the direction of my life where to go from here

the trail

I’ve never been one to think on and on about the direction of my life. It’s not that I don’t have ambitions, desires, dreams, or goals, but that I like to focus on the present. I’ve found that when you’re standing in the middle of an empty road and lost, your best option is to stay there for a while. Turning tail and running back into the past does nothing for you. You’ve already seen and experienced that. Trudging on is not truly an option either, especially when you haven’t fully experienced the present moment. I like to stand in one spot and look around until I am ready to see something else, but keep in mind that life is a constant move forward. Even if I don’t feel like moving, I let the road move from underneath me. Staying in one spot for too long, you take the risk of getting run over by a speeding vehicle when you least expect it.

There’s nothing quite like the current moment.

As time ticks by, things start to change. That cloud that looks like a unicorn won’t stay looking like a unicorn for long. It’s something that I’ve noticed from my time taking pictures. Things don’t like to stagnate, and so, they’re always in a constant state of flux. Perhaps this is why people stand behind grabbing life by the horns. If you don’t take the chance now, there may not be another chance for you to take in the future. I’ve come to realize that it might be my time to move on from where I am now, after having several enlightening talks with two different people. As always, I take what they have to say with a few sprinkles of salt, because in the end, it will be my own choices that shape my future existence.

The first person to bring this up was my old man. I guess he noticed that when I’m not working, I’m watching videos, reading, writing, and generally keeping myself busy. But I can only do that for so long before I get antsy. That’s when the camera comes out and I make a mad dash for the truck. Driving, discovering, and taking photos keeps me sane and eases the things that trouble my mind and trap my soul. The old man has always been a harsh critic and so I never made it a point to please him or seek his approval, just because I know he won’t ever give it. My mother was always nurturing and encouraging, but pops, well, he was always critiquing my every action and every decision. That’s the thing that built me up though and I’m thankful for that. It has kept me honest and built me up strong.

I was working on the only project that mattered at the time. I was busy healing my soul and finding meaning in both suffering and happiness, all through the lens of a camera.

I remember once, I showed him a collection of my photography. Having dabbled in photography himself, he went in for the kill, commenting on my improper framing, faulty technique, lack of substance, and, quite frankly, my lack of interesting subjects. I know photography, as with any artistic expression, is subjective, but it is very disheartening to hear such negative criticisms. However, I knew I had tried my best and my mother would have agreed. I soldiered on because disparaging comments come and go, but your ability to work through it should never be broken. I kept taking photographs day after day and soon I was proud of my collection and made great connections with people who shared the same passion. Having done that, I still never told the old man, but I guess he would see me leave the house every day when I didn’t have work with my camera and see that I was out doing something. He had no idea what I was doing or if I was working on a project. Indeed, I was.

Just the other day, oh gee, it must have been Sunday night, he said, plainly and simply:

WHY DON’T YOU GO TO FILM SCHOOL, YOU LOVE BEING BEHIND THE CAMERA. MAYBE YOU’LL LEARN SOMETHING AND CREATE SOMETHING WITH IT. IT DOESN’T MATTER, COMMERCIALS, MOVIES, ANYTHING.

I have never thought about going to film school and although I’ve always had a love for cinematography, I never once worked on a project that I could truly call my own. And that’s when I realized that yes, I do have an interest in going to film school. I want to create something that would completely heal me. Something that might not speak to a mass audience, but would speak to me personally.

It struck me that I come from a family background that prizes intellectual stimulation, inspiration, and creation. My grandfather on my mother’s side, the biological one, was a professor; my grandmother a master seamstress, and my mother a para-professional. My grandfather on my father’s side was a genius in construction, especially in playgrounds and recreational facilities, one of my uncles is a professional photographer, and my father, well, he inherited the construction genes. So you see, I’ve come from a place where building something and doing something with your own two hands is important, but also from a family where artistic endeavors are not shunned, but instead, encouraged. I guess I’m lucky in that sense, even though I never paid any attention to it. But maybe I just want to dabble in creating something for myself before I even think about going to school.

I’d rather explore, do what I feel like doing, and take life on, trial and error style.

Just yesterday, I was doing laundry and got hungry, so I wandered over to Beachside Cafe (go check them out if you haven’t – it’s a great spot). While I was reading my book (Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder) and drinking my Asian-esque tofu and chicken soup, I happened to strike up a conversation with a fellow solo diner at the table adjacent to me. From what I gathered, he was a teacher here in San Francisco, hailing from Minnesota. At first glance, he seemed nervous and shifty even, but what was most amazing to me was seeing his transformation when I started to talk to him about teaching; about how my mother was a teacher and how I had studied education in college. He thought I was a grad student – apparently only grad students read for entertainment anymore nowadays – but we bonded over great food and talks bout the things that mattered in our school system. We spent about 40 minutes chatting away on topics like racism, stereotypes, the hardships of teaching, the joys of teaching, immigrants, and geo-politics, basically anything that you would talk about at a coffee-shop. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and at the end of it, he gave me some sound advice. I had always mulled over whether or not I wanted to enter a credential program and teach, just like my mother and grandfather. I’ve said once before that I’ve become disillusioned with the educational atmosphere and the education system, but talking to Brian helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. He told me that to do this job, you really have to love it. That resonates commitment, passion, loyalty, and sticking up for your beliefs, even in an unjust or broken system. Thank you Brian for giving me your insights, for the honest conversation, and for your introduction to all the programs I could enlist in. If I end up in one of them, thanks for your intro, but if not – if I chose to go another route – you’ve definitely opened my eyes to the current environment of things and the importance of teachers. You’ve also reminded me that I still love and value knowledge. I’ll apply what you told me to any areas of my life that I can and I want you to know that I’m thankful there are people like you out there. So here’s to you, Brian. I’m drinking this coffee and holding my cup up to you and what you’ve taught me. You’re truly my mentor, in the form of a stranger.

Now I have a lot to think about. Do I go get my credentials, go to film school, or get a certificate for EMT-B? Those are the things that I know I’ll love doing, but still, there’s nothing more gratifying than making your own life. I see the road forking up ahead. I want to drink more coffee, smell the metaphorical roses, and maybe then I’ll be brave enough to blaze my own trail.

After all, the roads frequently traveled are crowded, the ones less traveled are epic, but the trails you blaze on your own have never been mapped.

That’s true adventure.