Week 27: Independence

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already made it this far through the year, and that I’m already past the half way point of this 52 week challenge.  I still have a couple to do from past weeks which I haven’t forgotten about, but for now, I’m just happy to be catching up on the few weeks I’ve recently messed up on!

Independence is the topic for this week.  It’s an interesting topic, and can have different meanings to different people.  With the 4th of July just this past weekend, I’m sure the idea of independence comes to mind with a much more patriotic meaning for a large amount of people.  For me, however, independence has always brought a different feeling to mind.

I’ve always liked being on my own, being able to be myself, and not having to answer to anyone.  I moved out when I was just 18, and haven’t really looked back.  Though over the years this has been limited, I’ve tried to express myself the best I could while still abiding to the confines of the corporate world, and trying to be what many perceive as “a responsible adult”.    I know you all have heard me talk about how crazy things have been lately, and I suppose I should break it down to you, as it really all comes down to one thing; my independence has been cut off.  Yes, it’s true, I suppose the pay check of my (terrible) job was one, if not it’s only, perk, because now I’m out of resources and options.  I’ve moved back in with family, and don’t really see the option to pursue my educational and artistic dreams.  I’ve been accepted to MICA, a school I’ve always dreamed of going to, and have received 90% of the tuition in scholarships, grants, and loans, but am being suffocated by the fact that I cannot come up with the other 10%.  And the icing on the cake — I can’t find a job to save my life!  Everyone looks at me like I have three heads when I tell them I left my tenured management position in banking to pursue an art degree, and am willing to take a considerable pay cut to work at their company.  I know, stay positive.  I know, everything will happen the way it’s supposed to.  But it’s been pretty difficult to stay positive when I start thinking that the “way things are supposed to be” may end up being the exact opposite of how I’ve always wished they would be.

Yes, I know I’m lucky, as many have told me, to have family that will help me while I’m in need, but at the same time, this help comes with a lot of hurt.  I know my family loves me, I love them too, but we have an interesting relationship, much of which revolves around them not understanding me and wanting me to change.  Ah, yes, the sounds of teenage angst coming back — “parents just don’t understand!”.  It sounds silly, I know, but that’s always been our relationship (and you can throw my brother, aunt and grandmother in there, too), and it saddens me to see just how unwilling they are to see things from a different perspective.  Over the years I’ve been through quite a bit, professionally and personally, but one thing that I’m glad I’ve learned is how to see things from another perspective, and to gain information about situations before making a judgement.  They’re quite the opposite.  How I should be, feel, think, and grow in this world is made up in their minds, and that is where we will always clash.  My deviation from what they expect is what angers them, and my desires to do things which seem illogical to them, because it is the only way for me, is where they find me irresponsible and immature.  Independence.  It’s really an interesting word.  In a world, like mine, where family so strongly influences what you do, it can be a difficult thing to achieve, particularly when you need their support for things they find foolish.  They’re practically begging me to give up going to MICA, find a regular job, and just be happy doing art as a hobby.  I’m out of ways to tell them that going back to that life would most likely kill me…  Gasping for air to get out of the dark waters which were that life took so much energy, effort, and bravery that I didn’t think I had, I don’t know if I could do it again.

When I was in my very first class, on the very first night, of my very first semester in returning to school, we were instructed by my photography teacher to fill out a little card with our information on it.  Half information about who we were, and half one of those typical introduce yourself to the group type exercises.  One of the questions was to select which animal best describes you, and why.  Most people have something fierce, like a lion, or a hawk, showing their bravery, strength, and confidence.  Questions like this always throw me for a loop, so I had to spend most of my time thinking of how to select an appropriate animal.  I know, it’s a silly introduction, who cares?  But I always put too much thought in to these things…maybe because I remember situations like this three years later.  Anyways, after much deliberation, I came up with what I still think is the most accurate animal to describe me, and why.  A bird.  At that time, I was nearing the worst part of my professional career, and my head was filled with ideas of a great escape, and how grand life would be in just a few short years.  So when I selected the bird as my “spirit animal” so to say, there was really only one reason that I could think of as to why it was so fitting for my personality.  I could fly.  I would have the ability to be free, and escape to a new place any time I wanted to.  Independence.  No more confinement, no more restriction.  I was trapped in a world where I dreaded waking up in the morning, and I wanted nothing more than to escape.  I didn’t know it then, but going to school and incorporating that artistic outlet in my life at that time would be what really saved me, and helped me keep what little sanity I had at the end of it all.

Waking up nearly three years later and seeing how things have changed, I’m glad that I took the chances that I did, and have started down the path I have.  I’m also terrified that it was all in vain and that it’s steadily coming to an end.  I have people watching my every move and judging my every decision in ways that I haven’t experienced in over a decade, and to be honest, it’s a little terrifying.

