Archives for category: Uncategorized

Recently I have subscribed to Jeff Goins‘ blog, and have read some pretty inspirational and thoughtful posts week after week. There was one post in particular that stuck out in my mind from a while back that I’ve been meaning to write about but just haven’t gotten around to it. But the message behind it lines up pretty accurately with one of my main resolutions this year, so I felt this was the perfect time to finally get these thoughts out. Here’s an excerpt from his post:

What really matters

I’ve lost count of the how many photos I’ve seen on Facebook of kids with chocolate-smeared faces. But I remember the friends and family mourning the drowning of a young man down the road.

It’s those things that tug at our hearts we will remember most. It’s the tears we’ve shed with family. It’s the all night conversations we have with friends we see once every three years.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: I want my priorities back in line.

Day by day, I’m learning to re-prioritize. I’m making efforts to talk on the phone more versus texting. I’m closing the laptop when I’m finished with a project instead of staring into cyberspace. I’m allowing myself to be more vulnerable in my relationships. I’m choosing to live.

I’m not where I need to be, but I’m not where I used to be, either. Thank God. I want the word “busyness” out of my vocabulary. I want to be available. Focused. Present.

Now I really can’t say much more about this topic, and am definitely not as articulate as Jeff, but what I can say is how spot on this message is. Being in a new city, I’ve found myself sometimes wondering what’s going on back east in Richmond and Raleigh. What are all my old friends doing? What am I missing out on tonight? I’m constantly checking Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to the point that it’s become second nature to do so. And what I’m starting to realize is that I’m not taking full advantage of the opportunities that lie in front of me. I’m living in a new city, but I’m still trying to be in my old cities. And from an entire life of multi-tasking and stretching myself thin, I should know by now that it’s much better and more effective to put 100% of our energy into what we’re doing at that moment, or who we’re with at that particular time.

Cell phones, social media, and technology in general have transformed our lives for the better, but at the same time it’s distracted us from our priorities: the people in front of us and the beautiful things that happen every day.

So just like Jeff Goins, I want to put my priorities back in line. I want to shut my phone off during  meals with friends, and go for a walk in the city instead of catching up on trashy television. I want to stop worrying about what I’m missing out on, and instead create new memories with the new people I meet here in St. Louis. I want to stop sitting on my ass wondering what I should do, or who I should be, and just freaking live. Now isn’t the time to be stagnant. Now is the time to make the most of your time, by being present, being focused, and being available.

This is definitely something that can’t be fixed in a day, but it IS something that can be life changing. Now more than ever, I’ve realized that my life and all those around me are changing and growing up in the blink of an eye. Now more than ever, I’ve realized the value of relationships, and the importance of keeping in touch. And now more than ever, I’ve realized that in order to truly live, we need to be present. A few years from now we won’t remember that ridiculous YouTube video, or that random FB wall post a friend made. We won’t remember the number of likes we got on an Instagram picture, or how many people retweeted Honey BooBoos ridiculous tweet. What we will remember are those long conversations we have with loved ones, or those memorable nights out with friends. We’ll remember the times when we tried something completely out of our comfort zone, when we splurged on a road trip across country to visit an old friend, and when we sacrificed a day watching GameDay in order to volunteer at a local charity. We’ll remember the times we stepped away from the material things in life in order to focus on what’s more important to us.

I’m looking forward to 2013 and what I make of it. I’m not sure where it will lead to, but one thing I do know is that the answer isn’t on my phone or computer.

Here’s to a brand new year of a new outlook on life: one that is more present, focused, and available.

Even though it’s been about 7 years now, I can still remember being in my high school gym and having two-a-day practices for volleyball like it was just yesterday. Even though I had never even touched a volleyball before I tried out for the team, with the constant support and motivation from my coach, I was able to pick the game up pretty quickly. And even though I also played basketball and softball, and was much better at softball than the rest, my fondest memories are from the months I spent playing volleyball. And I have Coach Balla to thank for that.

Coach Balla is a one of a kind coach. She put 110% into our team, always. She spent countless hours watching tape, strategizing how we needed to prepare for our next opponent. She put everything in her life on hold for us girls. Coach Balla is one of those coaches that is there for you not only as a coach, but as a friend. All throughout high school, and even till now she has always been a constant support system for me, as well as several other of her players.

