The First Quarter of 2015 (5/365)

For the last three weeks, I’ve been trying to find an outlet for what I’ve been feeling. My life has rapidly changed since the beginning of the year and I’m at loss on how to describe it. Occasionally writing helps, so bear with me, this is going to be a vent/rant/sloppy mess of a blog post.

The year started off on a high note with an unexpected friendship. I grew close to a guy very rapidly and spent the first couple months talking to him. Most of my days were spent texting or being around him.

Work calmed down and I started getting requests to photograph events. Promotion and retirement ceremonies became commonplace. Larger events started taking place at work and I was requested to photograph them as well.

My attention was spread between the guy and the events I was photographing. In my free time, I struggled to focus on my own interests because I was so busy texting or coordinating with other people about the pictures. In attempt to relax, I tried getting back into video games and TV.

Instead of loosening up, I only distracted myself. The way I relax is through creating, photographing, blogging, and exploring. Watching TV only diverts my attention from doing what I love.

The last weekend in February I was incredibly stressed out. I photographed for a large event and people were pressuring me for the images. The guy I was talking to just had a family member pass, so I was giving him space. On top of that, work was starting to get busy again.

One night I texted the guy asking if he was alright. He had been quiet for a few days. I told him if he wanted someone to talk to I was there for him. He replied saying that he had been seeing someone lately and that he could see dating the new guy. When I asked why he didn’t tell me before, he said that we hadn’t talked much in the last week. He considered us more of ‘friends’.

The next day I got an email from work saying that they were going to have me move. In the military, it’s common to be reassigned to a different base – especially in your first contract. The place they decided to send me? Hickam, Hawaii.

Between getting jilted and the news that I was going to be moving, I didn’t sleep. For hours, I laid in bed with my mind swirling. I didn’t know where things were going with the guy but I didn’t expect it to stop so suddenly.

When you spend a large amount of your free time talking to someone and then they leave, it feels like there’s a hole in you. We weren’t romantic. I didn’t really entertain the idea of dating this guy. But we spent so much time talking, that when we stopped, I felt like I didn’t have anyone to talk to.

With the stress at work, the additional load of photographing events, this guy, and Hawaii, I didn’t know how to feel. Initially I rejected most of it. At work I sunk into a quiet depression. There was too much empty time; I couldn’t distract myself from my thoughts. My love of photography turned into a frustration. It stopped being art and became more stress on my back.

I could have denied Hawaii. Staying in Charleston for the next two years sounded like a good idea. The time would go by quickly and I could move to some other part of the country.

However, my feelings for this guy had turned into a bitter affection. I wanted some sort of resolution with him but there wasn’t anything left to say. He made his move. I started to analyze what we had texted each other. Was I wrong? Did I say something? In my head I obsessed over finding a solution. Maybe it was me. After all, I didn’t clarify our friendship into a relationship. I felt like it was my fault. Leaving for Hawaii meant abandoning the possibility of finding a resolution.

The next week I decided that moving would be a good decision. It became clear that there wasn’t going to be a smooth ending. There wasn’t anything left that I could do. He started dating another guy and didn’t even apologize about the confusion. Moving suddenly became an escape rope and a chance to start over in a new city.

One week after the guy and I split, an old friend talked to me. We were up all night hanging out like we usually did. Towards the end we laid out on his bed listening to music. It had been a long year for us in Charleston. We both were exhausted.

Conversation between us slowed and music enveloped his room. There were gaps where we’d have a few minutes without saying a word to each other. After a particularly long pause, he told me that he had something to say. My hand was across his chest at this point. His heartbeat was picking up but still there was silence.

After a few minutes, he told me about how he liked me. Leaving was going to be hard on both of us. It was rougher than either of us imagined. We spent the following week close together.

All these emotions slewed around in my head. The creative outlets like blogging and photographing were so distant. My friends felt far away. Being suddenly abandoned disoriented me. Hawaii destroyed any expectations I had for the future. This guy made me feel like I was on top the world.

