The Beginning of Blogging

Waking up to my 100th day in Charleston tomorrow is going to be strange. Ever since I’ve started this 365 project the days have flown by. Tomorrow will also mark the 200th day of this project and I feel forced to re-evaluate the reasons why I started blogging. After all, I’ve spent more time blogging than I care to admit and to an audience that I could count on my left hand. The point of this post isn’t going to be to entertain. I just want to write this one for me.

The whole project originates back in 2009, when I first ran across Anna Szczekutowicz‘s work on Flickr. She was a younger photographer at the time and I found her work around 100 days into what she called a 365 project. It’s where she took a photograph everyday and posted it on the site. There usually wasn’t much writing but man were her photos breath-taking.

By 2010 I had decided to do my own photography 365 project. I tried it, usually only making it to day 20 before giving up. On my 6th try I made it all the way through. Another artist named Carolyn Snyder helped motivate me and kept me accountable for my posts. Around this time Anna took down her photo-stream and I felt like somebody had ripped a carpet out from under me. Removing your original inspiration leaves you with a hole and forces you to see what truly motivates you.

What I found motivational turned out to be my need for expression. The project gave me an outlet to get away from the world and do my thing. While it was escapism at the best, I found I grew more with photography than anything else in my life. The bug had bit me and I was forced to scratch that itch for years.

My project completed in early 2011 with no hiccups. Photography coursed through my blood at this point and seemed to be the only path I had. Many of my friend knew me because they saw me carrying a camera around. I had shot a dozen senior photos and most of my friends had modeled for me during the 365 project. I lived and breathed art.

Another great inspiration at the time was Linus Hui of Linus & the Feel Good Factory. He completed three 365 projects and evolved my concept of the project. Linus’ art was photography but it had a different take. Instead of just being a beautiful photograph, he included paper crafts that he designed. In addition, at the bottom of his posts, he wrote a tutorial on how to be or do something. “How to fake interest in conversations or on dates” was just the fourth day of his 3rd project.

What Linus showed me was that there really aren’t any rules on a 365 project. When I worked on my photography 365, I was strict and wanted a full year of only images. After that, I realized that art was so much greater than the limitations that we place on it. Restricting myself to taking photographs produced a portfolio but it didn’t satisfy my creative itch. I need something more.

I spent years looking for what that scratch might be. I delved into a 90-day project (like Anna’s) and found no satisfaction.Producing art had always given me fulfillment but I couldn’t figure out why it stopped. Perhaps this is something all artists face occasionally.

2012 was a great year because I finally found something that satisfied me. At this time, the photography community shifted from a photo-sharing site (Flickr) to Facebook. Involvement with up-and-coming photographers on Flickr gave me the ability to be friends with photographers on Facebook and interact with them on a personal level. These interactions lead me to becoming active on WordPress.com, where I could interview and write about artists.

The most satisfaction came from writing about artists and reviewing their work. This time bore “The Anatomy of a Dreamer“, “The Memory Get-ter“, “Navel Oranges“, “Eric Albee” (original personal blog), as well as many other projects. The inspiration that lead other artists to create inspired me. I suddenly understood why people create and I felt it again in a greater sense.

Mid-2012 I changed career fields and spend June and July immersed in training. I didn’t have access to the outside world until September and I was so wrecked from training that I didn’t know who I was anymore. The damage the training incurred made me have to reconstruct who I was and who I wanted to be.

Blogging came back naturally in slow increments. I experimented with other mediums like painting and vlogging as a way to figure out who I was. Inspiration came sporadically and I didn’t have very much time to myself. The nights I spent painting were often concluded with a sigh and a lack of satisfaction. The skill I desired needed more time than I had to give to it. I wanted to be good at these things but I couldn’t spend 10 hours learning a new skill each day.

The interesting thing is that although I didn’t feel satisfied, I still felt compelled to create. Something drove me to go to art and I couldn’t explain it at the time.

Stress ruined me from September to October and I turned to many Buddhist texts. I found that the advice I read could relieve a couple of hours of stress and give me an emotional break. Essentially these books helped me rebuild myself. Everyday I woke up and dreaded going to work. I would come home after 9 hours and cry in the shower or sob on the phone seeking consolation. Books like “The Power of Now” taught me coping mechanisms and released the clamp I felt I had on my head.