This past year Coach Balla retired from coaching, to carry out her lifelong dream: to be a mother. I know that retiring from the team was one of the hardest, most difficult decisions for her to make, but like everything she does in life, she wanted to give 110% of her life to her new little baby boy, Matthias Creed.

I had the pleasure and honor to photograph her with Matthias for his six-month photo shoot. And I have to admit, photographing newborn to 6-month babies is not the easiest thing to do, but when you have an absolute loving mother, the pictures just fall into place. It was pretty obvious during the shoot, and even after looking at the pictures, that Coach Balla and Matthias are a dynamic duo.

I can’t wait to keep witnessing this little guy grow up and maybe even learn to play the game his mom loved to coach.

Here are a few of my favorites!

 







I know not much is supposed to be read into the fortune inside the cookie you get from Chinese restaurants, mainly because 1) they’re really not fortunes and 2) it kind of loses its meaning when the person you’re eating with gets the same exact one.

However, they are pretty good reminders, at least for me. The other day I came across this one,

“Getting together with old friends brings new adventures.”

It came at a perfect time, as I’ve literally just relocated back home to Richmond last week. It’s been quite some time since I’ve hung out, or even spoken to a lot of the people who meant a lot to me as I was growing up (I know, shame on me. It’s not an easy thing to admit, nonetheless write on a blog). Fortunately I’ve learned my lesson and have kept in (better) touch with those from college, but that still doesn’t make up for everyone else before then.

So needless to say, I’m really looking forward to hopefully getting a second chance to reconnect with some awesome people, and seeing what new adventures they will bring!

At my roommate’s wedding shower a few weeks ago, I got to talking with one of our friends about the Appalachian trail. He had hiked the trail a few years back, and couldn’t stop talking about how great of an experience it was for him. I asked him what it was like hiking for several months by yourself, and he started talking about the types of people you meet on the trail. “You meet the most interesting people out there on the trail,” he went on saying, “but the craziest thing about it is that I’m closer with these people than I am with people I’ve known all my life.”

It’s hard to believe this is actually possible. That you can form such strong relationships with people you’ve only known for such a short period of time. But it is when you’re stripped away from the outside world, and put in an environment together that this sort of thing happens. You share a common experience that only those who go through it can truly understand.

I haven’t hiked the app trail, nor do I ever plan to, but I have experienced something that has bonded me with certain people that I’m sure I will be friends with forever.

It’s hard to explain really, but that’s what makes it so special.

These past few weeks I’ve had several encounters with people that really surprised me. Surprised me in a good way, that is. Simply because of how nice they were. And it’s not like their acts of kindness were over the top or anything… They were just… surprising.

Example 1:
After a few hours of shopping in Richmond, I got into my car only to find a folded up piece of scratch paper on my windshield. It was an apology letter from a lady who accidentally hit me car when pulling in next to me. Yea, a car accident isn’t fun to deal with, adds yet another thing to your agenda, and down right sucks… But hey, at least she left a note. And her phone number. In one of the busiest places in the Richmond area, she could have easily reversed out of the parking spot and acted like it never happened. Or she could have been in such a rush she didn’t want to take the time to find some paper and leave a note. But she didn’t, and even though she did wreck my car, her kind gesture of leaving a note made everything seem OK.

Example 2:
At work this past week, one of my fellow staff members went downstairs to our local deli to get some tea, only to come back and surprise me with a Diet Coke. I didn’t ask for it, I didn’t hint at it (or at least I don’t think I did), but she got it anyways. Because she knew I love me some DC, because she probably thought I needed a good caffeine boost, and because she’s just a downright thoughtful person who wanted to do something nice for someone else. A $2 purchase went a long way in my book. (Shout out to Tory!)

Example 3:
Today I finally got my car back from the body shop. Going into it, I just thought they were going to repair my bumper, repaint it, and give me the keys back. Not only did they do all of this, but they also washed it, waxed it, and vacuumed the inside. They could have easily just stuck to the mechanics and what was written on the estimate. Instead, they went the extra mile to make an inconvenient and stressful experience as enjoyable as they could. Thank you Bruce’s Body Shop!

