What is stopping me? Me!
Despite all of my efforts, I can still be a victim of my own imposed limitations. My personal flaws bother me.
I have been reasonably busy during my retirement year, and have grown in a variety of ways. I have been fortunate to use my photography skills to do work for others, and I wholly enjoy the challenges that those opportunities have presented. Every time I create something for someone else, my photography grows a little more. However, I am bounded by the expectations of the client. The constraints of the job limit my creative vision. There is another area of photography that I am drawn to. It is an area that has little commercial value.
I walk early in the morning, and sometimes I’ll spy lights on in houses that I pass. I always wonder, “Who is up in that house? What are they doing? What are they having for breakfast? Are they getting ready for work or school? What kind of work do they do?” The questions continue in my mind. I ask myself similar questions when I drive through small towns and villages. In each, lives are moving forward, some successful, others less so.
In the Midwest, many small and medium-sized communities are failing. Factories are abandoned; residents have moved to larger cities. Stores in the downtown areas are frequently closed or occupied by resale shops and bars. Houses are often in need of repair. These realities are especially evident in places ignored by interstate highways. Once vibrant communities slowly die, a process fueled by decreased populations and reduced city revenues. Each house, storefront, and building tells a story, and every one of them is fascinating to me.
There are other discoveries to be made on rural roads. Great barns, some shiny, others in ruin. Majestic parks, historical markers, and hidden vistas dot the landscape. All you need to do is to pause and look. Sadly, few do.
There is a little boy inside of me who is full of wonderment. I have been fortunate to have a few people in my life who share similar excitement when discovering those things that most others would pass on. These individuals have an inner child in them, and I am so very grateful that we have found each other.
However, I know of no one who has both the “wonderment quotient” as well as a love of photography. No one would find it interesting to go on a photo-taking adventure with me. Years ago, I joined a photography MeetUp group. However, the group expanded so rapidly that it ignited my shyness, and I stopped going. I much prefer more intimate experiences.
Who is stopping me? Me!
I want to visit small towns. I want to explore the countryside. I want to photograph images as I see them. Why have I been ignoring this need?
I am aware of how fear impacts my ability to do new things. I tend to overthink, and this can lead to “what if” scenarios, which can be immobilizing. However, I refuse to let fear stand in my way of doing anything rational. I will push past it.
Guilt also plays a factor. I have to admit that I feel guilty that I have so much free time. I feel guilty that I can do an activity on days when my wife works. Going on a day trip requires a level of self-indulgence.
Who is stopping me? Me!
I scanned a road map and determined that there were several towns on Route 64 that looked interesting. I could drive to them and back in a single day. I mentioned my plan to Julie, and she was OK with it.
I traveled last week, and I wholly enjoyed my explorations. Here are some of the photos that I took:
A few of the many doorways that I photographed. They all could tell a story.
A huge grain elevator in the middle of nowhere.
Old houses in need of some TLC.
An abandoned college campus.
A magnificent county courthouse.
Mississippi Palisades State Park.
I faced my fear and guilt and accomplished my goal. However, the experience wasn’t perfect. I was once again aware of the loneliness that I felt. A feeling that I wanted to share my experience with someone. “Look at that cool building!” “What do you think of that view?” “Would you shoot that barn from this angle or that angle?” A travel companion would have been icing on my exploration cake.
I am planning more photo day trips, and I’m also considering pushing my comfort zone further. I’m thinking about reaching out to strangers to see if there is someone who would like to go with me on a photoshoot day trip. I can’t be the only retired guy with both an interest and a camera. An additional bonus would be the sharing of travel expenses. However, the exact same barriers are preventing me from moving on to this new idea.
What if I’m not compatible with a new travel buddy? What if they don’t like me? What if they are an ax murderer? -OK, that latter point may be a stretch. I understand that if I experience a terrible match, it is only one day of my life. Indeed, a reasonable risk.
The second barrier is more significant for me. I am an intense person who forms emotional relationships. If you can deal with me, you will be rewarded with a true friend who will stand by you no matter what. I value a few strong relationships over dozens of weaker ones. I like relationships where I can be myself and not fear that I’m “too intense” for the other person to handle. These kinds of connections require a lot of work, effort, and time from both sides. If I developed a strong relationship with a new photo buddy, I would feel guilty that I was taking time away from my established connections. This may seem illogical to you, but it is an honest concern for me. Two good friends are not the equivalent of one best friend.
It is interesting that common themes stand as barriers from me to being completely true to my needs. Fear does play into my decisions, but I’m used to pushing past that feeling. However, guilt plays a more important function. Guilt that I’m having fun when someone else is not. Guilt that I’m being disloyal to those who I care for. Guilt that I don’t deserve to have as much success as I’m having. I can surmise why I have these feelings, but that doesn’t eliminate them. However, I believe that I can work through them on a case-by-case basis. It will be an interesting growth journey.
I can’t say if I’m going to try the photo buddy route, but I can say that I will absolutely go on another photoshoot day trip. There is so much to see, and with each discovery, I feel that I grow. I have never wanted to be determined by someone other than me. With that said, I don’t want to be determined by my self-imposed limitations. I want to base my life on what I can do, not what I can’t do.
How do you limit yourself?