Who I am and Who I am with

Twenty years have gone by since I was brought into this world. It’s both incredible and terrifying how quickly the days go by and how easily they accumulate from months to years. I’ve lived one fifth of a century and we’ve shifted from dial-up internet to smart-phones capable of sharing video with a person on the other side of Earth.

Instead of just reflecting over the years, I want this post to be dedicated to the people I shared those years with. Twyla Tharp once wrote about how she believes who you are now is the accumulation of the books you’ve read and the people you’ve met. As I agree with her, I want to share some of these people and the experiences I’ve had with them.

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This is a picture of me cooking in my mom’s tummy. I figure since my dear ‘ol mother tagged me in this photo on Facebook for my friends to see, I’ll share it on my blog as well. As you can tell by the hair, the 80s hadn’t worn off yet.

It’s natural to start with my mother, because without her lugging around an extra ten pounds, I wouldn’t be here.

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This photo was taken during my first international trip with my family. We all flew over to Berlin because my grandfather was getting an apartment for part of the summer from a friend. In retrospect, those days were a catalyst for the wanderer in me. I fell in love with traveling many years later.

About half way through, my family found this botanical garden. It was simple and full of beautiful plants with a forested area on the side. As you walked around you could hear birds chirping and the sound of lawn mowers roaring. It was a nice garden but the untamed forest is what caught my attention.

Inside the woods, birds were flying everywhere above us. I felt as though I could reach out and they would land on me. One moment my grandmother was standing still and a bird flew down onto her. She, of course, moved and it flew off immediately.

At this time I had just started taking photographs and thought it would be brilliant to take photos with the birds. We found that holding bread crumbs would cause the birds to fly down onto our hands and sit. It was an incredible feeling holding something so wild and evasive.

Right before our trip to Germany concluded, my mother and I went back with the goal of taking pictures with the birds. Actually, I think it was more of my goal. My mother was terrified when the birds landed on her but she still decided to pose anyways.

We spent all morning with the birds and ended up with a fair number of portraits. While it sounds silly, this moment really shaped me. It was a foreign experience in all senses of the word. There was a connection as a photographer but also a human. I felt alive and as if the world was pushing me towards taking pictures. It felt as if the universe was lining up perfectly and said, “here Eric, we’ll lend you a piece of nature, just reach for your camera and show us what you can do. We’re here to help.”

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One day in World History class my teacher introduced an exchange student from Denmark that would be spending the year with us. Her name was Signe and would soon become one of my greatest friends.

Upon hearing about her I immediately was intrigued. She was beautiful and interesting in so many ways. So, naturally, I made my way towards her. This was a rather difficult task because she sat on the complete opposite side of the classroom from me. Literally desks awkwardly blocked any path I had to get to her.

The desks didn’t stop me and Signe soon found that she always had a partner for class projects. I don’t think she understood my intrigue but we started talking more as we completed many group projects together. Eventually we would run into each other outside of class and talk even more.

This lead to hanging out, movie marathons, teaching each other to cook, going out for runs, and, at the end of the school year, going to prom together. It’s impossible to explain how we went from total strangers from different countries, to being best friends.

To this day I cannot explain my intrigue. We don’t have a lot of common interests but I still smile every time I talk to her. I find myself laughing so loud that my neighbors complain I need to get off the phone. We don’t have to have anything to talk about but yet we can talk for hours. It all leads back to that day in history class, when I awkwardly made my way over to her.

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This guy invaded my life right before Signe left the U.S.. He showed up as an exchange student as well and turned into another one of my closest friends. Jagoba traveled over to study English and somehow I got roped into learning Spanish.

After living with my family for a month, we had become such good friends that I flew back to Spain with him. I was fifteen and it was the first time I traveled internationally alone. We had a blast in Spain so we continued on the tradition for the next three years. He came to visit in the summers and I went back with him before school started.

There are many stories I could tell about Jagoba. My personal favorite is when we went out on a boat with my grandparents and my family. The waves splashed us until we were all soaking wet. When we arrived back at shore, everyone looked horrible. My sister probably had it the worst.

As we were walking off the boat, Jagoba, thinking he was funny and coy, said to my sister, “Jaaaaaamie, do you have crabs?”. At this point, his second year in America, we all had grown used to his mannerisms. Nobody noticed this slip because Jagoba lives on the ocean where they actually have crabs. In an effort to be funny I shouted “You can’t just ask people if they have crabs Jagoba!”.

This caused my family to understand what he just asked and everyone started roaring. Jagoba didn’t understand the joke immediately and when I explained what “crabs” could be, he blushed. It was adorable.

There were many moments like this in the years that he visited. He brought a new, curious energy to me. He was daring and adventurous. After visiting him many times, I feel confident that he changed how I looked at the world. He brought me out of my shell and contributed to who I am now.

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It’s been twenty years since I was born. A lot has happened since then and the experiences I’ve had are beyond what I can put down onto my blog. The people I’ve shared this time with have changed me, and I think who I am now is a direct result of the people I’ve met.

Find the people who intrigue you, who bring out the wild and adventurous version of you. There’s an entire ocean of people who you can connect with, and life is so much better when it’s filled with people you love. This year I’m thankful for all the people I’ve met and the people I will meet. I hope that I get to live another wonderful year with you.

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