Photography Is No Longer Photography. It Is A Socially-Shared Digital River Of Imagery. Part I. – A Closer Look At The Numbers Behind Professional Photography
1 in every 2,000 people in the United States is now a professional photographer.
For the last couple years I’ve written down lots of notes with bits of information and thoughts I have about how the medium, process, and product, of “photography” is no longer what it use to be. That’s obvious of course to anyone involved in the medium for more than a couple years. But, I think very few people understand the scope of the change. Sort of like most of us don’t understand the scope of wealth in-equality in the United States.
According to the US Buearu of Labor Statistics there are a projected 144,750 professional photographers working in the United States in 2013 (based off of tax filings from 2010). For argument sake lets say that half of those ‘professional photographers’ are wedding, portrait, family, etc. localized photographers – so, 72,375. If you divide that by 50 states that = 1,450 localized (non-commercial/advertising, editorial, or fine arts) photographers in each state. Obviously some states like New York will have many more shooters than say Wyoming. Either way, that adds up to a lot of wedding shooters out there.
Now lets say that 25% of the total professional photographers out there are fine arts photographers (the MFA set) and the remaining 25% of shooters are commercial/advertising/editorial photographers. That = 36,188 for each category. Since my work over the last 7 years was commercially focused I’ll break that down further. If you divide that number by our 50 states you get – 724 commercial/advertising photographers per state. That might not sound like a lot, but when you consider the types and volume of jobs available to the commercial marketplace that number seems fairly high to me. Using my home state of MN as an example that number would mean that 1 in every 7,000 people in MN is a commercial advertising photographer.
Ok, great, but how does that play out in terms of jobs? Good question.
Again, using my home state of MN as a foundation for answering that questions here’s some more numbers to think about. For a number of reasons longer than I care to go into here – the Minneapolis/St. Paul commercial marketplace is the 4th largest advertising market in the US. In other words, we’re a huge economic and advertising market.
There are about 10 ‘big’ (in terms of revenue) advertising agencies based in Minneapolis. About 20 more big-ish agencies behind them, and we’ll say another 30 small-ish shops in town. Without boring you with a huge flood of numbers I’ll break down the available ‘jobs’ to commercial shooters in a less formalized way.
From my personal experience and relationships with art buyers at these agencies based in MSP each of the ‘big’ agencies calls in bids for anywhere from 20-60 good photo assignment ‘jobs’ per year. The mid-sized agencies maybe half that. And the little shops, for our purposes here we’ll say do 10 good shoots a year. So, lets add that all up.
On the high-side, our 10 ‘big’ agencies assign: 60 (jobs) x 10 (agencies) = 600 good commercial level ‘jobs’ per year.
Our mid-sized creative agencies assign: 30 (jobs) x 20 (agencies) = 600 good commercial level ‘jobs’ per year.
Our small creative agencies assign: 10 (jobs) x 30 (agencies) = 300 good commercial level ‘jobs’ per year.
So, our grand total of ‘good commercial level jobs’ at all creative agencies in MN (the 4th largest creative market in the US) = 1,500 – bam! Sounds great right? 1,500 big commercial jobs sounds great to me. However, we need to circle back to our number of commercial shooters based in MN, which = 724.
That means of the 724 commercial shooters based in MN (this number might seem high, but I’m personally aware of around 100 ‘commercial photographers’ based in MSP) there are 1,500 available ‘jobs’. (And this number is for sure high because I definitely over estimated the available jobs and these jobs aren’t just going to shooters based in our market, in fact, likely most of them are not going to shooters in our market.)
So, if the 1,500 commercial assignments available in our state were divided by the 724 commercial shooters based here each photographer would get 2 jobs per year. And again, we are the 4th largest advertising marketplace in the country. Getting 2 good jobs per year doesn’t sound like a very good business model to me.
Now to make matters worse lets apply those numbers to the 80/20 rule, which governs how the work is really spread out in our industry. What does that mean? It means that 20% of the shooters get 80% of the work, while 80% get the remaining 20% of the work. In MN 145 commercial shooters would then get 80% of the available work or 1,200 jobs. Which in converse would then also mean that 580 commercial photographers in MN get the remaining 300 jobs. Or 0.6 jobs… a half a job. Or in other words, no ‘good jobs’.
The conclusion is this:
In the state of Minnesota (the 4th largest advertising marketplace in the country) the top 20% or 145 commercial shooters based here each get and average of 8.2 high-level good paying commercial assignments per year. While the rest of the bottom 80% or 580 commercial shooters get an average of 0.6 high-level good paying commercial assignments per year. Or essentially nothing. So even if you’re a top shooter based here in MN you still get less than one good job per month. Which I can tell you via my personal relationships with many of the ‘top’ commercial shooters I know here is entirely accurate. In fact, the reality is much more so that a only a few dozen localized commercial shooters get most of the real work. And if you take Target out of the mix I can only think of less than 10 local commercial photographers who would survive as a business.
Ok, so what?
My point is this – (commercial) photography has become a bad business for simple economic reasons. There are now within the United States way too many available and capable high-level commercial photographers in relationship to the available number of corresponding commercial assignments. How this plays out in reality is that a few ‘named’ or essentially famous photographers get a majority of the work well the rest of everyone else fights it out for a job or few a year. Now that idea might seem sort of obvious. However, the underlying idea behind these numbers leads me to my second point. Which is, where this profession, business, medium, and art form has been headed for the last 10 years and where it’s going to keep heading…. (info. coming my next few posts).
It’s supply and demand. There is a epic over supply of photographers for the returning demand of available work. It is really that simple.
The end of the year is a great time to reflect on your year gone by and to plan for the new year ahead. This is something I’ve done for many years in one form or another, but in the past I have struggled with actually accomplishing many of my goals. This last year I did a better job because I approached my plan in a different way.