I’m not saying these acts of kindness were surprising because the world is filled with mean, inconsiderate people. I am more touching on the fact that every now and then, a simple act of kindness can really stand out. Through the hustle and bustle of today’s society, we sometimes get tunnel vision or stuck in a routine and don’t make doing favors, or going the extra mile an everyday goal.

And I have to admit, sometimes doing something nice for someone else requires you to go out of your way. But when you do find the time, it makes a difference. A simple gesture can seriously make someone’s day, or better yet, their week!

Make it a goal to do something nice for someone today. The result is worth it.

As most know, North Carolina was hit with over 20 tornados this past weekend. The storm knocked down hundreds of trees, flattened several houses and buildings, and worst of all, injured and even killed a few of our fellow residents. Needless to say, our state was blind-sided by a storm that changed a lot of people’s lives, all in a matter of seconds.

No one was prepared for this kind of storm. We’re used to ignoring the standard tornado warnings we occasionally hear on the TV or radio. It wasn’t really until about 3pm when people started seeing the black clouds, feeling the strong winds, and seeing trees starting to bend, that they started to take this thing seriously.

Luckily I was in Richmond this past weekend so I was able to avoid the storm, unlike several of my friends. Listening to their stories of where they were, what they were doing up until minutes before, and how some just barely escaped the twister’s path was pretty eery and chilling to hear.

It was most interesting to hear how everyone delt with the situation. Some people immediately thought to call their parents or loved ones hoping it wouldn’t be their last. Some people stayed calm in order to help and direct others to safety. And a few brave soles disregarded the dangers of the storm and instead chose to get as close as possible in order to document the experience for everyone else.

But let’s face it, you never know how you’re really going to act when faced with danger until you’re actually faced with it. Obviously I’ve never been in that situation since when I first heard of the storm, I immediately thought of the safety of my computer.

As I immaturely thought of a materialistic item, others were reaching for their loved ones and taking drastic measures to save their own lives. I can guarantee you that those who were in NC that weekend weren’t too concerned about their computer, or even their brand new car in the driveway. They were concerned with the well-being of those that mattered most: their family, their friends, and their community.

A disaster like this makes you reevaluate what’s important in your life. It makes you realize what matters, and what doesn’t. Sure it sucks to be the person with a tree flattening their brand new car, or the students at Shaw University who can’t finish out their school year because of the damage. And yes it’s absolutely terrible to think of those families that no longer have a roof over their heads, and have lost pretty much everything they own. But when you see these people on TV, all they really care about is that they’re alive. “It’s a miracle,” they all keep repeating.

In the areas where the tornados touched down, there isn’t a lot that still remains. But one thing that does still remain is our hope. Our hope that together, our community can overcome this disaster and restore our city. The way that our community has already come together to help those in need has been remarkable to witness, and it’s because of this comrodery that with just a few more weeks, we’ll be able get back to the way things were like just a few days ago.

The other day I was watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition. The family had just lost their dad to metastasis melanoma, and their house was falling apart. As the mother showed Ty the house, they came across a quote that their dad always repeated to his family:

“Lots of things to think about, nothing to worry about.”

But with the stress of losing his job, being diagnosed with a terminal disease, and having his house fall apart, how could he not worry about anything?

It was the way he viewed the situation. To him, his family had a lot of things they needed to think about. A lot of things they needed to keep on their mind, and figure out how to either fix them, or how to just get by. But it was nothing they had to worry about, because they had each other. At that moment, they had each other’s love, and that’s all that mattered.

It’s hard not to worry about things, no matter how big or small it may be. But by “worrying,” we lose sight of the bigger picture. We lose sight of all the positives in our life, all the people we’ve come in contact with along the way, and all the great opportunities we’re faced with daily. We lose sight of all the accomplishments we’ve made, and all the good times we’ve had.

To me, the quote is yet another reminder. To change the way I view obstacles, and to always look beyond what’s in front of me. It’s a new perspective…a new take on life…and I think it’s definitely worth trying out.

And it’s also just one more reason why I love watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition, gets me every time!