This has been the first quarter of 2015. I don’t know where the rest of the year will take me. I’m caught between terrified and excited. Leaving friends here is going to be difficult, making new ones won’t be easy, and moving to the middle of the ocean is definitely a change. No matter what happens though, the rest of the year will certainly be interesting.

Anyways, this has become longer than it needs to be. I’m sorry for the rant. Have a good night/morning/day, wherever you are!

On a side note, both my cousin Tabitha and my mother Wendy have started blogging today. So before you leave, be sure to check them out! I’m so proud of them!

Page 5 of 365

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Going Home

As the end of the year approaches and the holidays finally roll around, many people are going home to visit their loved ones. If they don’t already live near their family, people will be traveling all over the country. Last year, when I began this project, I wrote a lot about home around the holidays. I wrote some pretty dreary posts, ultimately saying that I didn’t plan on going home for the next four years.

There was a lot of emotional angst with the mentality of I wanted either all of it or none of it. I wanted to go home and stay home or wait until I could stay. It was a rough time. I did end up going home for a couple weeks in March but, for the most part, I stayed out of Minnesota.

As that time of the year comes back, I guess I wanted to bring it up again. I’ve been in Charleston for the last 240 days, or 8 months. I really haven’t left the city since I’ve arrived and some of that angst is coming back.

I won’t finish my contract until May 2017, which is quite a ways away. It’s a long time to stay in South Carolina. However, I still feel the same way as before. I can’t imagine going home just to come back down here. Leave is valuable and takes a long time to replace.

Eighteen years of my life were spent in Minnesota, I want to use my leave going to visit somewhere new. Maybe go to Portland or Boston. In the last year and a half, I’ve been home for 14 days. Yet, I can’t bring myself to use my leave just to go back to someplace I’ve already been. I don’t know if this makes sense to anyone but I thought it was worth bringing up.

Has anyone else experienced this? I left home a year ago and it seems like everyone here is pushing me to visit. Especially this time of the year. Yet, I don’t know where to go or why exactly I don’t want to go home. It’s just I don’t. Do you have any advice?

340/365

Leaving Facebook

To become more productive, I’ve decided to leave Facebook. Thanks to RescueTime, I’ve realized the ridiculous amount of time that I spend scrolling down my NewFeed. Unfortunately Facebook has lost its purpose and I use too much time-consuming useless information.

In the old days I used social media for connecting with other people and to stay in touch with friends. As I’ve moved around the country many of these friendships have faded. People I once interacted in person are no longer part of my life. As a result, we don’t communicate with each other online.

Deleting friends is possible but whether this is a useful action is subject to debate. On the average day, I communicate with around five people on Facebook. This could be through comments, likes, or messages. These people I interact with don’t fluctuate often, and usually talk to same five people regularly.

I would say that this concept holds true for other users as well. Most people go online to interact with people they know and to see what is going on in their lives. When you meet someone new, you add them on Facebook. They get added into your NewsFeed and you’re suddenly subject to their likes and the posts that they comment on.

Users rack up friends, and according to Facebook, the average teenager has 300 of them. These “friends” interact with their five contacts that they talk with regularly. These interactions are displayed on your NewsFeed, regardless of whether they are relevant to you.

Now I know what you’re thinking: you can hide friends if you don’t want to see their content or their interactions. This would be a fantastic solution if Facebook didn’t prioritize your friends’ posts. Here’s an example:

If you have five friends: Jimmy, Nate, Keith, Angela, and Barbra. Nate is your closest friend and you interact with him the most in real life. However, Angela has more friends on Facebook than Nate. By having more friends, she most likely has more “likes” on her posts. On your Newsfeed, Angela will appear more than anyone else.

This means more actions taken by Angela will be displayed on your Newsfeed. If she comments on a meme or a funny video, bam that meme is now on your feed. When she likes another person’s photo, it will display on your page. You don’t even have to be friends with the person who she liked.