I started my planning for the new year by fist sitting down and writing a purpose for my year. This is something that requires a good deal of thinking. It’s a deep question. It’s basically asking yourself, “Why should I be alive this year?” It takes me a long time to answer that question, but once I feel good about what I’ve written it becomes my foundation for moving forward with everything I do. It becomes the one thing I can always come back to when I find myself at a crossroads in the future.
Here was my purpose for 2012:
Purpose: In 2012 I will direct my best and most positive energy towards the people, places, and things I want, enjoy, and care for most in my life — while being joyful, humble, and appreciative of whatever outcomes unfold from my efforts. I will be present and happy in my daily life no matter how the details of my future year unfold. I will focus on my creative work in photography and writing. I will also focus on my organization, balance, health, slow growth, and contentment.
After I’ve laid the foundation of my year out by creating my purpose statement I then state a theme for myself. My theme becomes the things I want to focus my energy on and towards as I move forward. This was my theme for 2012:
Theme: 2012 is the year of organization, balance, and recommitment to my creative life and endeavors. This time next year, I will be content, happy, and satisfied with how my year unfolded.
Once my theme is mapped out I state some basic actions that will help me move towards my purpose and my theme. These were my basic actions for 2012:
Actions: 1. Create a daily ‘Things to do’ or tasks list. 2. Work on the 2 things I want to do the least first each day.
After my purpose, theme, and actions are defined I then write down what I’d like my outcomes to be. This is what I wrote for 2012:
Outcomes: At the end of 2012, I will be further along in my creative career and in a better position for long-term stability.
When you first read my purpose, theme, actions, and outcomes they might all seem a bit too broad or too general, but that is by design. The more specific elements of what I wish for my year moving forward are found in my specific goals. Goals are the most specific aspect of planning. There are also usually the place where most people start. The reason why starting with a purpose is so important is because sometimes our goals aren’t actually in-line with the greater things we want or need in our lives and it’s very easy to get lost in the specifics of our daily lives.
Goals: My 2012 goals were personal enough and long enough that I won’t share them here. However, there are a few very important things I’ve learned about goals over the many years I’ve tried to write them down and reach them.
1.) Only set goals for things you can control. For many years I set goals without fully understanding that I was trying to reach goals I could never control. For example, you can’t set goals for making more money. Yes, we would all like to make more money, but is that something we have direct control over? No. But, you can control things like, what you eat, when you get up, how you exercise, how you save the money you already have made, etc. So again, only set goals for things you can directly control.
2.) Once you set a goal create a timeline and action plan for completing that goal. Writing down a goal is great, but unless you have a plan of how you’re going to reach it you’ll likely never get it done. That’s the main reason why so many people have great new year’s resolutions, but then never actually get their goals accomplished. You need to make a plan for how you’re going to reach your goal.
3.) Keep coming back to your whole plan. Check in often with your purpose, theme, actions, outcomes, and goals. Print them off and stick them up on the wall in your room, office, or bathroom. Hold yourself accountable to the the changes you want to see or make in your life moving forward. You are the only person responsible for the life you want to live.
Start your new year off right – with a purpose!
Throughout much of the last few years and especially as we enter into 2013 I am thinking and feeling more in alignment with this type of perspective. We are all one species, on one living plant, in a very small piece of the universe. Now more than ever we have the responsibility to take care of ourselves and our plant in a sustainable way.
This was also a very powerful film for me. It reminds me that I cannot control the thoughts or actions of others and that no matter how I feel is the best way moving forward I can’t change anyone else. But, I can change myself and I can become better and that is in fact the best thing I can do for myself and for everyone else.
Both these TED talks really connected with me at the end of my 2012. I hope to maintain these points of view into this coming year.
The Power Of Vulnerability.
Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.
For the last few years I’ve taken a day at the end of the year to sit down, reflect upon, and review my year gone by. I go through my calendar, my notebooks, my file folders, and my photos month by month and think about what I’ve done, created, experienced, and lived during the past year. When I start my reflective process I usually start with the vague feeling that I didn’t accomplish much. But, this year before I dug into my yearly review ritual I knew that wasn’t going to be the case for 2012. After my reflective review process I always feel better about my year because I usually have done more than I had remembered and this year was no different. In 2012 I experienced a lot.
When I go through everything I write down a list of the things I’ve done and experienced. I put each of these things into one of two categories: What went well this year? And What didn’t go so well? Sometimes an experience goes into both categories. Looking back on my year is a wonderful process because it gives me some pause to think about aspects of my life that feel right, are headed in the right direction, where good and positive experiences, and places I want to devote more of my energy towards in the coming year. It is also a great process for thinking about and reflecting on things that didn’t go well, negative experiences I can learn from, improve on, work towards cleansing from my life, and in some cases let go of, and move forward with a more clear head, heart, and spirit. Although this may not be important for everyone, taking time for deep reflection of my past year is a great way for me to get prepared to look forward towards the new year. It’s a centering process for me.
After my annual review is concluded I then begin the process of planning my goals, ideas, and hopes for the new year. I do this in a more formalized way on a spreadsheet with tools for measuring my progress during the year. I start each year with a reasonably detailed list of goals and an action plan. But, I am also always open to change and chance as my new year unfolds. If something better comes along than what was a part of my original plan I go with it. The key is making sure it really is a better path or choice. Getting side tracked can be just as tricky as knowing when a new opportunity is really an opportunity or not. Sometimes you never know, but having things written down to move towards in your future keeps you grounded and gives you a foundation to build upon. The idea of floating through life without any plans, goals, or direction sometimes sounds nice, but that isn’t what I want for myself and isn’t who I am. I like having a plan even if I decide not to stick to it because then my choices are measured against something. There is a reason behind my choices, they’re not random, there is a deeper thought behind my choices and my actions. By doing this I am being mindful, present, and aware of my life as I move forward.