Pretty much every time I hang up the phone with my friend Ben, we end it like this..

“Alright just call me later”
“Yea I’ll KIT”
“Yea…just KIT”
(click)

K.I.T. or Keep In Touch, is a term I throw around lightly with friends. But, as simple as it is to say, it’s not as easy to put into practice. When we graduate from school, when we move to different cities, when we change jobs, we sometimes lose touch with some of our friends. We don’t mean to, it just kind of happens. We don’t want to, but the longer we’re a part, the harder it gets to keep in touch.

It takes effort, that’s for sure. From both sides, too. But it’s worth it.

I try to keep in touch with everyone, but I have to admit, I’m not the best at it. And I think what holds me back sometimes, is the fact that when it gets to be several months, or even years since I’ve last spoken to someone, I feel weird about reaching out to them. It’s like I feel if they were to see my name pop up on their Caller ID, that they would immediately think, “Wow, Shannon’s calling…that’s weird.” Call me crazy, but that thought has definitely ran through my head several times.

Facebook has made it easier most of the time, but I don’t think it’s enough of an effort. It’s more convenient, but it’s less personal. It’s a cop out, if you ask me. But still, I’m guilty of resorting to it at times. So this post is not a rant about the impersonality of Facebook, but more of me coming to a realization that no matter how awkward or uncomfortable I may feel about keeping in touch with an old friend, I should still make the call.

Not because someone’s telling me I need to do so, and not because I feel obligated to do so, but because I want to. Because the friendship I’m wanting to rekindle, is so worth it.

Last Thursday there was a a studio open house that took place in Raleigh, where 16 design agencies in the area opened their doors for people to come see their work, get a feel for the actual space, and network with all sorts of people in the marketing and advertising industry. As a free event, it was a great opportunity to get out there, meet new people and try to make a name for yourself. As I met up with a few former studio mates, with business cards and resumés in hand, I felt like I was ready to network.

The guest list online was hundreds of people long, but I figured since it wasn’t all in one place, it wouldn’t be so bad. Yeah..I was wrong. Even with only about 20 people in one studio, it was still pretty intimidating to strike up a conversation, not to mention try to stand out.

The first studio was pretty rough, it was obvious I didn’t really have my thoughts in order, and wasn’t quite yet comfortable in the setting. I guess it was actually really obvious since one of the employees of the first studio came up and gave advice on how to start conversations, network, and “fit in” better. Thanks for the subtle hint!

I knew I could do better, and I knew I just needed to get over any hesitant thoughts and just go for it. We went to about 3 or 4 more studios, and I could definitely feel myself being more outgoing, and making better use of this opportunity. After swapping a few resumés and business cards, I was feeling good about the new relationships I’d initiated, and the potential opportunities that might come of them.

But through all of the awkward introductions, small-talk, and quick exchange of business cards, there’s still the thought “Did I make a lasting impression on them?” Yes, I might have gotten an “in” because I talked to them for more than 5 minutes, or they seemed interested in getting my information, but they probably did that to hundreds of other people too.

There were plenty of qualified and talented people that walked through the same studio doors as I did that night, so it makes me wonder if I did enough to leave an impression.

What about me, or what about what I said to that person, stands out above the rest?
What did I need to do to ensure they would remember me the next day, or even next month?

I’m not the only one that left behind a business card, or followed up the next day with an email. There needed to be something else that I could have done, but what?

This was not something I had thought of before Thursday obviously, and I wish I had. But it’s definitely something I’ll figure out for next time.

This past weekend I traveled to Chicago to conduct interviews for High School Diplomats, an exchange program I work for year-round. To keep within budget, the trip was only for about a 24-hour time span: 7:30pm arrival Friday night – 7:30pm departure Saturday night. I was excited for the trip because I had never been outside the Chicago O’hare airport, and thought I might get a chance to see what this big city had to offer.

Here’s what I gathered from the trip:

1. Apparently Chicago can’t handle rain at 50 degree weather. My flight was delayed about 2.5 hours on the way there

2. Chicago drivers, at least at the airport, are insane. Don’t even think about driving 1mph under the speed limit, or even try to merge into their line.