In October I met another artist who lived in the same building as me. We shared our frustrations and meeting him released a lot of stress. Suddenly I knew that I wasn’t alone and that other people suffered through the same things that I did. We spent a lot of time talking about art and just hanging out. It was good to physically know an artist.

I was forced to move away from that friend in October.  I didn’t have anyone to have deep conversations with anymore. Blogging filled that hole and shifted purposes. It gave me a way to create a monologue of what I wanted to say. Although there wasn’t conversation, I was able to express myself again.

Around the end of November I had an emotional charge about censorship. I couldn’t contain myself and it was like a last burst before I started blogging regularly. The truth is that I’ve blogged since my 2010 trip to Spain. It wasn’t until this emotion charge that I felt compelled to write more often and with purpose.

December 2nd I decided to start another 365 project. Instead of taking photographs everyday I wanted to write. It didn’t matter what I wrote about as long as it was 100 words every day. My job couldn’t take my life away from me and I wanted to prove that to myself. I was an artist and it was in my soul to create.

That unnerving lack of satisfaction I dealt with disappeared. Even though I didn’t have my camera or the equipment I could produce something that was my own. Days passed by and I had writing to prove that I was alive. No longer did I feel totally repressed.

After about 15 days I knew the project was going to stick. The words started off philosophical and my posts revolved around dealing with stress. These were things I knew and could easily write about. I was recording my life at one of the most stressful times I had ever experienced and sharing that with everyone.

As the year concluded my mother flew down to visit for Christmas. When the holidays were over,  the stress about work changed to homesickness and loneliness. I felt alone again and I wanted my old life back. My blog reflected this with about 20 posts about missing my cat and house.

The reason I started my 365 was to relieve this stress and to talk about it. Perhaps blogging was more of a conversation with myself than it was with anyone else. Photography was an expression that other people could appreciate even if they didn’t understand the message. Blogging is very different. It was direct and a tool I needed to rebuild a broken Eric.

As time progressed blogging documented my life events rather than hopeful Buddhist advice. When a boy unexpectedly kissed me in class, I wrote about it. Going home was a huge time for me, so I spent a week writing about it. Finishing training was a huge event. Moving to Charleston on day 100 was a huge life change. Becoming involved with another openly gay guy here lifted me up through 5 posts (and shoved me back down afterwards with 10 posts). Blogging was a way to digest everything that was happening.

As tomorrow marks day 200 out of 365 days, I really have to look at why I blog. Is there purpose to write for another 165 days? The answer is obvious; yes.

Blogging means so much to me; It records my life at any given moment it allows me to digest thoughts and things that I’m thinking about regularly, it opens my eyes towards what I’m doing with my life. Blogging reminds me that I still have some say over what’s happening. It gives me the opportunity to share my passions and experiences with other people. I feel human after writing. Blogging gives me something to share. It is medicinal after a heartbreak. Writing this fuels a fire within that I cannot put out. I feel compelled to create everyday and I haven’t found anything that satisfies me greater than caving in to that desire.

That is why I blog.

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I apologize for how long this post became. This past year has been filled with a lot of emotions and I didn’t want to restrain why I blog. That would almost be self-defeating. If you made it this far, thank you for reading. I really urge you to start your own blog over at WP.com. It’s life-changing, free, and will take you only 10 minutes to learn.

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Variety is the Spice of Life

When I was a little kid, I remember only liking two foods – mac ‘n cheese and mashed potatoes. Everything else was strange and foreign. I felt like I could choke down a new food but I couldn’t imagine eating other foods regularly. Potatoes and noodles were the staple food of my youth.

It wasn’t until I traveled to Spain that my palette changed. Suddenly I was living in a new culture and had to conform to the diet – which consisted mostly of fish. Where I stayed they didn’t know what mac ‘n cheese was and mashed potatoes were a rarity. So the more I ate fish, the more I grew to the taste. After trying it, I could try other foods and expand further.