Jumping back to Nate, who posts regularly but doesn’t get as much interaction, you won’t see his posts. He’ll write a status asking if any friends want to go hiking but he won’t get any comments because he’s not as “popular” as Angela.

You could hide Angela but you are friends in real life and you interact with each other regularly. She’s great but you don’t want to see every post that she likes. However, due to Facebook’s current set-up, she doesn’t have a say in the matter. She just gets more interaction.

Jimmy, Keith, and Barbra, are average users. They are close friends but, again, are overshadowed by Angela. They have more interaction than Nate, so you very rarely see his posts – even though you comment on his photos/statuses more than anyone else’s.

In the end, the people who have the most friends and the most interactions end up on your NewsFeed.

Facebook claimed that the average user was subject to around 1,500 posts daily. This is a large number and clearly needs to sifted through. That’s why they display the most popular content: you’re much more likely to interact with it.

People have complained about this problem with popularity before. As a result, Facebook now features a button where you can select popular content or the most recent posts. While this is a great idea, it’s easily flawed:

Personally, I can select “most recent posts”, which changes my Newsfeed. Everyone is treated equally and all 300 of my friends will get a (more) equal share of my feed. This overloads my page with people whom I have no interaction with. To make the situation worse, other people don’t use this function.

While my Newsfeed is now the “most recent posts”, the people who interact with my content aren’t seeing it. The reason I log on Facebook is to interact with friends and respond to their interactions with my content. If I can’t see their content and they can’t see mine, why am I even here?

I’m choosing to leave Facebook because I’m both frustrated at this model which I’ve explained, and to become more productive. If I can’t use Facebook to see the content that I want, I’ve determined that I no longer want to use it at all. It’s too easy to spend a half an hour scrolling through a NewsFeed of people I don’t interact with. May as well blog or do something else.

239/365

Oh, Veritasium did a Youtube video on it!

Where are you going in Life?

As many people my age do, I’ve been questioning where I’m going in life and what paths I’m taking. This query has made me wrestle with both happiness and depression, leaving me worn out. Everywhere around me I see people content with mediocre lives, pushing off their dreams until later in life or when their jobs allow it. I can’t help but look at myself and fear the same end.

This terrifies me and wakes me up in the morning wondering what I’ve done with the last three months. I see a dullness in the eyes of the people I work with and I feel the same boredom dwelling within myself. Joe De Sena talks about having a “fire in his belly” to go out into the world: I feel the same ache and drive to experience as much of life as I can.

When my work commitment finishes in 3 years, I leave no anticipation of continuing here. I will not spend my life pointlessly accumulating money to buy things. I have higher dreams than to climb the corporate ladder into the later years of my life.

I find myself questioned by my coworkers about if I’m going to stay here for the next two decades into retirement. When I reply that I’m leaving, I see that there’s a confusion in their eyes. It’s wonderful having a stable job with great benefits, but my heart lays in other places. Places where my 4 weeks a year of vacation cannot coexist with.

After starting “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” I’ve realized that I need to be out in the world again. When I leave, I will start with 6 months thru-hiking the AT. Afterwards I’m going to hike the Camino De Santiago De Compostuela across Northern Spain. Sometime I also want to go WOOFing through Australia and New Zealand. I also want to combine RideShare and CouchSurfing to explore the Western USA and Canada. My friend in Denmark has even convinced me to go to college there, so I want to do that.

Timothy Ferriss’ book “The 4-hour Workweek” talks about this phenomena where people work with the anticipation of doing everything they dream of after they retire. They over-work themselves because they think it will all pay off in the end. However, once many people retire, they look back at their younger years and wish that they did more when they physically could

“Your Money or Your Life” is another great read which talks about our relationship with money. It discusses how money is the currency of our lives. When you hold a $100 bill in your hand, you’re holding hours of your life that you spent working. You’ve exchanged your time for that piece of paper. While this isn’t bad, our relationship to money has become skewed. There’s a limit to how much money we need to live and how much is just plain overworking.