3. It should really be called Chicago–the freaking windy city. If I didn’t sprint from the car to the building, I would literally get swept away by the wind

4. Seems like a great city to train for a marathon in. It’s pretty daggone flat up there.

5. Even with Google Maps on an iPhone and a GPS, it’s still possible to get lost if you travel with me.

6. Adding the word “swag” occasionally to the end of you sentence bumps up your cool status big time.

7. 24 hours is not enough time to see any city, especially one of the biggest in the country. Especially when most of my time was either spent in a high school giving interviews, or in the airport waiting for yet another delayed flight.

8. and lastly…Hertz don’t hurt. Hertz is a great rental car company. Great customer-service, sick rides, and all at a relatively good price. After being flustered from the long trip, the Hertz employees really put me at ease, and made my first experience of renting a car less nerve-racking and way more enjoyable.

Overall, the candidates we interviewed were great, it was good to reconnect with my fellow staff member, the hospitality at the high school was unbelievable, and it was good to get away for a day or so. But I still would have to say it was sure nice to be back in good ol’ Raleighwood! I think next time I’d like to go back for at least a full weekend, definitely in the summer, to get a better perspective of the city, as well as try to track down the Chicago Cash Cab!

 

“Life can be so hard that the temptation to quit or coast tempts us sorely. But there’s no joy to be had in stopping short. So when God rocks our world, we keep on believing. Not that we’ll have our way or that we won’t ever experience such awful hurt again. We keep on believing that God knows what He’s about. And that, if there were any place better for us than the one in which we find ourselves, Divine Love would have placed us there.
-Charles Spurgeon

I’m usually not one to reference bible excerpts or religious quotes for that matter, but this day is a little different. My best friend from growing up, Lauren, sent me this quote in an email the other day. At first it seemed a little out of the blue, or just another one of her tries to preach on me (with the greatest intentions of course), but I was glad she sent it.

For a couple of reasons.

1. This quote from Charles Spurgeon, a popular British Baptist preacher from the 1800s, talks about something that I struggle with often throughout the year, as I’m sure most other people do, too. Every big decision we make, or every new road we chose to take, comes a lot of hope, and excitement for what lies ahead. But it is also usually paired eventually with a lot of struggle, and a lot of doubt. When this happens to me, I try to hang on as long as possible, but the tougher it gets, I ponder the thought of throwing in the towel and exhaling a defeating “Whatever” response. But for those few times when I stuck it out, kept my head up, and tried to keep the bigger picture in mind, it was worth it in the end. Because a lot of the time, the bigger the struggle, the bigger the reward. Am I right, or am I right?!

and 2. The main reason Lauren sent the email was because she had been thinking about this quote for a few days, and as it helped her push through, she thought it would help me push through as well. Instead of keeping Spurgeon’s quote to herself, she passed it on to someone else, in hopes that it would help them the same way it did her. It didn’t matter if the email seemed out of the blue, or if the recipient didn’t find relevance to the quote, it just mattered that she sent it. Because it showed she cared. And it showed that even though she’s 6 states away, she still thinks of me, and wants the best for me.

And that’s what I call true friendship. Being able to look past your personal issues, to help another. So thanks Lauren, for the email, and for always being there. For all those times you’ve tried to throw religious references on me, mark this as the day that you’ve finally gotten through to me.

No one wants to do it because no one likes to do it. It’s one of the the worst things in the world, actually. The thought of losing someone, and not having them in  your life for the next few years, is not a fun one to ponder. But it happens. All the time. With every new stage of our lives, we usually find ourselves having to say goodbye to someone. So the question is, what’s the best way to do it?

How do you spend the last few weeks leading up to the last day? How do you spend the last few days with them? How do you want to spend the last night together? Who do you want to spend it with, and how do you want the mood of the night to go?

For Paul, he wanted to spend the last night before flying out for the Peace Corps, with his girlfriend Maggie, and a couple of his closest friends, at his house in Hillsborough. Luckily we got all the drinking out the night (and multiple weekends) before, so we could just spend this night playing a game of MadGab (hilarious) and a new superlative game (also hilarious, and just another one of Paul’s games). And then capping the night off with some good conversation around a bonfire. We passed the time by making fun of each other and reminiscing about embarrassing and funny times spent in college. The weekends leading up to this night (pretty much every weekend since New Years), we’ve been making sure to live it up with as many friends as possible in hopes of distracting ourselves from the inevitable truth. But this last night, was all about reflecting on the good times with each other, and not being afraid to get a little sentimental. There were points of the night where we got cramps in our stomachs from laughing so much, and then there were those short pauses of silences and a few teary eyes.