The change wasn’t immediate when I got home though. Most of my diet remained the same as it was before. Over time my tastes expanded with each place I went. Things that I didn’t enjoy at all, like raw tomatoes and avocados, became a huge part of my diet.

When I moved out last year, I left home and my family’s cooking. Not only did I leave having access to a kitchen, I left my part of the country. Foods native to Minnesota (are there even any?) were much less prominent in Texas and Mississippi. I was forced to change my diet.

When I finally got out to Charleston, South Carolina I realized that I have become a total foodie. Going downtown is like an adventure trying to find the best restaurant. Finding a new atmosphere and a new climate has become exciting and fun rather than stressful.

As I look back at myself, I realize that my taste preference wasn’t the only thing that changed. I’ve come to know that “variety is the spice of life”. There’s so much joy in new experience and new things.

When we only eat apples, we don’t know what an orange tastes like. We can’t understand why people make a funny face when they eat a lemon or cry while handling onions. We don’t know how deep a cheese can taste or how flavorful raspberries are.

By restricting ourselves to doing the same things repeatedly, we miss out on all the wonderful things life has to offer. Yesterday I was at a music store and started a conversation with a stranger about some bands I love. It turns out that she was into the exact same bands as I was. We spent the next half an hour talking about new bands to listen to and being giddy about the ones we loved. My life was so richer sharing that experience with her.

For the past month I’ve been going downtown to various new places that people recommend to me. One of the places I ran across was a bakery. I originally went there for bread but I found out that they have a lot of odd products you can’t find other places. Since finding it, I’ve tried sun-dried tomato bread, yogurt-soda, sesame seed bars, and drinks make from aloe vera plants. Each item was a brand new experience and an exhilaration. Each time I went, I’ve run across the same baker who laughs and smiles at my craziness.

I know that being adventurous is contagious and I think that all humans crave experience. Some just have a self-imposed barriers – fears they think they face alone. We fear being rejected by new people, going to places we’ve never been, and trying new things. Everyone faces them.

Why? Because we don’t understand that part of the experience is that occasional rejection. Almost spurting yogurt-soda out your car window because it tastes so horrible. Having a great story to tell when you get lost in the ginormous Paris airport. Vlogging in public and having people jump into the back of your videos.

The thing is, I can’t push you over your fears. I can’t make you realize how much it’s worth it to conquer them. That’s something only you can figure out yourself. I can only tell you that variety is the spice of life and living with just salt and pepper is a boring way to live. If you’ve only got 80 years to live, then what are you waiting for?

Go try sushi for the first time, I did that last month. Buy plane tickets to that country you’ve always wanted to see. Talk to that person you like because life begins outside of your comfort zone. And who knows, maybe that person likes you too. You’ll never know if you don’t try.

In the comments, tell me something you’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to try.

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Answers

In our relationships with other people, often we look for paths and well cleared ways to guide us where we want to go. We want to know what would happen if we say this or if we did that.

We want to know answers to questions which have no answers. I think this is something I struggle with especially. Sometimes there is no answer. Does he/she love me? I don’t think the answer is always a yes or a no. Sometimes it’s just a kind of.

We want these questions to be easy but we don’t want to trample something that is good. We don’t want to tear down something that we’ve built up. Instead, we choose to dodge around the question or be coy. In this effort, communication often gets mixed up, so cut it off at the beginning.

Understand that there isn’t always a yes or no. You can’t expect a person to have everything figured out. Elect to communicate clearly and in person. From personal experience, this works a lot better.

 

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Sorry for the random snip-it today guys!

Change

Days like today make me wonder if I’ve even changed at all in the past year. Tonight I went to the movies and saw The Monuments Men with my brother and his fiance. We went over to their new apartment and hung out for a few hours like we used to last May. Some things change, like the crowd around you, but sometimes the habits and the things that you do are so ingrained within you that you maintain them.

When I come back next time, will I be the same person? Will everyone else be the same? Minnesota won’t change but its people will. The music on the radio seems to be a mix between electronic and folk these days. More people are moving away from the emo/scene and dark looks. Where will everything be in three years? The rest of my life?

