Listen to Nicholas' message here
At the time of our interview, Nicholas was 28-years old. He was the oldest of four children from academically successful parents—an elementary school teacher and a college professor. Nicholas had been a high-achieving student throughout his elementary and high school years, and his academic success was a defining aspect of his identity.
I graduated from high school with a 4.5 GPA and like eighth in my class. I was one of the people that helped push the boundaries of what like is possible in terms [of success in school]. Like… you have to keep up with me in English class. I might have to keep up with [name of classmate] in math class, but you’ve got to keep up with me in English class.
After high school, Nicholas was accepted into the DAAP program at U.C., where he completed his freshman year in college. There, he found that he had to work much harder to succeed.
And for the first time in my life, I experienced stress. Not “Aww, am I going to pass this test?” stress, but like, “Am I going to fail at life?” stress. Because design school is difficult. Like I went from like, you know, 10 hour work weeks in high-school to like 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 hour work weeks in design school.
In spite of the stress, Nicholas completed his freshman year. Instead of returning to DAAP the following year, however, he chose to enroll in an International Study program in London, and there he engaged in a very different life style from anything he had experienced previously. Recent research indicates that drug use can be the precipitating event for individuals vulnerable to schizophrenia, and that was the case for Nicholas.
…going to England for, you know, I wanted an adventure. Like, I wanna go see something, “This world is round, it’s large, like, let’s go somewhere where I’ve never been before, and do something I’ve never done before.” So I go to England, and immediately, I start meeting like amazing people, and my focus just completely changes from like academics to social life. Well, my 20th birthday, I start smoking pot for the first time. I do Ecstasy for the first time, and I scare everybody. Because…I start going to the Deans of the University and I start telling that we need to have a world peace conference…like something terrible is gonna happen.
Listen to an excerpt in which Nicholas talks about both college and traveling in Europe here.
Nicholas was then hospitalized, and after returning to the United States was in and out of hospitals (as many as 8 or 10 times) over the next 10 years. In spite of those very severe challenges, he graduated from college in 2010, having changed his major to English. Presently, Nicholas continues to struggle. He has been on medication since his first hospitalization, yet he continues to hear voices, and has been unable to separate his clearer thinking from what the voices tell him. His high motivation for success continues to manifest in his desire to have a positive influence on the world through his writing. He has started a number of writing projects, including a franchise manual for a friend who is opening a vegan business, but schizophrenia hinders his ability to see these projects through to a successful completion. Yet Nicholas continues to set goals, and he continues to exert pressure on himself to succeed.
I have 8 more months to just sit and write. And then I have to start either looking for work or being successful at this venture.