In my opinion, it was the perfect way to go out. It was good closure to the past 5 years, and it was a good way to keep Paul’s mind off of the stresses of what’s to come. It was comforting to bring up embarrassing memories, and the awkward freshmen year stories, and to see how through it all, we’ve all stayed friends….and have gotten closer because of it all. And this last year…especially these last few months, I feel like we’ve been on such a high and that everyone’s gotten a lot closer than before. We ended on a high note, that’s for sure. And to me, that’s the ideal way.

Then as 1am rolled around, one by one we started saying our goodbyes. And like I said, it sucked. What are you supposed to say in your last few minutes with someone you call your best friend, before they head out for 2.5 years? How can you get out all of what you’re feeling right then and there? You want to say everything, but can’t seem to fight back the tears long enough to tell it the way you want. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what you say. Because the past 5 years speak for themselves. All the ups and downs you had together, all the fun times and hard times you shared together, and the fact that you’re standing next to each other through it all, says it all.

Saying goodbye sucks. But like my friend Brad said, “How lucky am i to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard?”

Pretty dang lucky.

 

Growing up, I used to be told “A lot can happen in 10 years.” Then it got knocked down to “A lot can happen in 5 years.” But nowadays, it seems like a lot can happen even in the next two years. Especially now that I’m out of college and on my own, it seems like anything can happen, and my whole life could change in the next 24 months. Who knows if I’ll still be in Raleigh, or what I’ll even be doing.

This past year has been pretty bitter-sweet for me. It’s been nice to be out of college, away from the all-nighters and ridiculous homework assignments, but I also miss not having classes on Fridays and the perks of student discounts. It’s also been bittersweet because even thought it’s been great to have most of my college friends still in the area, we all know that this won’t be the case forever. For a lot of us, this year is a transition year. It’s a year for us to step back from the college lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to for the past 4 years, and try to figure out the next stage of our lives. Some are more along in the process than others, and the reality of their decisions have been pretty tough to swallow.

In particular, my friends Paul and Maggie have been accepted into the Peace Corps, and will both be heading to Africa this year. While I still have about 3 months left with Maggie, Paul heads out to Madagascar on Sunday.

Even though I’ve known about his plans to go into the Peace Corps for a while, the “oh s!@#, you’re leaving for almost 3 years” factor is finally registering with me. 2.5 years of literally being cut off from your life in the States, can’t be an easy thing to wrap your head around and might even make you freak out a bit. To be placed in a completely different culture, with a different govt, type of currency, different food, living arrangements, neighbors, etc. etc. for such a long period of time has got to be life-altering. I can’t imagine how all the mixed emotions of excitement, happiness, nervousness, and a little bit of fear this kind of realization could put on someone.

I have no doubt that Paul is going to excel in Madagascar, and make his village a better place in the end. I have no doubt that he will settle in well with his people and make amazing, lifelong relationships. I have no doubt that he will live this opportunity to the fullest, and be appreciative of what he’s been given. He is the perfect guy for this type of journey, and I am proud of him for wanting to go through with it.

But I can’t help but wonder what it’s going to be like in 2013. We keep making jokes with him about how I’ll be a millionaire by the time he gets back, or how  technology will be so advanced that he won’t know what to do with himself, but really….things will be really different in 2013. But through all the worries of where people will be when he gets back, or what new obstacles we’ll come across, I know that no matter what, we’ll always be friends. And that’s really all that matters.

