If you’ve spent any time reading my blog in the last two years, you’ll know that I’ve struggled with drive and creativity. These are two of the largest themes I deal with here and they’re two of the biggest issues that I fight on a daily basis. Not just in photography, but in every day life - drive encompasses more than just wanting to pick up my camera, it engulfs the ability to wake up in the morning, to get out of the house, to go to work every day. We have moments in our lives that push us to move forward and moments that cause us to halt. This is about those moments colliding.
About four years ago, I met John. I’d moved back to Portland, had been living in a house with three of my closest high school friends and was spending my time split between work and hanging out with my ill mother. My job at ON1 software was just kicking off, I was getting more work by each coming month and my bosses were allowing me to have more artistic freedom. While I was struggling with developing new personal projects, I was still picking up my cameras quite regularly. My 4x5 film camera had dozens of slides run through it, I was eating rolls of 120 for breakfast and my digital SD cards were constantly being rotated.
John was a surprise, to say the least. When I met him, through a mutual friend, he irritated me to the core. He was awkward, yet overly cocky. He thought that talking about disgusting facts he learned in paramedic school was normal conversation. When he asked to take me out for drinks, I remember wrestling with the decision to cancel or to go get to know him better. Despite my hastily formed opinion of his personality, he charmed the pants off of me. On our walk home from the bar, John grabbed me in the middle of the street and kissed me. I knew my annoyance had turned into another feeling - warmth.
As an EMT and CPR instructor, he was a polar opposite to me in almost every way. My room was full of photographs, handmade artwork and quilts. His apartment was full of textbooks, a TV/VCR from the early 90’s and paintings of ships. While my fondness for him grew over the coming months, he was also endlessly fascinating. He became a regular subject for me and was a perfect guinea pig for any photo project I wanted to work on. The awkwardness he showed in everyday interactions disappeared when I pulled out my camera, a rarity when photographing people. It was a constant surprise to see the calm, gentle demeanor I witnessed in our every day lives captured on film. He had a remarkable talent for pushing me to succeed, for believing that I was worth more than what I sometimes felt inside. While he struggled with his own demons, he never ceased to find ways to foster a sense of trust in myself and my work.
Our relationship ended long before we officially called it quits. In the last year, while working through all of the emotional chaos surrounding break ups, my photography began to slip. Images of him started to vanish from my hard drives and were replaced with work. The confidence he still tried to foster began to wane and we both felt distance grow. John and I formally split over the summer.
The swells and breaks in my productivity fall in line with the moments of joy and sadness in our relationship. This seems like a pretty basic concept and I know that many people recognize similar symptoms. One of my closest friends is an unbelievable chef and has (unknowingly) been a perfect example of this notion. She cooks less when she feels depressed and tends to find more love in the kitchen when she’s in a better mood. Simple, right?
Breaking up doesn’t automatically mean you’re throwing dishes at an ex or posting sad lyrics on Facebook. When John and I broke up, we held onto the warmth we had always felt for one another. Our lives may not have meshed well for a planned future, but the tenderness we shared lingered. Friendship can blossom out of a failed relationship if you’re willing to hang onto the pieces that are worth saving. As we tried to reestablish a baseline for what we are to each other, confusion grew. How can you miss someone, know it’s right to be apart, yet still attempt to find common ground?
When I talk about moments colliding, I’m talking about this exhaustion of the ability to process what’s going on. Confusion in life tends to result in uncertainty in ourselves. The happy memories I have of John still exist and continue to make me smile, but now more strongly conflict with the painful ones. Since we’re no longer working towards a common goal, everything we felt for one another has fused into a ball of anxiety. How the hell do you generate a desire to create anything in all this mess?
2015 has been a year of searching for an unknowable entity and fighting for its very existence. Desire, drive, creativity, productivity, certainty, confidence, love - they’ve rolled into a cluster of ideas that I’m trying to find. Depression, self-hatred, frustration, confusion, dullness, weakness - all feelings I’m trying to rein in, fight against. Breaking up caused a large rift in my capacity to thrive, so these thoughts feel further away than they used to. While I recognize that time will help propel me forward, it can be hard to remember that some days.
In the last few months I’ve started seeing someone new. As a writer, he’s revealed an old love I once had for poetry, so I’ve spent quite a lot of time lately sifting through anthologies. I came across a Max Ehrmann quote that seems to be just what I needed to read at just the right time:
"You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should."
I don’t know where I’m going or what my future holds. I can’t seem to grasp everything that’s happened to me in the last year. My feeling are messy and crazy and don’t always make sense.
What I do know is that John made an adventurer out of me. I know that I didn't waste three years of my life with someone. I know that his belief in me still holds, as a good person and a good photographer. I know that even through tough times, he is a friend above all else.
And I’m certain that I have the capacity for something better, and that even though things aren’t completely in focus, life will unfold as it should.