I love goats. Goat milk, goat farms, goat petting, goat yoga, goat sanctuaries, goat rescues. I just can’t help but feel happy when I’m in the presence of goats. When I lived in Jersey City, there was a landmark cemetery that employed goats to maintain the landscape there. I used to visit to feed the goats on a fairly regular basis. It was a stress reliever that had a very calming effect. So, when my wife insisted on going out for gelato instead of ice cream, I have to admit to being a bit irritated. That is, until I saw a sign that not only made me smile, but helped open my mind to something different. Goats or not, that was some damn good gelato. And while I don’t see myself giving up on my ice cream scoop or embarking on more ice cream driven road trips. I’ll definitely keep an open mind when asked about returning to Seattle’s Fainting Goat.
My wife asks a lot of questions. At times I catch her reaching for another question as I’m still digging for the answer to her last one. The consistency of such is in competition with talking to me from the other room and forgetting to turn the volume back on the TV after she mutes it in order for me to answer the last, current or next question.
And thought it might sound clique or even corny to some. I find that the little things are what make me happiest. I have a room of records, CD’s, DVD’s and collectibles that seem to grow on a daily basis. Computers, a 32′ inch flat screen, nice furniture and a new car. Yet, none of these things make me as happy as spending time with my wife, the way she holds my hand and thanks me for the most mundane things.
When I look back at our trip to the zoo and the child like excitement that seeing goats,monkeys, wallabies and assorted wildlife brought me, i’m reminded of just that. Sure, I probably would have enjoyed going there on my own, but having her there by my side to share my childlike goofiness and excitement made it so much better. So when she turns to me and asks “What makes you happy?” I’ll just have to aggravate her by responding with “you.”
In moving to Seattle, Washington from Jersey City, New Jersey. I had some fear that much of the toxicity that had become a part of my daily life for so long would follow me out west and cast a negative cloud on whatever changes I was hoping to undergo. Despite a rather grim diagnosis just months after arriving in the great northwest. I’ve manged to maintain a decidedly positive outlook. Now, by no means does change come easy. Everyone is different and their isn’t a one fix fits all remedy out there that I’ve seen or heard of.
Since being diagnosed with a chronic illness. I went through a number of emotions that included depression, anger and self blame.. Throughout, my one constant has been trying to define what truly makes me happy while sustaining a balance that can nourish and fulfill my soul. The more I’ve searched. The more I come to realize how much the little things play a major part. When listing my favorite things, music, photography and maintaining a level or creativity on a daily basis are the first things that come to mind. However, the more I search the more I’ve come to understand how much joy comes from sharing or preparing a meal with my wife, traveling and sending silly texts to my younger brother.
As we get older our priorities change as often do the things that attract our interest and show up on our shelves. The solitude and alone time I often seek and have learned to enjoy, only improve my ability to socialize. Training myself to limit the people I let into my life and not getting caught up with too much bullshit has helped tremendously in cutting down on stress, anxiety and many of the ingredients of my once toxic personality and lifestyle. While my posts do get there share of likes these days. I would love to see some of your strategies, techniques and practices for dealing with stressful situations and day to day anxiety.
Since moving to Seattle from New Jersey back in June, I’ve spent more and more time writing about my personal experiences. With a music column back in Jersey United By James and all but finished music blog United By Rocket Science. It’s a wonder I ever find any time to write about my own struggles and experiences.
Like with most things in life, we all experience that sense of burnout that often comes with focusing so much of our energy and time on our passions in life. Whether it’s work, relationships or other passions. We all need room to breath and step away in order to view the bigger picture. There have been many times, more than I can count, when I just wanted to fold the tents, close up shop and go home. In the end, I’m glad I didn’t.
After months of writing stories and struggling to find a name for a new writing blog. (Just about every name I came up with was unavailable.) (I was about to try Squirrel Farts.) I’ve decided to incorporate some of these stories to Photo Geek. While it might be a far cry from record reviews and interviews. It’s something I feel will be a positive addition to the blog. Besides, I can’t think of any one who wouldn’t be interested in reading about my crazy life and scatterbrain theories.