This past weekend, though it may have been Independence day, was more like anti-independence day to me.  I had my move on Friday of last week, and had to say goodbye to my life of freedom.  I suppose the only small glimmer in that was that it was the holiday weekend, and I got to have a mini escape to the beach.  There truly is nothing better than being there, to me.  I could go there penniless, and would still have an immeasurable amount of happiness, serenity, and relaxation.  It really couldn’t have come at a better time.  So while I was there, I stopped to take a few pictures of my favorite places, as well as made time to visit places that I’ve always wanted to shoot, but never made the time for.  Of course, there were my birds, flying free in the ocean air.  Admiring them over a landscape which seems endless it really something I find hard to describe.  It’s cathartic — I could just stay out there forever, watching them, and whatever else may come by.  Even though I may not be “free” anymore, being in an environment like that really sets my mind free.  When it’s normally racing with thoughts of what I could have done differently, what people are going to think about me, what I should and should not be doing, there’s quiet.  When I look out in to the vast openness of the ocean, it’s like anything is possible, and anything could be just around the horizon.  It’s the only place where there is freedom from the confines of my mind, while watching nature, feeling the sand between my toes, and admiring my spirit animal, in its many different forms.

Week 26: Loud Noises

Well, having just spent the weekend celebrating the 4th of July at the beach, I’m sure no explanation is needed for this week’s theme, but I’ll give you one anyways 🙂

Loud noises are what I’m working with, while still doing some catching up in my 52 week challenge.  Luckily for me, some good planning and a timely loud holiday made this one an easy theme.  Of course, with all of the festivities in full swing around me, I had to go with fireworks for the “loud noises”, because really, is there anything else much louder around this time of year?  Or ever?

It’s always fun being at the beach to celebrate this holiday.  Up until the past few years, I actually had not been out to see the fireworks on the 4th for a long time.  In being invited by my aunt to go to the beach with her and my cousins, I’ve been lucky enough to not only get a few days of free beach vacationing, but have also had some fun times hanging out and watching the shows.

This year was a little different from the last few with my aunt and family.  We were all exhausted from traveling and being out in the sun that day.  Not only were we tired, but we were staying with another one of my aunts, and about 15 other cousins were within a 10 block radius, so imagine trying to organize all of us meeting up at the same place in Ocean City, which is packed for the 4th.  Pretty unlikely.  So as the storm clouds started to come in, and the rain started to come down, the idea of all of us going out seemed less likely to happen.  Luckily for us, we were staying in a new place and had spoken with some of the residents who lived there, who informed us that we didn’t even need to leave the place to see the fireworks.  So, as the lights and sounds started outside, we all ventured out to the balcony to see the show.  It may not have been the same as being down in the crowds and seeing it up close, but we still had a great view, and trust me, you don’t want to be out in that traffic once the show is over if you don’t have to — a five-minute walk turns into a whole hour of an ordeal.  Plus, we got an added bonus!  If you look really closely, I tried to catch some of the fireworks that must have been happening on the other side of the bay.  So even if they did look like baby fireworks, it was like we got two shows in one 🙂

So the regular, permitted, official firework show is loud enough to count for my “loud noises”, right?  Yeah, that’s what I thought too.  You know how there’s always that rebel or two in the neighborhood that sets off fireworks even though it’s illegal (here it is, as least)?  Well, the crowds in OC are a whole other story.  Sure, I was expecting some noise and a few stray fireworks, but that’s nothing compared to what I actually got.  Usually when I got to the beach with my aunt, we stay in a little place just north of OC, Bethany Beach, which is a much more quiet town.  Unfortunately, the little old place where we stayed got torn down last summer, so we’ve been going to new places, and as I mentioned, stayed with family this trip.  So, much to my delight, my other aunt got a nice little ocean front place for the week; something I’ve rarely had before, and definitely never on the 4th of July.

Shortly after the firework shows ended, regardless of the rainy weather outside, tons of people flocked to the beach.  It was dark, and people were using flashlights to find their way around.  At first, you had the regular culprits — people with glow sticks, sparklers, and maybe a few fireworks which just sat on the ground.  Nothing surprising, nothing really loud.  Then, and as I suspect after the alcohol kicked in, the partiers came out, and they brought the big guns.  These people clearly stumbling around, and not experts, were setting off huge, and I mean huge, fireworks on the beach and near all of the buildings.  There’s your loud noises.  Not only could you hear it inside with all the doors and windows shut, but because of all the streets running perpendicular to the beach, if they were too close to an intersection, you could actually hear the echo of the fireworks bouncing between the buildings.  Fun stuff.  I didn’t mind it, since I’m up late most nights anyways, and enjoyed the free show.  I’m sure others, however, were a little annoyed as the amateur show went on well past two in the morning.  With each firework they set off there was a roar of cheers, regardless of how successful they were.  Yes, there were some very unsuccessful blowing up in the sand with people running away detonations, but that didn’t discourage the rowdy crowd on the beach!  I’m guessing that since they just kept going, no one was hurt, so I felt a little better about watching, and laughing as I eavesdropped on their laughing and craziness.

Eventually, the cops strolled by, flicked their lights, and the crowd started running.  That didn’t deter them for the entire weekend, but it worked for that night.  I had plenty of time to snap some pictures, and kind of appreciated their lack of expertise.  Firework pictures can get a little redundant and boring in my opinion.  Though they’re pretty to look at, it can get tiring to see the same thing after a while.  With the amateurs, and their lack of ability to get a lot of their fireworks off the ground, I got some interesting shots of the sand and ocean being illuminated by the lights.  So enjoy their (hopefully) harmless mishaps, and some people’s’ sleepless 4th of July night!