That being said here are some photographs, stories, and reflections from my 2012. If you’ve never taken the time to reflect on your year gone by perhaps this year might be a good time to give it a try? What went well and didn’t go so well in your own life in during 2012?
Here is Lady modeling next to our tent home at Miguels Pizza the climbing homebase paradise in the Red River Gorge.
This is the aftermath of my tent chillin’ in the same spot for 5 weeks.
Me at the top. 110 feet… is a decent height in the Red.
It was raining and muddy most days, but it didn’t stop us from climbing. It was actually very relaxing to listen to the rain while climbing.
Climbing in the Red River Gorge
During January and February of 2012 I primarily spent my time working and taking care of the more mundane but necessary aspects of life. Although working, doing my taxes, cleaning, organizing, and being responsible doesn’t always seem fun I always feel better when my responsibilities are taken care of. Knowing my responsibilities are covered allows me to feel more free and live more in the moment when I’m not working.
Having all my responsibilities essentially covered for the rest of 2012, in March I took off to do something I deeply love – rock climbing. I spent 5 weeks at the Red River Gorge in Kentucky one of the very best rock climbing destinations in the world. My experience there was absolutely wonderful. I camped the whole time with my dog lady and my rock climbing buddy Dan (and later Erik) joined me. Together we met lots of new, interesting and amazing people, as well as, climbed our minds (and bodies) out! That area is incredibly beautiful and peaceful. Spending so much time there was very calming, centering, fun and really set the tone for the rest of my year. I will for sure go back to the Gorge in the future.
We start our seeds indoors in February.
My Dad and I till up the soil and add thousands of pounds of compost and manure.
We all plant the seeds according to the garden map we make during the winter. And we all take turns with the weeding, watering, picking, cooking, and eating!
This little guy liked our garden this last year too.
The Family Garden
My Dad, Step Mom, and I have planted a family garden each spring for the last few years. In 2012 we expanded our garden by adding a small fruit orchard that includes, apples, cherries, and plum trees. We also added blueberry bushes and expanded the main garden plot by another few hundred square feet making our overall garden essentially a small-scale farm. Like in previous years we planted somewhere around 75 varieties of vegetables. Also similarly to previous years we had an amazingly productive crop with the exception of a few items. The corn was robbed by animals, the onions, carrots, and potatoes didn’t do very well and some of the squash and melons were also hit by the squirrels. But, the 25 varieties of tomatoes, beans, beets, egg plant, broccoli, cucumbers, peppers, lettuce, etc. etc. and everything else did very very well. It was all as tasty and healthy as ever to eat!
It takes time, energy, and lots of water to make our garden grow, but it has been very worth it for me to do this with my parents. We start planting at the end of May and pull the last few crops out in late October.
This is what I came home to on my birthday this year. A sort of grand natural present to me and I appreciated it greatly.
Every year since turning 16-years-old I’ve gone up to Madeline Island. In high school I lived there during the summer in a tent with my best buddy. Since then the island has felt like my second home- my home away from the city. Although I’m only able to get up there a few times a year now it seems like I’m usually able to make it up around my birthday in June. This year I went up for a week over my birthday and enjoyed my time, friends, and the beauty of the place as much as I ever had. The island holds a special place in my heart and a special place in the timeline of my life growing up. In 2012 I turned 31 on the island.
Here is an album of other images I’ve taken on the island in the past: Island Of My Youth
In 2012 I created and completed a few commercial photo assignments. I also turned down a few projects with clients not in-line with my vision or life principles. My goal in my commercial work is to work with clients that believe what I believe and don’t just need what I do. I’ve had too many negative experiences in the past to work with clients whose principles aren’t in-line with mine. Along those lines, I did a project for and with the advertising agency Six Speed (an awesome agency filled with good folks – that sponsor my Clark Loves Me project). I also did a fun project for the clothing label Ann Taylor out of NY another great company to work with.
Clark Loves Me
Early in the summer I decided to start a new photography project. I wanted to do something that a wide audience could follow along with and participate in. I also wanted to do something that had a deeper purpose behind it, that wasn’t about me, or my work, but was focused on other artists. I love creating portraiture work and started the Clark Loves Me project as a way to feature others artists and their work while also getting to do something that I love. Over the years I’ve developed relationships with so many amazingly talented artists that I felt could use a little more attention. The Clark Loves Me project is my way of helping bring their amazing work to a larger audience. My goal was to feature a new artist each week for a year. I wasn’t able to stick to my goal, but as we move forward into 2013 I’m very excited to continue the project and keep featuring new artists for as long as I can. It takes me about 15-20 hours worth of work each time I feature a new person so at this point the project is still very much my own labor of love. But, the process, the final images, and the amazing people featured in the project keep me motivated to move forward.
A prayer wall in a small village deep in the Indian Himalayas. These amazing prayer walls were in every village I visited.
This was my room at the Kantipur Temple House where I stayed in kathmandu, Nepal. The staff and service there was amazing. All of the people I met there were humble and beautiful people.
Bandipur, Nepal. One of the most amazing places I’ve ever visited.
Bandipur had so many children running around. The city is very alive with amazing energy.
Chalk on a doorway in Leh, India.
On my way to Nubra Valley. An extremely high altitude cold desert. A very intense place to be.
A women tending her crops in a barley field in a small village at 15,000 ft.
Standing at the top of the worlds highest motorable pass, Khardung La. Looking out at 18,379 ft.
A local Leh man baking flat bread in an underground oven. Price = 10 cents.
The village were I got extremely sick. And laid outside in the dirt through the night gazing up at a huge full moon while feeling like I was dying. A terrible and wonderful experience all at the same time.