It might have taken me longer than some but, I’m quickly coming to learn that much of my happiness comes from life’s little gifts. You know, the ones that don’t make your eyes bleed when your monthly credit card bill arrives. In moving to Seattle, my hopes were that some of the stress regarding expectations, wants and needs would diminish and ultimately, help me see what was right in front of me all along.The first months of living out of a couple of suitcases at fully stocked corporate apartments I quickly realized how having less things allowed me live a fuller and much happier life. Though the wanting to be reunited with my “things” eventually came to mind. Those thought quickly turned to anxiety when I realized much of that freedom I had experienced would soon be taken away by adding things I no longer wanted or needed.
Looking back at the last ten years and how many items I’ve purged through selling, donating or just plain throwing out. I can’t help but give myself somewhat of a pat on the back. Regardless, when I look at the big picture. It seems as if I’ve hardly made a dent. Reading books and watching videos about minimalism and people who freed themselves of years of material possessions to live happier lives with less things, less worries and less things to maintain. I’m both inspired and overwhelmed. Where do I start, where does it go and what is all this stuff worth anyway? With more questions than answers, I’ve decided to start my quest with a one day at a time approach. In the end, I feel luck to understand that my happiness doesn’t come from owning things. Happiness comes from experiences, travel and being around people I love. Once I realized that. The journey became a lot easier and the destination seemed so much clearer.
Weekends have become a time to get lost and reflect on things that matter to me. The things that make me happy and those that I’d like to spend more time focusing my energy and time on. This morning, as we drove past a farm. I caught a quick glimpse of several cows conspiring near a barn. The mere sight of these beautiful animals always sends me in to a full blown state of euphoria. While we didn’t stop to trespass. It did remind of the things I love and hold dear. Minutes later we stopped at a corn field before getting out of the car to buy some farm fresh tomatoes,berries, plums and corn. Not a bad way to start my day.
I was having a conversation recently with a photographer I had just met the day before. We were just talking shop and sharing some of our experiences. Then she said something that hit me like a bag of sand. (bags of sand are quite heavy.) She said “To be honest. I’m only truly happy when I’m shooting.” I sat frozen for a second. A second that seemed like a lifetime. This woman who I had just met said what I’ve been feeling for so long. It was as if someone had just hijacked my soul and said the very words that I’ve never been able to say myself.
Since I was a child I always had this hyper creativity about myself. Always writing and creating in one way or another. It wasn’t until I got into photography that it really hit me though. From the moment I got my first camera I was obsessed. As I got better that obsession took up more and more of my time and occupied more real estate in my thoughts. When I think about it I’m reminded of an old Ray Romano skit where he talks about his young daughter of four. She was looking out the window in what seemed to be deep thought for some time. When he asked her what she was thinking about. She replied “Candy”. That’s me. Only a lot older and with photography. I was laying in bed last night around 4:00 AM. Tossing and turning, reflecting on that days shoot and the ones that are coming. Thinking of how I can avoid having my pictures start to look the same. Working on new concepts and ideas. I just can’t put my mind to rest. Laying awake my eyes focused the wardrobe in front of the bed. “What if I emptied it out and photographed someone inside. Someone who feels trapped.” It’s fucking 4:00 AM and I’m thinking about this shit. It’s crazy.
My long time friend Mandy got me into volunteering a little over a year ago. During the times I shot these events I’ve received so much love and praise for pictures I thought were pretty mediocre. I’ve sent them to her with an almost apologetic tone. Of course she’s always positive and appreciative, exclaiming “these are amazing.” “Why are you so hard on yourself?” The thing is, I’m not an events photographer but I want to be at my very best regardless. Even when I’m shooting portraits, something that I’ve become very good at. I keep thinking “I can do better. I can do more.” It’s an obsession.
The plain and simple truth is that when I’m shooting. When I’m in that mindset. I’m the very best I think I’ve ever been or can be. I’m pretty much a dork when it comes down to it. But when I’m in the studio communicating and creating, I feel like a fucking Rock Star. I can say and do things I wouldn’t be able to otherwise. I’m happy and confident. I’m not shy, self conscious or clumsy. (okay, maybe a little clumsy.) Not to freak anyone out but I’ve even compared it to sex. Not quite there but about as close to an orgasm as you can get without….. well, you know. So yeah, maybe I am only truly happy when I’m shooting. God, help me.