Lately, I find myself daydreaming about travel – travel with my camera. I can’t stop thinking about how wonderful it would be to visit Italy or Greece, to wander ancient Roman roads, or meander through sparkling white Mediterranean towns, looking for the perfect image. Or maybe it could be French chateaus, or the Alhambra Moorish palace in southern Spain. You get the idea. I think I have photographed every flower and butterfly within 60 miles, and I need some new venues.
There’s only one small problem: I work A LOT, and all my disposable income goes to pay two college tuitions. AND I have a dog (who would take care of her?), AND I have an aging, ill parent (my brother would be supremely annoyed that I dared to take off to FIND MYSELF, leaving all the responsibility to him), AND my kids might decide to relive Animal House in my residence while I’m gone. There are a lot of reasons why this travel-with-my- camera thing is a bad idea.
But this travel-with-my-camera dream is BIG progress for me. Let me explain.
The dilemma of the empty-nester may be old news to some, but for me it was a life-sapping experience. For over two years I wandered in a wilderness of loss and lack of personal purpose. This period also coincided with the death of my mother, and the precipitous decline of my father, adding more grief and fear of the grim reaper onto the pile. I STRUGGLED with seeing joy in the future. The next 20-30 years, without my children at the center, presented a blank canvas, and I had no idea how I wanted to fill it.
I read a ton of self-help books, leaned on my friends and my brother, signed up for coaching and creativity classes, and took up yoga and photography. At least I didn’t get a tattoo (not YET, that is), or take up cross-country motorcycling (my best friend did that!).
Here’s what I learned:
First, figure out what you want to DO. Well duh, you are probably saying. But remember the blank canvas mentioned above? I found this to be an unusually difficult thing for normally decisive me to accomplish. I spent MONTHS not being able to envision anything I wanted to put on that canvas.
Create boundaries. If you are like me, you may not be able to just TAKE OFF AND GO DO that thing you figured out you like. But what you can do is put some boundaries around the responsibilities of your current life, to make even just a little bit of time for the new interesting thing. For me this means taking my hands off the Bank of America keyboard at a decent hour some evenings, and not working every weekend.
Question your assumptions. Or put another way, ask What If? Or Why Not? As an example, maybe I don’t have to pay EVERY expense for those two college tuitions for the next 4 years. (Jake and Ben, if you are reading this, don’t worry too much, I’m committed for the time being!) Or WHY NOT take a three-week vacation? I’ve seen two very talented peers at work do this, and hey, they’re still employed.
Let it percolate. Let those questions, those What Ifs, all rumble around inside you for a while. For those of you who know me, this is heresy. I am a girl who likes CLOSURE. But creating a new life canvas takes time, so I am letting it percolate.
Do ONE thing. And then do another. In December I got a digital SLR camera. In January I took a photography boot camp. In February I signed up for my first photo shoot at the Carolina Raptor Center. In March and April I shot sports pictures at every East Meck baseball game. In May I went on a weekend Creative Photography retreat. I decided I would do ONE creative thing a month. Just one. That was all I thought I could fit in. And it has been enough. For now.