Me and one of my best buddies Jasmine Pierce (an extreme sports athlete and ultra-marathon runner) and the rest of her crew at the finish line of the world’s highest altitude ultra-marathon race called: The High La Ultra.
Here’s a short film about it:
Nepal & India
In July and August I went to Nepal and then India. I went to Nepal on a photo assignment to do aerial photos at Mt. Everest. That project was cancelled on me a day before I was set to leave and it was too late for me to cancel my travel arrangements so I went anyway and spent a few weeks traveling in Nepal. Although I lost a decent amount of income from the cancelation of the assignment I’m very glad I went anyway. When I got there I hired a driver to essentially drive me all over the country so I covered a lot of ground and experienced a lot of the culture. I saw and did so much it’s hard to summarize it all up. But, the whole experience was wonderful.
The second part of this trip was in India. The main reason for that part of my trip was to go and support one of my best friends Jasmine Pierce as I mentioned above in an insane extreme ultra-marathon race called The High La Ultra. And holy shit… what a trip that was. I spent 3 weeks with some of the best runners in the world in some of the most extreme terrain on earth. It was an adventure of a lifetime and even though I’ve done a lot of international travel in the past I was very ready to get home from the intenseness of India by the end of my time there. I enjoyed many aspects of India, my trip, and especially the people I met there, but I doubt if I’ll go back to India.
My sister and I hanging out in the fall.
Mike and Claire the lovebirds.
My favorite person in the world my little sister in her awesome wedding dress!
Claire and I sending off a lantern after the ceremony.
Trying out my first official Reverend duties. I was so honored (and nervous!) to officiate my sisters wedding.
My Sister’s Wedding
On October 6th my younger sister Claire and her now husband Mike Campbell got married. I had the incredible honor and privilege to officiate their wedding. I spent a good deal of time writing the ceremony and it went very well on all accounts. It was a huge moment in her life, for me, and for our whole family. My sister is my favorite person and my best friend and I’m incredibly happy for her and extremely proud of who she is. I’m so excited to see how her and Mike’s future unfolds. They are the definition of good people.
In November 2011 through November 2012 I was in a farm business program created by the non-profit organization The Land Stewardship Project called Farm Beginnings. I drove to Duluth every other Saturday for a year to take classes and spend time on working farms learning sustainable farm business models and practices. My experience going through that class was absolutely amazing. I can’t speak highly enough of the program, instruction, resources, and people I interacted with going through this program. I took this class because I’m working towards starting my own agricultural venture and this class was invaluable to me in continuing to move my life in that direction.
The view from the cab of the truck I drove in 2011 and 2012. The inside of the cab is the same as your standard 18-wheeler and it shifts the same as well. These trucks are tri-axle dump trucks with shorter boxes than full sized semi-trucks, but have the same tag wheels, air horns, air breaks, and radios. You certainly could do a hell of a lot of damage driving one of these trucks. Especially with 35,000 pounds of moving weight behind you.
Last year I learned how to drive the soybean combine 100% controlled by satellite navigation. You only have to steer when you turn a corner and the it automatically realigns itself to the field. The accuracy of these harvesting machines is within inches. The degree and level of technology that is involved in modern industrial farming practices is mind blowing.
A photo out the window of my dash in my truck at the piler where I dumbed the beets to be processed at the Crystal Suger plant.
A photo out the window of my dash at sunrise driving up to the beet ‘digger’. This is the farm implement that digs the beets out of the ground and loads them into the back of your truck. You drive your truck along the side of it to fill up your box to bring to the processing plant. You are driving in the field. Driving a huge and heavy truck a foot off a large machine in all kinds of weather conditions for 12-15 hours at a time can get to be difficult and stressful at times…
This is a picture of my uncle in 2011 getting some tools from the service truck. Each season of the harvest there are a lot of breakdowns and the equipment requires a lot of maintenance. All of the machines are working 24 hours a day and get beat-up in a major way. Farming at any scale isn’t easy.
Farming at sunrise. One of my favorite parts of doing this kind of work. During the rest of the year I don’t make a point of getting up for the sunrise. But, there is something very rewarding about working through the entire night and getting your second wind of energy from the first light of the day. It makes you feel like you’re a part of something bigger. You always feel like your day matters when you were there when the sun started it for you.
Learning to farm in the big rig. Big boy toys for sure.
Farming in North Dakota
During October of 2011 and again this October and part of November I went to work on the Weinlaeder Farm and Seed Company a seventh generation family owned industrial agriculture operation on a 5,000 acre farm in Drayton, North Dakota. Both years I’ve primarily driven a large tri-axle dump truck hauling suger beets from the field to the the Crystal Suger plant where the suger beets are processed into suger and then shipped to Pepsi Co. and Hershey’s to eventually become soda and candy bars. During the harvest we work 12-15 hour shifts for as long as the harvest takes. Each truckload packs in as much as 35,000 pounds of beets and we usually end up pulling 10-15 loads per shift. The 6 harvesting trucks on that farm run 24 hours a day.
Working on this farm for 2 years during the beet harvest season has been a very good experience for me on many levels. Generally speaking I don’t believe that large scale industrial agriculture is the best solution for feeding our society. However, these types of farms and the larger industrial food system wouldn’t exist if there wasn’t a consumer market to support it. And I don’t believe the way forward in creating a better world is by taking an all or nothing approach and writing of large scale farming as an entirely bad thing. These farmers would grow other things if the market demanded it and they care about the impact of their operation. I’ve learned a lot about industrial agriculture by working in it and know the farmers I work with on this farm are good people trying as hard as I am to make good choices.
Even though my belief is that smaller-scale more sustainable, diverse, and local farms are a better way to produce healthy foods for our society I am not an elitist about it and choice to do the only thing I can do to move society further in that direction. I support those types of ventures with my money. I try to support local food producers as much as I can because that is the way the world will keep moving to support their efforts.
