On any given morning, I am making videos, editing photos, reading the news, cleaning my photo equipment and/or the house, and running errands. Dropping off my kids and picking them up throws a small monkey wrench into my plans, but this is part of being a father, I guess. My patience has worn thin with their school though and I will get deeper into this in an upcoming video. The school system here SUCKS. Add one more thing to the to do list.
Now, problems are like assholes, we all have them. My problems, comparatively speaking, are generally minor. Stack a few minor problems on top of each other though and they can weigh you down. That's where I am, at least, temporarily. Once my mind catches up with my emotions, the mind usually wins out. My mind is strong but a little slow to catch up with reality sometimes.
About a month ago, I returned from a journey to Mrauk Oo, Myanmar. In hindsight, aside from being told to leave a village by police and wondering if I would be killed in a Muslim village, the trip was a piece of cake. I shot nearly 1500 photos and over 100 video clips — but no one shot at me. The last month has been spent looking through the photos, trying to sell them, working on a new website, and producing what I deem "crappy little YouTube videos." They're nowhere near as good as I want them to be or how I want them. I'm no Rick Steeves or Dr. Phil and if I were to categorize what I'm looking to make in terms of a video, it would be more like the videos put out by Vice Magazine.
Every so often I am overwhelmed with things to do. I'm the sort of person who has a list of my lists. I have 20 things on my to do list and I'm lucky if I get 3 or 4 finished. As the number of viewers on my YouTube channel and readers of this website and my Facebook page increase, so do the number of emails, comments, and messages. I get approximately 200 emails per day so if I haven't got back to you, bear with me. I try to answer every email I get...but it's getting harder to do so.
In the beginning I wanted to write a blog post every day. Not possible in my world. I've been working on two books for three years. Is it a lack of discipline? No, it's a lack of time. If I had two or three things to do per day, then it would be a lack of discipline. But in my world, I'm up at 4 or 5AM and asleep anytime from midnight to 2Am, usually where I drop. I have to force myself to go upstairs and sleep with the wife. She's used to my sleeping wherever I fall but I'd hate for her to forget what it feels like to have me sleeping beside her so I push myself to walk upstairs.
Aside from getting irritated once in a while buy the usual idiot who fails to see that his girl isn't his girl at all, she's his turn, I still love making videos, working on this site and my photo site, and traveling around with my camera looking for the sort of shots I can take and look back on with pride. Life could be much, much worse. I know this because I've been in places and seen people who would die to have a life half as good as mine. Yes, I feel guilty about griping.
As I said in a prior post, I believe my photos lack the angst I am looking for. If lieu of angst, emotional extremes will do. At 51, I'm no spring chicken and with any luck I have another 25 years of work in me. I went to Myanmar to photograph Muslims. In some ways I succeeded, in others, I failed. I'm okay with this but I know what I'm attempting to preserve in my photos and while I have managed to capture a portion of what I'm after, I have never taken a photo I look at and say, That's it! I got it!
When some people get overwhelmed or burnt out, they take a nap, call in sick, or go on vacation. Others sleep for days. I may take a day or two off and then I am re-energized and ready to go. When I was in college, I took great pleasure in waiting until three days before a 5o00-word essay was due before starting on it. This was my way of testing myself. What would happen? Would I fall on my ass? Would I flunk? No, I would stay awake all night, get an hour or two of sleep for the next three days, and somehow pull the rabbit out the hat. As it turned out, I always got A's. I don't know how I did it but after the first few essays I decided that starting over three days prior to the due date would be bad luck.
Recently, on Facebook I wrote the following:
"The more money I earn, save, finagle and scrimp together, the closer I am to getting my head shot off."
If I decide to photograph a conflict zone in Africa, a war in the Ukraine, Afghanistan, or elsewhere, it isn't an essay. It's life or death and it's something I have very, very little experience with. Some feel the need to remind me of the danger involved but I know there can be no mistakes. It is the ultimate test but for some unknown reason, I feel the need to test myself. Sometimes I think, "What is driving me? What is pushing me to do something I know is extremely dangerous?" I don't know.
As humans we always love to know the answers. In this case, I don't. I could photograph every inch of Thailand and lead a good life...but this would leave me longing for more. My kids think I am a father worth of their admiration and my wife believes I am a good husband, I am after something more than this. I am looking for a legacy I can leave behind. The way I look at it, the clock is ticking. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. When I feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath and push harder. Like my mother used to say, "No one said life was easy."
This post is my deep breath. I'll be pushing harder in the coming months. Hang on for the ride.