So to Paul, best of luck my friend. Your courage and selfless attitude is inspiring not only to me, but to all of your friends and family. You have an immense amount of love and support back home, and I for one can’t wait to hear about all your new adventures. I know things will be different in Madagascar, but don’t lose sight of what makes you who you are, because who you are is already pretty special.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to sign up online for a rec league, that pretty much had teams and leagues for any kind of sports. This was kind of those, ‘Ok Shannon, you’re out of school, it’s time to branch out, join an Adult League, and meet some new friends,‘ kind of decisions. Luckily, after about a week I was contacted by a team captain who noticed I was interested in joining a softball team. After a few weeks of not being able to go to practice due to prior engagements, I started to dread the next Sunday, my potential first day of practice. I had the first day jitters, worried that I was either not going to fit in with the team, or that I would completely embarrass myself on the field since I’ve been out of practice since HS. Regardless, I toughed it out and showed up this past Sunday for practice.

After the awkward introductions and some small talk, I asked the girl next to me if she wanted to warm-up and throw some. It took me an extra second to get used to the feeling of my 10 year-old glove on my right hand, and hoped it would at least hold out on me for this one day. The first throw was quite painful. Pretty sure every joint from my wrist to shoulder to back on my left side cracked as I softly threw the ball across 30 yards. This is where I would usually talk about my arthritic joints, or the fact that I’ve been out of the game for 4 years, or blah blah, but actually…despite being startled by the excessive joint crackage (my own word), that first throw felt good.

It felt good to be back on the field again, back to the ol’ stomping grounds. Back to the place that used to be my life from age 9-17. From little league, to high school, to club ball, I used to eat, breath, and live the game. I also played basketball and volleyball for school, but it was always softball that stood out amongst the rest. I made a lifelong list of memories and great friendships, and even though most of us have gone our separate ways, I know we could always pick up right where we left off.

And then when it came time for college, I decided to pack it up and try something new. Every now and then, as I would throw the frisbee back and forth on the IM fields, I would wonder what it would’ve been like if I had stuck with softball. It sucked at first, I often thought I lost a certain part of me. How could you just up and quit something that defined you? something that you truly loved?

Most of the time, I didn’t really have a clear answer. But in the end, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I left the game on a good note, and I was able to preserve the great times I had back in the day. I left the game and found a new game, and went on to make new friendships and new memories.

But when Sunday’s practice rolled around, it was also a good feeling to know that I still had it in me, and that it hadn’t lost its fire.

 

Most things in life, we try our hardest to plan out in advance. We plan out what kind of education we want to pursue after high school. Then we try to plan out what kind of job we’re going to have post-graduation. Most of the time, we try to plan out what we’re going to do this weekend, or even what we’re going to have for dinner that night. Whether it’s a simple task as to what we’re going to wear that day, or a more complex situation as to where we’re going to buy our first house, we always plan things out. And we do this mainly so we are more prepared for what’s to come, and to be more efficient with our time. But, we also plan in order to avoid mistakes.

The same works for photography. Photographers are always planning ahead; thinking of different poses they’re going to have their client stand in, or new locations that they want use for future sessions. They’re always planning out what time of day to shoot at, what equipment they’re going to need for the shoot, etc. When they go out to take photographs, they usually always have a plan, or at least a general idea of the who/what/when/where/why and how’s of what they’re about to take photographs of. And for the same reasons, they do it because being a professional photographer means you are always prepared and efficient with your work. And obviously they don’t want to make mistakes either.

But then there are also those times when planning isn’t necessary. Those times when you just get up, take your camera, and just go somewhere. Not really in a desire to find the perfect photograph, but more just to explore. With no agenda in hand, you walk around just hoping you’ll come across something, eventually, and be able to take a decent photograph. And it’s during those times, that the unexpected happens. That beauty is found in the most random situations. You might come across an area that wouldn’t seem at all attractive or interesting if you were to plan it out ahead, but it turned out to actually be quite compelling when you were right in front of it.  Simple, everyday objects that you don’t always notice, or don’t really think of when imagining a photograph, are discovered and become somewhat beautiful.

It might not be the most efficient time ever spent, or the most prepared you’ve ever felt, but that doesn’t matter. Because when you do finally come across that one shot, that one unexpected moment, you will have learned something new that was well worth the aimless wandering. And what is really interesting, is even though you didn’t plan ahead, you still can’t make mistakes. Because how can you make mistakes when you didn’t have expectations or a purpose in the first place?

fold up chair in downtown Raleigh