with my colleges essays but he met with me every Saturday for coffee for 3 months (!) to revise my essays and simply listen to my worries.
Not only did these experiences flip my world upside down in the most positive way but unknowingly, it also modeled to me how I could better show up to other people in my life. Reflecting back, I think it's Mark's act of generosity is why I proactively help friends land job opportunities. I think it's because of Dustin's support, why I previously started a writing program that helped first-gen high school students gain admission to college.
Through the years, I've also realized how almost everyone is struggling with something that very few people know about. And at one point or another, we've all felt how crushing it can feel to be treated simply as another statistic, data point, or “user” at our workplaces, schools, or online.
I started Anam Cara to create spaces where people can enter and be treated like a Soul Friend and where you will also be asked to bring forth a deeper level of kindness and generosity to others.
Ultimately, spaces where my 17 year old self would have not been afraid to have been seen, to have not been afraid to open up, and to have been able to support others too.
The name Anam Cara felt fitting for this mission as it’s an old Gaelic word that means “Soul Friends.” It’s also the title of one of my favorite books, which has been the book that has helped me most in times of need -- helping to slow down my racing mind and is always a consistent source of wisdom.
I’ve found in our modern world, classes can offer a great way to bring people together in a structured, dedicated way where people can get to know each other over time.
And the activity of writing inherently forces people to be introspective, curious, and inquisitive about themselves and one another.
The magic of the way we design our Writing Classes, we prefer to call a Quest is that we do it together and we ask people to create.
We ask people to share. We ask people to deeply, truly help each other reach their goals because that’s how we can elevate our own dreams and our communities’ dreams.
And we only ask people to follow one rule - to treat everyone as if they are your Soul Friend - which means going the extra mile for each other, listening, and supporting each other deeply because possibilities become limitless when we show up in this way.
We’re starting with Writing Quests but as we grow, we look forward to experimenting with a variety of formats and activities.
In the background, we’re assembling a team of advisors, engineers, designers, and experience creators to build and learn how we can create environments that bring out the best in one another.
As John O’Donohue writes in Anam Cara, “If you send out goodness from yourself, or if you share that which is happy or good within you, it will all come back to you multiplied ten thousand times. In the kingdom of love there is no competition; there is no possessiveness nor control. The more love you give away, the more love you will have.”
I hope you’ll join us in creating a more beautiful world, one new experience at a time.