It’s easy to blame the worlds problems on things you haven’t taken the time to understand. The hard part is putting into action what you believe is the right way forward without judgement.
I’m grateful for the time I spent farming in North Dakota again this year.
A part of my great-grandmother’s china cabinet that I cut in half and started to refinish with my dad’s help – a retired shop teacher.
My welding set-up.
Some of the lower steel frame in progress.
Testing out my measurements to make sure it would fit together.
Welding & The Re-mix Of Great Grandmother’s China Cabinet
In 2011 I went back to school to become a certified welder. In high school I to did some welding and wanted to get to a professional level. This past year I decided to do a creative project with my welding skills by cutting in half my great-grandmother’s china cabinet, refinishing it, re-mixing it, and welding a steel frame for it to become my new desk. I started the project last year, but it was one of those things the fell between the cracks of everything else I was doing and took me until this fall to finish. Even though it took so long to finish I’m super happy that I put the effort into it. There is something frankly bad-ass about working at a desk you built yourself make out of steel and your great-grandmother’s furniture. It feels like a part of my ancestry is now supporting my work. As if all of my ancestors are there with me while I work towards my future goals.
My lady. Lady is my avatar animal and my soul creature. She’s been with me through some rough stuff and loves me more than anyone or anything else in this world. She was with me just as strong this year as ever and is laying at my feet as I type right now. There is nothing more true in this world than the fact that a man’s best friend is his dog. Winter is Lady’s season and this winter finds her well.
Although it seems like a long time ago already. We essentially had no snow in January, February, or March of 2012, which was very strange and a clear indication of global climate change. It’s scary stuff and makes for a lame winter around these parts. I took this photo on my phone in the middle of February 2012 where the only place to find snow was in the shadows.
For the last couple years one of my good buddies and I have been looking for a treasure. A real treasure. It’s been an awesome adventure so far and a part of the process has involved getting our car stuck about 100 miles deep inside a forest. We were so stuck that it took us nearly an entire day to find a tow-truck company within 300 miles that could get us out. And the tow-truck company that came to our rescue was the most bad-ass tow-truck company in the world. This is their slogan. And it is all true. The treasure that my friend and I are looking for is worth a minimum of $60,000 and we’re getting closer…. Every little boy dreams of finding a real treasure someday. We will. We will. And when we do the little boys still inside of us will shine.
In November of 2012 Jesus and I voted Obama back in office.
This summer I made a lot of breakfasts with pouched duck eggs, local goat cheeses, lemon basil and heirloom tomatos from my garden, and pickled herring from lake superior.
This is perhaps one of the most powerful images I took all year – at least for me. And it’s still hard for me to fully explain, but I’ve said this to all of my closest friends and family – the mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical place I’m at right now in my life is almost overwhelming. I feel like I’ve crossed over into a new dimension. A place where I’m able to see things in my past, my present, and my future all equally, all honestly, from a point of view that is both inside myself and outside of myself, all at the same time. I actually feel like I’ve become something that is beyond the human experience I’ve ever known before. I feel completely awake, aware, and connected to the entire universe in a way that is like I’ve been given a new sense. Although this image isn’t very large and it’s only a record for you to see what I saw while standing there. Imagine for a minute what it would be like to walk in the clouds on top of a mountain and find this before you. This photo isn’t from a movie or a dream it is from a real place on this Earth and from my real life. A real place where I ended up alone on top of mountain in a cloud at sunrise because that is my life. And my life has become something I never imagined was possible.
I had heard the word Namaste before I traveled to Nepal. I knew it was something yoga people said, but I never knew the meaning of Namaste until this year. It means, “Bowing in appreciation of you.” Which is one of the most amazing thoughts I’ve ever encountered. It is the most humble thought a person can have. It is also something I finally feel like I fully understand.
Me under Buddha’s tree at sunset.
A day on a country road onward into the great unknown.
As 2012 comes to an end I feel more than ever a deeper sense of appreciation for my life, my health, the love of family and friends, and for all of the wonderful, amazing, and beautiful aspects that is our universe. I am also even more keenly aware of the tragedies that surround and engulf us and our world on a daily basis. And I choice to use my awareness of these ills as a reminder and a fuel to live as rightly as I possibly can.
Poetically stated I recently read these words:
“When the solution to the world’s problems seems formidably nebulous, I’m reminded that the best place to start is always with and within myself.
By nature (or maybe by culture?), I am immediately drawn to the route of disenchantment, cynicism and finger pointing. But maybe that is the easy way out. Maybe the better challenge for me is to remain hopeful and awake, helpful and earnest, open-minded and equally willing to learn from things both tragic and beautiful, devastating and amazing. And to remain willing to try to be a point of light whenever I have the opportunity, with the hope that maybe, just maybe, it helps even one other person find his or her way—just as others have done for me. My prayers are for healing, comfort and serenity, and that when I start to yammer on about what I think needs to be changed in the world (which is often), that I can close my mouth for just a minute and remember to start within myself, as the oft-consolidated Gandhi quote goes:
“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.”
With that I offer you all nothing but my best and most humble well wishes as you move through your own lives this coming year.
2013 – here we are.
Homeless not worthless.
One of the major keys to real happiness is gratefulness.
Life passes you by if you’re not careful.
The universe is within us.
The greatest story is your own life’s story.
Imagination can set you free.
Last year I had a moment of awakening. This is what it felt like for me. A complete and total release of the things that were holding me back.
There is nothing more amazing, beautiful, powerful, or inspiring as the natural world around us.
Everyday is the first day of the rest of your life. Enjoy it.
When life gives you lemons. Fuck around!
When I was a kid skiing was my favorite sport for a number of years. Skiing is now no long just skiing. It is something better.
Having no path is a path if you so choose.
We all need someone to stand by us.
My jam of the year. Do it to it.
