By: Dr. John Souza & Janna Pate
Linus came to Pacific Quest as a 25-year-old who struggled with four college failures, anxiety, and symptoms of depression. He often referred to himself as “lazy” and believed he could not finish anything.
At Pacific Quest, Linus received a 391-page curriculum consisting of 242 assignments in English, environmental literacy, fitness, health, Hawaiian culture, horticulture, and psychology. One of those assignments was a project called a Discernible Difference (DD) that requires students to spend at least 3 days creating a lasting, positive impact on the land.
Per his pattern, Linus took on a project that was far bigger and more anxiety-producing than necessary, opting to cut a long and difficult path through the cane grass (a “noxious weed” that grows in clumps over 10 feet high) to a meditative section of the camp known as Ocean View. At the time, students could not access Ocean View independently because it wasn’t visible to staff over the cane grass.
To start, Linus felt his familiar pattern of anxiety while working in the cane grass and at times suggested quitting. However, as he continued to work and reflect, he began to feel empowered.
Most notable was the day when Linus began to redefine his past failures as not resulting from “laziness,” but rather from a “paralysis of analysis” — anxiety from over-thinking and not “doing” something. By “doing” something every day, Linus learned how to break down large tasks into smaller ones, take breaks, ask for help, and take ownership of his own wants and needs.
When project completion was in sight, Linus began to ask: Wouldn’t the cane grass simply grow back? But finally he said, “It doesn’t matter if the DD gets maintained after I leave, the real work is for me. And if it does get taken care of, all the better.”
Almost a year and a half later, we are happy to report that Linus’s DD has inspired generations of PQ students not only to maintain the Ocean View path to but to expand it. A vast new area for gardening and other projects now exists: a pumpkin patch, a meditation mandala, a memorial garden, and a secondary path to a space used for graduation ceremonies. And students can access Ocean View independently.
Not only did Linus complete all of his work at PQ, but since leaving, Linus has successfully completed a transitional program, started taking university classes, and is living independently, continuing to create his own path.