I feel myself really smiling a lot now (and not just culling photos, since if you follow me on twitter you'll know that I often find myself with a plastered on smile going through formal photos, most likely urging the stubborn guests to retrospectively give in and grin [okay, new photographer motto, GIVE IN AND GRIN]. I also find myself smiling while taking the photos, which might make me seem creepy in reality. I also told some groomsmen I was "professionally creepy" lately. I'm on a ROLL).
I'm so excited about everyday because those are the moments I deep down wanted to be so awesome. You know when you dream about another life, maybe a simple life on a farm with a sweet little family and your darling husband? What is it about that life you want? That comfort, the routine, the daylight, the fresh eggs and milk... I want to make the life I want happen now. Take my fired up list and make those things a reality in my everyday. I love just doodling with my dip pen and nibs and making time for that has made my days feel so much more fun.
I'm including this photo because one of the photos I loved from Lara Casey's blog was a comparison, two photos from before and after she started making the challenge a reality in her life, and while the photos are similar (smiling photos of a gorgeous redhead), just knowing those challenges make the second photo so much happier to me. (And also because I hate text only posts). The photo above is a test shot for a rehearsal dinner I'm attending tonight, I'll be photographing guests with a ridiculously large instax camera and urging them to sign a guestbook and had never ever used the camera before. But even in that forced scenario of photographing myself I feel like the increased joy in my life is present. It might be the slight dimple in my cheeks or it might just be that I'm happy to know how much better life feels now than any other photos of myself that exist. MTHers, you should photograph yourself now and love on those photos!
I was not the fastest runner on the team and competition made me anxious (I didn't want to want to be the best because I didn't want to fail), but I developed such a bond with that team, a bond I'd wanted ever since we moved to Princeton when I was only five (I never felt like I fit in before). Running was inspiring, and I got even closer to my best friend, Lisa (I have more than one best friend and I always feel like I need to say that, but it's a great problem to have and I can't WAIT for her wedding in September!), when she joined the team my sophomore year. I got to be really good at talking and running (and I honestly miss that girl time), and running was social time.
I ran track, too, although 8 laps around a track were not nearly as fun for my ADD brain as trail runs, and I spent a lot of that time repeating "Friends Romans Countrymen, lend me your ears and other such nonsense to make the time go faster. I did love when my dad would come to meets, he was so proud of my declaration that no one would pass me in the final stretch on the track, which I always seemed able to sprint. I had to work sometimes to make sure I kept that true, but he loved it and having him proud of me was the best.
When I started going to Science and Math junior year I ran there as well, and I think it kept me balanced and happy. Senior year I was second on the team (although Sam Hamm was WAY ahead of me, and my friend Jenny was pretty much neck and neck with me usually), and I loved my coach (Rachel Toor, an ultra marathon runner, former Duke admissions officer, and published author, she's pretty much amazing). I had a heat stroke early in the season and nearly gave Rachel a heart attack since it was her first experience coaching and one of the first meets I'm off to the hospital.
Running had become this time for me to meditate, to think clearly, to explore places (at S&M I would run from our high school's campus to Duke Chapel and back for a 6 mile long run which was such a beautiful route). I felt like running three miles was so impressive to anyone that never had (and really, I still feel so good about myself on weeks I can say I ran 2 or three miles a day for at least 3 or 4 of the days). I was competitive but in this really healthy way in that I didn't get down on myself.
Finishing the race was the winning, and making a good time compared to your last. When I came up on someone ahead of me that was just so out of breath and wheezing I would think to myself "Man, what have I been doing that I am NOT wheezing right now? I should be running harder!" My coach would get 'mad' that I'd sprint the ends because it meant I could've pushed harder during. It's the best feeling. If you've never dumped gatorade on a coach you're missing out. And if you are a coach your day is coming.
I loved the days that I'd finish a race, as miserable as they can be, and an hour later feel like I could do it again. The adrenaline and endorphins are amazing. Free, natural high inducing drugs that I feel bad for depriving myself of for so long now that I'm not part of a team.
Now that the challenge has me placing a priority on running (and now that my neighborhood seems made for it with all of the sidewalks and shade), I am loving it again. Not running was a source of guilt, because since my wedding I haven't had as much motivation (since I haven't placed my well-being as high as I should on my priorities list, shooting and editing have taken up the top two spots unfortunately). I go to sleep in my running shorts and sports bra and layout my socks and shoes the night before (you are much less likely to give in to not running if you put that much effort into making sure you will do it the next day), and at 7 or 7:30, after at least very close to 8 hours of sleep, I pop up out of bed and go explore my new(ish) neighborhood area. I can explore the botanical gardens, run in and out of the streets in the townhome complex next to ours, run down residential streets and find shortcuts to other places. It's adventure and my all over the place brain loves it.
I used to run trails in college by myself and get lost. Really lost. Not smart, and I'd never do that now, but it was kind of exciting. The same way if I'm not in a time crunch and I take a wrong turn I continue down to see where that road goes until hope seems so far gone that I let my phone's gps take me home. ADVENTURES are what I'm about. People ask if there are places I always like to shoot and as soon as I hear those words I'm immediately itchy because I want to do something different, go somewhere new, feel inspired, feel challenged, find new things and places. Not that I'm always taking kooky different photos, but I want to let the light be my muse and feel something. I don't feel something as much when I'm surrounded by other photographers or placing a couple in the exact same place as the last one.
I know I lack focus in my posts but I hope you can feel this energy and feed off of it. I thought today about how in the MTH group I'm now an alum to, we talk about our successes daily, and that outside of this context it would feel like showiness. Look what I can do. Instead it's "I'm doing the steps it takes to be the person I want to be. Are you?"; because when I see that one of those ladies is keeping those promises to herself and to all the rest of us, I know I have to keep up my end of the bargain too. I am so happy to read about their progress and they deserve for me to feed them with my progress as well. Imagine the world if everyone had found the things that would truly make them happy. Would you feel bitter? How could you, you have them too! I want the world to feel this. To do things for themselves, to live their own dreams, to quit making excuses and make their better life start now right here with baby steps.