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Do you ever have moments that you wish you could go back to and just relive them? This photograph was taken a few years ago while I was staying with a friend in Spain. It was the third year I had been there. I took the experience for granted.

I wish I could go back and just live it again. Breathe in the salty ocean and the taste of fresh seafood. It’s unlikely that I’ll ever get another photograph with all of them. What I would give for one more night on the coast in Ea.

Memories like this serve as a reminder to pay attention each day. You never know what you’ll miss until it’s gone.

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Life is in the Mundane Moments

There’s this promise I keep making myself. Every few months it comes back and I remember. Deep down I always want to write more. Creating content is a huge passion of mine and, on days where I’m digging for ideas, I go back through old photos or blog posts. When I see old faces of friends I had and the places I’ve been, I always wish that I had written more or taken more pictures.

In fact, there’s a greater promise that I make when I see older pictures: I want to make an effort to live more, to feel more alive, and to appreciate what I have. When I look back, those seem to be the traits that I lack. Why wasn’t I happier? What kept me from taking those opportunities? Why didn’t I appreciate what the people around me?

There’s something that has to be realized from this though. Each time I make that commitment to foster those traits, I put it off into the future. I say “I’ll be more alive when I’m out with friends or when I’m doing something”. “When something exciting happens, I’ll take it all in and be appreciative of it”.

Well, that’s the problem there: I’m waiting for an exhilarating experience before I appreciate what I have. Rather than enjoying mundane day-to-day life, I’m waiting for a huge moment. Like having a wonderful night with friends or exploring the town. I’m craving more, more, more.

In retrospect, those huge moments were great. Last month I got to meet an amazing group of photographers, I definitely won’t forget that. Even bigger than that, I got to live for another month. Each day I got out of bed and went to work. I pushed myself and blogged. The days were not distinct; they mesh together into one giant experience. I cannot differentiate last Tuesday from last Sunday.

However, I will miss last those days more than any of the big moments. Laying in bed for a few extra minutes, walking to work, things like wearing sweatshirts because the temperature is dropping.

These moments don’t happen overnight. They creep up and slowly encompass your life. Going to night shift is a total lifestyle change but you don’t really notice it. It happens with time. One day I will look back and see the significance of it but at the moment I can’t see it. It’s too mundane.

Meeting new people is the same way: it doesn’t feel significant. Hanging around your best friend each day doesn’t feel special – it’s just how life is. Then, with time, it changes. In years you’ll back at the friendship and see its value. But, for the moment, you’re too close to it. It’s all happening in front of your eyes.

See, life is happening around you. Each day, you’re making memories. They may not be distinct but you’ll remember them one day. You’ll look back and miss waking up and getting ready for work in ten minutes flat.

That promise I made to feel more alive, to live more, and to really appreciate what I have – that starts now. It begins with having an appreciation for what I have. If that’s sleepless nights, cold mornings, and long days, then I have to accept it for what it is. I can’t wait for spectacular moments; that’s not where life is.

Our experiences are built over time. Friendships don’t happen overnight and books aren’t written in one week. You can only walk forward one step at a time. Rather than saying you’ll feel more alive in the future, and disregarding how you feel now, you should enjoy the mundane. Life isn’t in one-of-a-kind experience, it’s in the day-to-day. Find that and you’ll find yourself.

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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:

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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.

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

Sunburn

It’s been 156 days since I’ve seen my family. 218 days since I’ve stepped foot in my house. It’s also been 218 days since I’ve seen my cat Dufetta. Somewhere around then my other cat Abbey passed away. It’s suffice to say that it’s been a long time since I’ve been home. Days are not the only measurement that separates me from my home. Currently I live on the other side of the country. 948 miles by road or half a day’s travel by plane.

However none of this holds me from my home. It’s not a physical barrier that keeps me away. Money can pay for a plane ticket or a car ride. I’m currently 1245 days from home. 29,880 hours, 1,792,800 minutes, or 107,568,000 seconds. Whichever of these views look the shortest to you. Where distances can be overcome by money, time cannot. Time can only move as time does. It can only pass at a steady rate. 60 second for each minute.

Today my mother defied the distance and flew home after a week of visiting me. The barrier suddenly became apparent. The length could be measured by my text for her leaving the airport here to her picking up the phone inside my house.

The sorrow was the comparison of how quickly she arrived home to how long I have before I, too, can go home. It’s a math equation of the plane ride from South Carolina to Minnesota plus 3 and a half years.

Although I will never fully be able to explain it to anyone, going home temporarily is meaningless to me. It’s taunting. It’s daring. It’s ripping myself in half. It’s poison. So I choose instead to forget it. To forget that I have this time to overcome. This time to sit through. To wait. I choose to not even to go home in my mind.

I choose to forget the air that I breathed and the afghans that laid upon my bed. The cold dusty hardwood floors that held everything I owned up. The white colored walls that were like canvas screaming to contain my ideas and art one day. The messiness of my bed mid-day when the only creatures that occupied it were a cat or two. I choose to forget it. I cannot even dare to go home in my mind.

It’s like a sunburn that doesn’t heal. It’s tense to the touch. It feels like fire when something slams back into the memory. Like I’ve just laid on coal. Not even water soothes the pain. It’s something only time can heal. Something I have to avoid sitting against. Leaning against the wall to rest burns. Sitting burns. It all burns.

The only solace is in the fact that time, while not rapidly, will continue to flow. It manages to move. It doesn’t wake up one day and slow down. It doesn’t sit down and cry in the shower for an hour. It moves steadily. And one day this too shall pass. Hopefully like a fleeting memory. The sunburn, the sensitivity, the distance, the time. That will all come to pass. One day it will be 3 and a half years from now. One day it will be tomorrow.

Until them, I’ll be here. But the length has been marked. Both time and distance.

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