It's been a long time.. I decided to do a pretty thorough update about what's been going on the last few months, so I broke it up into a few sections. Don't feel bad if you just want to skip ahead.
“There are things that slip away, like our endless numbered days.”
1. The month of September: feelings of defeat.
(something I wrote awhile back, meaning to post it, but I never did...)
I’ve taken many, many photographs of this hallway. Many. It’s the last stretch of the apartment before you step out into the world. It’s calm. It’s dark. And inevitably, as soon as you swing open the door, new york city rushes you; voices, cars, screaming, jackhammers, sunlight, car exhausts, garbage, dogs, doors, signs, motion… your senses explode like paint being thrown on a white wall. Like water rushing out of a broken dam wall.
A few days ago I was walking past a park on Essex, just a few blocks from the apartment… A gust of wind caught me, swept up my thin scarf and tossed my hair into my face, and I stood still, letting it wash over me, letting it whisper to me all of the truths and sorrows and joys that only the wind knows. I listened to children laughing in the park. I watched the old man with a crooked spine cross the street. Autumn. Yes. Here you are. But where have I been? I didn’t even see you come in.
Where to begin… I guess from the beginning of this part of the journey. I’ve had a lot of questions about where I’ve gone, if I’ve run away, what’s going on.. So, here it is; I had an awakening that I needed to change the direction of my path- unsure of what to do with school, life, photography, etc. I decided to take this year off of school and away from ohio. I was tired of feeling like I was waiting for life to happen, tired of being in a safe shell, tired of feeling like I was mindlessly following the path that happen to be in front of me. I was unhappy with where my education was going and I felt like I needed to just live. I was ready to step up and embrace life, change my path, and see where that would lead me. I made plans to work with an NGO in Mbarara, Uganda this fall, interning for them, working on multi-media projects showcasing their work, and in return they would support me in doing a documentary on child-headed households and vulnerable children in the community... Finally doing what I really care about. My sisters both live in New York City, so it made sense for me to come to nyc, live with them, and earn enough money to get to Africa by the middle of October. But alas, sometimes things just don’t work out according to plan… I had a really, really hard time finding a job. I came to nyc without a dime, so I took the first seemingly decent job I could, non-photography related, and had plans to find a better one and photography work. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but absolutely no opportunities presents themselves and I slammed face first into wall after wall after wall… I lost myself for awhile. I became miserable, detached from myself and my life. Because I am paying for school on my own and am on 100% student loans, I have to stay enrolled in school; since Africa was suddenly out of reach, I became an intern with a human rights ngo in nyc, The International Center for Transitional Justice. The internship is unpaid, which made things even more difficult… I found myself working six to seven days a week between a miserable and meaningless job that supported over consumption and the purchasing of goods to make people feel likable and attractive, and the internship. I started to wake up in the mornings and the first thought that would cross my mind would be “Is this my life?” I can’t count the number of times I would lay in bed for at least an hour, dreading waking up, then walk to the dining table, sit down, and cry. Utter defeat. Dread. It is so painful to even think about. Do people often admit these feelings of ultimate defeat? Do many photographers admit that they feel like they've failed themselves as an artist, failed the people in their pictures? It seemed like everyone around me was so strong. I think it made me feel like even more of a failure. I had a goal in mind, but how to get there.. I hadn’t a clue. Being alone can be healthy. But feeling lonely when you are surrounded by 20,000,000 other people… it is so painful.
Here is something that I wrote, intending to blog at the end of September… but I again, I never did. I think I was afraid of sounding like a failure and taking off the happy face....
Sunday night, CPOY deadline… I start to upload the file with plenty of time. I come back an hour later; the internet had quit. The file was stalled. Shit. I try to upload it again. And again. And again. Each time it fails half way through. I panic. 30 minutes left. I made a decision to cut my file size by more than half and take out all of the individual categories- only submit my portfolio and documentary. It estimates that it will take 28 minutes to upload. I have 30. Ok. Please work. It’s working. I go out into the hallway of the apartment, hoping to pick up on someone else’s signal where it would maybe go faster. It works. There are 5 minutes left…. It stalls. Deadline. The file finishes, but 5 minutes late.
I sit in the hallway and cry. Defeated. My back pressed against the cold wall, my body curled into itself on the narrow wooden step. It’s not the contest. After all, it’s just a contest. It’s the factors that I’ve allowed into my life that have led up to me starting to lose myself as an artist and photographer. This feeling is crushing. What am I doing here?
II. The month of October: awakening. strength. hope.
I think something changed for me after that. Some part of me woke up. I am 21. There is no reason for me to not take my life into my hands and push forward, run forward, dive forward onto the path that I think is right. There is no reason for me to wake up in the morning and dread my life. There is no reason for me to live a life that does not feel like my own. Life is difficult sometimes, and that’s beautiful. I opened my eyes, humbled, grounded, stronger… So, I quit my job, let go of everything that I had been holding onto inside of me, opened up my energy to the universe, and took a one-week trip to Ohio to spend time with the people that I love so dearly.
The second I left NYC, I felt like I could breath again. Ohio welcomed me back with open, loving arms, as I did, it. Looking back, I think it was one of the most meaningful weeks of my life.
Only after we let go, can we get a grip. Only after we are lost, can we be found.
Being reunited with the people that I love so dearly, in a place that holds so much of my past was beautiful. I felt like I was seeing in a new way the things that had always been there. My perception felt changed. My heart felt full. My spirit felt lifted. I have never felt so at home with the people that I love. I don't know if I've ever felt so relieved, been so social, tired, or constantly happy in all of my life.
Feeling absolutely lost and miserable in nyc has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. As, I believe, we all are, I am absolutely a creature of comparison. This experience has made me stronger, and truly put my priorities in order. It has showcased my doubts and helped me to let them go. It has helped me to let go in general, and just be. When I was in Ohio, I felt that truly, I could just be. I no longer find myself questioning everything to a pulp, or trying to force anything... Everything just is as it is. And that is beautiful. I am finally embracing what is, and exciting to walk down the path of what is to be. I feel as though I had started to before, but coming to NYC was really a shock to my system and put a lot of things on halt. Impermanence is such a difficult thing to deal with, but it is beautiful... the constant flow of life and time... why try to stop it? Why try to force it to be other than it is? Just feel it wash over you in all of its grace.
Now, I am back in New York until I move onto the next phase. I've realized that I am not at home in the city and I do not thrive here as well as others, but I appreciate this place and love it for what it is. I am here now for a reason, even if I'm unsure of what that is, and I am embracing this experience, learning everything that I can and trying to make the most of it. This place is strange and beautiful in its own crazy way, and I think it really puts everything in perspective for me.
A quiet last day in Ohio....
side note: When I returned to nyc after a sunny, lovely week in Ohio, it was on the roughest flight I have ever been on that had been delayed for hours, only to land in some of the nastiest weather I have ever seen in the city- grey, murky, inky stained sky, wind, rain... I laughed out loud. Of course New York. You teach tough lessons.