Right now that scale is tipped to one side in my life: towards working too much and experiencing too little. For my previous post, I wrote about how I want to create a book. I think that when I finish my time here, I’ll start the book. It seems that people have a lot of time to think when they’re hiking the AT, perhaps that would be the time to write it.

Of course, I still have another third of this 365 to complete! December is coming up quicker than I thought, and I feel like I’ve learned many things about myself in the last year. We’ll see where these next 4 months take us and play it by ear.

224/365

“Once in a while, it really hits people that they don’t have to experience life in the way they have been told to.”

-Alan Knightley

Goodbyes

Having someone leave out of your life is rough and there’s no right time for it. Tomorrow my closest friend leaves to move up to Alaska. Despite having only met him last month it’s difficult to imagine what life is going to be like without him here. When somebody occupies a huge part of your life it’s difficult to let them go. We had a lot of good times and I’m glad I got to know him.

I think that sometimes people are just meant to pass through your life. They’re not meant to stay there and if you knew everyone in your life was going to stay forever, you wouldn’t appreciate them. So although it sucks that he’s leaving, I’m appreciative of having met him.

We spent way too many hours killing Nazi zombies, driving to the beach, and getting off base. I’ll definitely miss him. Here are some pictures from the past month:

2014-05-06 22.18.15 2014-05-06 18.25.01 2014-05-23 06.14.34 2014-05-26 20.37.09

176/365

Moving to Charleston Tomorrow!

Well, I’ve run tonight’s post a little into the wall. I have to get to bed quickly so I can get up early for my flight out to Charleston. Early flights are the worst! So yesterday’s post concluded most of my thoughts about visiting home and leaving so tonight I’ll be brief.

I’m glad I decided to come home for a week before I moved off to Charleston. It has given me the opportunity to see the life that I lead and shown me how I want to orient myself in the future. It’s given me something to compare my experiences with and a way to keep some of my friends before becoming too distant from them. Although my visit was short, I feel like I’ve gained a lot of insight into my life.

Cheers to traveling to new places!

99/365

Here’s a video I ran across on my Facebook NewFeed that is in need of some attention!

Pre-Leave Nostalgia

Packing clothes away and getting ready for the next big move out to Charleston has been difficult. The closer my leave gets to finishing, the more nostalgia sets in. So much of my life has changed and coming home has shown me how I had built my life up to this point.

Online I’ve maintained presence with the photography community, and I still obviously work on my blog. Photography has been so much to me; it’s been a way of expression, a way of building community, a skill to grow.

I’ve been able to see the things that I’ve worked on from a more detached perspective. Walking back into my room and seeing inspiring quotes on post-it-notes brought a smile to my face. It really felt like home. It’s like I could suddenly connect who I was with who I am now.

Over my break I’ve also had the opportunity to get together with many of my friends and family that I’ve been missing. Just seeing their faces has brightened mine. But at the same time I feel anxious about all of them. Where is my life heading? Where are their lives heading?

And after stepping out for nine months I’ve gained an appreciation for things that I hadn’t before. I understand that goodbye now will be a much longer goodbye in some cases. My cat has grown old, my dog, and some of my family. There’s a lot of uncertainty and unknown in front of me but I face it with the certainty that I will experience more. And with no regret of the past, I’ve lived as fully as possible, and I have no tension over the past.

So as I get anxiety over the next week, the next month, the next year, perhaps I will be able to look back at this instant in my life and remember that everything works out. Life will always carry on – and the moment we stop facing it is the moment that we stop living.

Be valiant, and enjoy the life in front of you. You don’t know when your last moments will be. So die now to what is in behind and beyond you – live your life right now.

98/365


P.S. Woah. Day 100 is going to be my first day in Charleston! That’s crazy on time!