The Future Is Ours.
We Climb Together
On a good day-
On a good wall and a good face.
We feel at home.
We feel in place.
We clear our heads and we slow our pace.
We see our space-
So far outside of the ever-present rat race.
We make our moves-
Some bold and some true.
When we reach the top we look for you.
As we descend it’s hard to comprehend oh what that is we’ve just send.
In the moment nothing else matters-
But that next hold within these mysterious ladders.
After many hours spent with the people we desire-
We climb these walls and touch the skies together.
Late at night by the fire we look up at the stars-
And we wonder what if the whole world really knew what it meant….
To be a climber.
Last winter as I imagined my future garden I had 3 underling thoughts in mind for why I wanted to do it. As I mentioned in the previous post I needed to reconnect myself with some aspect of the natural world in a dedicated and regular way. I wanted to garden to challenge myself in being able to grow, manage, and take care of other living beings, aka – a whole lot of plants. Knowing that I would end up with way more vegetables than my family and I could eat I also wanted to build this garden with the idea of being able to give back to my friends with food. And I wanted to create a garden at the scale I did to test out in real life ideas I had in mind for some agricultural related businesses and plans I currently have in the works.
For more than any other reason the party portion of my gardening experiment was envisioned to function as a gift – to my friends.
Perhaps my feelings of disconnection from the environment were also closely related to my feeling of being somewhat disconnected from any sort of real community. I have a great family and wonderful friends, but like most Americans how rare is it that we all get together? And how much more rarer still do we consider ourselves a community and function with each others interests in mind?
Through my business and my personal life I am blessed to have close relationships with many insanely talented creative individuals. Maybe we all feel this way to a certain degree, but I consider my friends to be the most amazing people in the world. A part of my personal style has been and likely will always be to have many different types of friends that function in lots of different interpersonal circles. I love developing friendships with interesting, unique, motivated, talented, and rare individuals – who are often doing their own thing. And unfortunately doing your own thing often also means doing it alone.
A big underlying motivator for me in doing the work and spending the money required to throw a huge garden party was to bring together people who wouldn’t necessarily already know each other. I wanted to physically, ‘bring people together’ who I knew would appreciate each others unique talents and possibly form new relationships from this experience together as a unit.
As I have gotten older I have started to feel that the people who you surround yourself with often define who you are and will become as much or more than you do for yourself. For me, being surrounded by unique, motivated, and creative people has helped me become a better person for myself. My friends inspire me. And the best of them are truly there for me as guides, caretakers, kindred-spirits, fellow adventurers, and humble, honest, decent human beings.
In my attempt to reconnect with the natural world I also wanted to reconnect with the best of my own human spirit and find a way to express my deepest gratitude for those people in my own life for whom without their presence I would be a lesser person.
And for that I thank my friends.
This was the invite that was sent out for the party. I wrote the phrase, “A Garden’s Keeper Lives Life Deeper” to function both as an invite for the party and to be a submitted piece for my good friend Anne Ulku‘s two year long project, Six Word Story Every Day. The cards were letterpress printed by Kira Bavender’s letterpress company Cherry Pi.
Before the party my dad and I built a 75-foot long table made of old pallets and other recycled wood. The seats for our table were red buckets that were formerly used to store fast-food cooking oil (I used them to be slightly ironic). And the tops of the seats were large wooded planks cut from dead trees off of some our family’s hunting land. My sister decorated the table and other areas of the party like a pro using all recycled or found items. And even the dishes all came from a thrift store. I was determined to create a wonderful environment for the party without buying new things and adding any more waste into our already way too wasteful society. This party was about bringing people together to celebrate each other and eating natural home grown food – not about creating unnecessary waste in our already way to fragile natural world.
This was one of the 64 final pizzas getting loaded up with the good stuff. For the party my Dad, Step-Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, Sister, Cousins, Nick Patrek, and one of my sisters awesome co-workers – Riley, prepared homemade pizzas with ingredients mostly coming from the garden. Riley saved the day in a way none of the guests knew and is a Jedi pizza cook in his own right. My Dad bought a ton of pizza ovens at garage sales all summer to be prepared to cook for all our guests.
Here is some homemade cucumber salad from the garden.
I spent over $300.00 on the finest cheeses I could find from all over the world. It was wonderful.
I made sure to list everything that was in each pizza so everyone knew all the good stuff we had in there.
We all played a number of different yard games before dinner. Here’s Anne flashing a smile. Our group was definitely competitive. And I lost.
We had to make a special meat pizza for Cloud!
Jack kept his eyes wide-open on this crowd.
My sister collected flowers from other people’s gardens the day of the party and arranged them in Bell canning jars.
We used my dad’s collection of vintage minnow buckets as our Champagne buckets.
We also used vintage milk jugs for our water containers.
A few of my friends played some wonderful music after dinner around the fire.
I smoked a Cuban cigar after dinner by the fire to celebrate all the hard work I put into the creation of my garden, preparing the food, and bringing everyone together for the party. It also marked a completely different personal milestone for me as well, one of those things you keep to yourself, but that means a lot.
Here’s Jack making shadow monsters.
The raspberries in the Champagne all came from our garden as well.
In the end I hope everyone who attended this party had a good time. I know I did and look forward to our futures together.
All the photos taken in this post and for this party were shot by my friend David Mendolia.
Oh, how far I have traveled only to return to myself.
Last winter I started feeling a somewhat unidentifiable sense that something was wrong. Or at least that something was missing in my life. While digging deeper into that sensation of uneasiness I realized that I was feeling very disconnected from the natural world and had been feeling that way for a long time.
Growing up I was fortunate enough to have extended periods of time to live in and experience nature. It was a fundamental part of my upbringing and a core part of who I was — and who I am.