Do I want to come back to Minnesota in 3 years or will I just want to travel? Will I be able to afford traveling? These are all questions that run through my head constantly. I think I need to read Eckhard Tolle’s “The Power of Now” again before I get to caught up in everything.

Hope you’re all having a wonderful Monday night!

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Why you’re thinking too much and need to stop

Have you ever been so caught up in thought that you’ve had someone say your name and you don’t respond? They repeat it a couple times, making themselves more distinct, to get your attention. They wave their hands in front of your face and finally you snap out of whatever trance you were in.

I think that almost everyone lives their life in that trance. The degree that you are spaced out varies but ultimately you are almost always in that trance. The struggle is that one person cannot wave their hands in front of you and make you wake up because you have to do it yourself.

Everyone exists in this trance, where they don’t pay attention. Their mind consumes them and they narrow their vision onto one thing. It’s as if we put binoculars on and stare at one thing – which blocks out everything else that is happening.

In our society, we highly value analytical thought. Or, simply logic. Everything in our existence can be quantified and analyzed until we can determine what it means. We do this because we think that once we understand something, we can control it. If we deduct the reason why we think something happens, we can cause it to repeat (if it’s beneficial to us).

We get so caught up in logic and idolize it that we get clouded with illusion. We start to believe that if we think about something long enough, we have the power to control it. We believe that if we could think of every possible reaction to a situation, we could make it work out in our favor. That’s why we spend so much time thinking of every different way to react to a situation.

However, this power is an illusion. In reality we have incredibly little power to control events and make them work out in our favor. Our ability to analyze has led us to worshiping thought and neglecting something called no-mind. By idealizing logic, we have done something incredibly illogical.

We have caused ourselves to live in our mind constantly attempting to solve problems and think through situations that may never happen. We all seek happiness and well being but we plan for it rather than live in it. If we do this or that, we could be happy. We must think of how to do something to have a good life. The truth is that we have well-being threaded into our existence and if we stop thinking, we can experience find that well-being.

Many of our problems stem from dealing and communicating with other people. When we encounter an emotional problem, we, often more times than not, try to apply logic and solve it. We think that if she moved her dress this way, she must hate us now. We try to apply logic to something that logic cannot solve. Not everything is done with an intent and you cannot deduct every movement from another person.

Logic is this sense is toxic. It erodes the mind because in other situations we can solve the problem simply by thinking about it. However, not everything works off of simple cause and effect – things exist spontaneously. It is an illusion to believe that the more we think, the more likely our solution will work in these situations. Or that the longer we think about something, the more likely we will be able to make it work out in our favor.

Our society equates logic with power, and we believe that we are weak without our ability to think. So when we come to situations where logic is useless, we still elect to continuously analyze it. We don’t understand that sometimes there is no reason. Because of this, we cannot use reason to define something that occurred for no reason.

To solve this problem we need to clear our minds and arrive at something called “no-mind”. This occurs when there are no more thoughts going through a person’s consciousness. That means that thoughts and emotions can pass through the mind, but the person doesn’t attach to them or think about them. It’s like the thoughts are there, but the person doesn’t actively think of them. The thoughts just flow through them and they are detached. Essentially there are thoughts without a thinker.

When have you had no thoughts? Are you able to stop thinking? Let your mind simmer down and when a thought arises, let it go. It doesn’t matter how important you think it is, just let it go. If you practice this, you’ll arrive at holes in your mind. There will be periods where there is no-mind.

Once you accomplish this, you can live life and experience it. You cannot live life in your mind and you cannot control everything. You cannot solve all the problems and apply logic to non-logical situations. By surrendering your control and detaching from your thoughts, you can learn that not everything has to work out in your favor. No amount of logic can control everything.

When you surrender, the illusion of power (or lack-there-of) vanishes. By realizing that you can’t control everything, you realize that you don’t want to control everything. Life is lived by the spontaneity of it.

So when the next time you try to interpret why another person does something, realize that logic doesn’t always apply. Even if you hate to hear it, you can think too much about something. Don’t get caught in that trance because life isn’t about thinking and controlling, it’s about living.

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