After internalizing this realization I decided I needed to do something about it. Staying in-line with my usual ‘go big or go home’ approach to life, business, and art – I immediately spent hundreds of dollars ordering nearly 200 hundred varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds. And of course before making my final order I obsessed over thousands of total varieties from many different seed vendors before settling on some of the rarest seeds I could find.
Once my order was complete I announced to my father that, “We were going to make a garden.” My dad, a retired teacher and former hippie, had managed to maintain a garden to one degree or another most of his adult life, but was somewhat skeptical of the scale of my vision. However, being retired he submitted to my wishes and we began to work.
After ordering the seeds we created a garden plan. We mapped out where everything would go in our garden on graph paper and determined which varieties to try narrowing it down to about 60 different types of plants for our final design. Our design greatly expanded my father’s original garden and would require some other major additions as well, including a large fence to keep the deer out.
With a plan in hand we waited. In the early spring we tried sprouting indoors all the seeds that needed a head start. And we failed. Our first round of seed sprouts didn’t make it due to lack of heat and light. With our first failure out of the way I bought some grow lights and other gear needed to make sure it didn’t happen again. The second round was off and running, but we were already behind on our plan.
Besides sprouting seeds we had to prep our soil. We put up a huge fence and used a tractor to till up the soil. We also added 6-tons of horse manure and lime to the soil to add nutrients. The soil looked good. The fence looked good. The seedlings were looking good. And we were back on track with our plan.
We planted in early May. It was a bit of a late start due in part to the weather. June was decent and July was extremely hot, humid, and wet. During July almost all the plants took off growing faster than I ever knew was possible. I felt like a master gardener on my first try.
Our crop wasn’t perfect though. The onions and peppers didn’t do very well. I think this was because it was too wet and too hot early on. We had some critters get in and do some solid damage — wood chucks, squirrels, and a family of raccoons. We managed to trap the critters and even figured out a trick to keep them out of the garden by placing a small radio in a bucket. Keeping the radio tuned to a talk station sounds like people constantly working or a kind of verbal scare crow. An old indian trick I assume.
I spent many hours weeding, watering, and watching my crops grow. It really was a wonderful experience.
We had a huge amount of produce and it was equally fun to learn new ways to cook the various plants we grew. It was also a fun way to spend time with my dad and step mom and I think they were just as impressed with our final results as I was.
Beyond that the process of learning, planning, starting, and growing a garden for the first time satisfied my fundamental need to reconnect to the natural world.
Looking back on my year and thinking about the time I spent in the garden I can honestly say it has to some degree changed me — and for the better. Through the process of proactively participating in the lifecycle of food I feel as though I have realigned my own life’s rhythms into a more healthy cycle as well.
Growing a garden for the first time was such an important experience for me that it literally changed the direction of my life in more than one way. So much so, that I will save the rest of this greater story for future posts.
In the meantime here are some photos from my first garden. Or my successful attempt to reconnect with nature in 2011:
The garden in June.
The garden just starting to really take off in July.
Fresh lettuce. Even better than I expected.
White Zucchini — grew like a weed!
My Dad’s favorite peas.
Beets — which I learned to love.
Little peppers trying to make it through the heat wave.
Chives have flowers – who knew?
Lady was always by my side making sure I was doing everything right. She managed to snag a few veggie treats during the season too.
“We’re going to do the impossible, we’re going to make it beautiful, and it’s got to stand up.” – Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder – Perhaps a new generational rally cry?
This year I turn 30 and so does the rest of the first wave of generation Y, Millennials, or the Echo Boom depending on which media buzz term you’d like to reference.
Over the years I’ve paid special attention to how my generation is perceived and presented by our collective elder media folk and speculate, as likely any new generation coming of age might think, that we might still be a bit misunderstood. Maybe I can shed some light on our collective mystery to all of you whose generations have come before ours.
The Mysterious Millennials
Although I can’t speak for my entire generation I feel confident I can speak for a whole lot of us. And I am aware of the fact that I speak from a uniquely American point of view knowing our country and culture certainly doesn’t represent the world in it’s entirety.
The Children of Diversity
I’m going to be bold enough to say we’re the first American generation of true tolerance. And we go even beyond tolerance into a realm of celebrating each others unique differences and individualities.
We are the generation that grew up with single parents. Or our parents were divorced. And if our parents weren’t divorced our best friend’s parents were. Our friends were adopted, refugees, immigrants, rich, poor, middle-class, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or more so than ever the religiously unaffiliated. And came in every color, shape, size, and level of nerdy-ness we could imagine. We didn’t mind because Sesame Street, our parents, and the Berenstain Bears taught us that our differences didn’t matter and that we were all the same kids on a playground trying to get picked for the right kickball team. We were the little people passing notes back and forth to each other in class worrying about who had a crush on who while our parents chased each other up the corporate ladder. We learned about the civil rights movement, about women fighting for their right to vote, about decades of wars that didn’t make sense when we already knew our differences couldn’t be something worth fighting over.
Boys & Girls with Too Many Toys & Too Much TV Time
Our generation devoured and still continues to devour media. We beat all our Nintendo games. We watched way too much TV. Sitting for hours on end watching our programs like: ALF, The Cosby Show, Doogie Howser, Double Dare, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Mr. Belvedere, The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, 3-2-1 Contact, Reading Rainbow, Roseanne, Saved By The Bell, This Old House, Wild America, Webster, and of course – The Wonder Years.
And for every hour we spent on the TV we put in our time in the movie department too. We watched some good ones like: Back To The Future, Batman, Big, Dead Poets Society, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Field Of Dreams, Flight Of The Navigator, The Karate Kid, License To Drive, The Never Ending Story, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Revenge of the Nerds, Risky Business, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, Top Gun, Weird Science, – and of course the first film I saw in a theater – Superman.
We saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explode on TV. We played flashlight tag, jumped on trampolines wearing Zubaz, and ate pop rocks. We had pink Skip-Its, Barbie Dolls, and G.I. Joes. The boys among us collected thousands of sports cards, which still fill albums that live within boxes deep inside our childhood bedroom closets. Our cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, parrots, and goldfish were all subject to kiddy torture, dress-ups, and “science experiments.” We all lined city streets for 4th of July parades, fireworks, and ran around state fairs wearing hyper color shirts and pin-rolled up pants. We blared our tape decks rocking out in Starter Jackets and Nike’s while playing in the rain and eating Pizza Hut before TGIF.
The Olympics and Michael Jordan inspired us. We all knew not to take candy from a stranger. And we also knew we shouldn’t eat apples from strangers on Halloween because they may contain razor blades. Oh, and neon was awesome.
Everyone actually thought America’s Funniest Home Videos were funny. And we still occasionally catch a late night rerun after our now dwindling drunken escapades. College was a long time ago already. After all we’re 30 now and can’t party like we use to.
The Generation of Awareness
During the 1980’s and 1990’s we were kids. We had fun and we had our knocks too, but maybe one of the most important things that defined our collective youth was our awareness.
We knew what was going on. And not just in our own homes, but in our friend’s homes, and we knew what was happening around our country. We knew when there were droughts in farm fields in the South or massive snowstorms on the East Coast, or an earthquake in Candle Stick Park. We knew about Apartheid in South Africa and Dolphins being killed by tuna nets in the Pacific. We knew about global warming in elementary school. And that other kids in 3rd world countries didn’t get to live like we did. We saw the Berlin wall come down and knew what the Exxon Valdez did. And we cared about it. We internalized it and wanted to figure out our own ways to help. We knew that the world’s problems weren’t necessarily our own, but just by knowing about them meant we should at least try in some way to do something about them. We planted trees on Earth Day after pencil fighting sessions during Italian Dunker and tator-tot lunch hours. We drank cartons of chocolate milk that held the faces of missing children. And you all still can’t figure out the disconnect? Knowing too much when you’re too young – that is our collective story.
We Are The Realist-Idealists – The Realist Part
Our generation does not want what yours did. And we’re not even as close to naive as our grandparent’s generation was in believing there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” It’s a beautiful thought, but we already know that striving for a perfect life, in a perfect house, while trying to force your children to be perfect too only causes them to do drugs and listen to absorbent amounts of rock n roll all while believing getting high will somehow make their own problems go away because it’s ‘peace-love, and groovy man.’
We don’t trust big corporations. And the ‘great recession’ hammered the final nail into our parent’s collective career coffins. Turns out that system never really cared about you and we’re smart enough to realize it doesn’t give a shit about us either. It’s sad to see mothers who broke glass ceilings into rooms full of already broken mirrors. It’s kill or be killed in the corporate world and we’ll quit your shit job for a $1,000 raise somewhere else without a 2-week notice (and we’ll take the fucking stapler with us and sell that shit on Ebay). There is no such thing as corporate loyalty anymore and that door swings both ways. Look that up in your urban rap dictionary, #beyatches. All you 40-year-old middle managers need to stop crying about how Millennials don’t care or know about the value of hard work. Most of us don’t try to hide from the truth as much as you do. In the corporate world we’re all whores to overpaid board of directors with golden parachutes so stop acting like you can’t see the elephant in the room. If you always wanted to be an artist you should have went for it instead of taking out your weak level of authority on me. We don’t want the same thing as your generation did for our work-lives and we’re not going to play the same game either. There are some of us who like our corporate jobs, but that’s only because we like our co-workers. Don’t fool yourself into thinking anyone cares about Excel, Powerpoint, or Salesforce.
We definitely don’t trust banks and our governmental leaders publicly piss on each other waiting for their turn to pass the blame for whatever the current political flair up might be so they can stay in office long enough to keep the killer health benefits and the 80-G’s a year to eat in the private dining clubs on the Hill while screwing an intern or the friendly gay down the street. I’m sure in their hearts they care about our country, but not anymore than they care about their own trust funds.
Don’t even get me started on advertising. Nice try, but we’re not in your demographic anymore. Funny is still funny, but I ain’t buying your mini-van because it’s a swagger wagon. All you account planners out there might as well label us as, the “untouchable” generation.
We are realists that can spot a lie a thousand miles away, but we are not jaded even when the lies are only coming from a foot away. We know what’s going on and we’re not happy about it. You didn’t know we were going to end up here either. But, you’re old now and most of you have given up. You’re hoping the stock market doesn’t totally collapse once the world’s oil runs out or your social security check dries up before you’re dead. You worked for something right? We get it. Remember we’re the generation that knows what is really going on. We see what you were trying to do and failed, but we still really appreciate that you read us books at night when we were kids and paid for all our years on sports teams and music lessons.
The world is fucked up and life is not fair. It always has been and always will be. But the difference is that this time it might be for real. Our environment is in such a bad place everything could collapse and not just your bank account, but our whole ability as a species to live. I have personally stayed up entire nights thinking about who I’d have to kill just to stay alive in a world that can no longer support most forms of life. That’s heavy shit to deal with when you’re also still (borderline) trying to please your parents, grandparents, girlfriend, boss, and friends, while also still trying to appear to be a somewhat normal functioning member of this ‘great’ nation of ours. And you’ve got 5 blogs and 6 Twitter accounts to update daily with a dog to walk every fucking night too. Oh, and you still need to figure out what non-GMO foods you can eat or decide which one of the 17,000 different kinds of toothpaste to buy. Really? How can there be so many kinds of…. EVERYTHING. How did we get here?
I dare say our American Y-generation has acquired a type of pressure never before experienced in our species. We are no longer just responsible for ourselves, our own families, our own towns, states, or even the whole country. But, we are responsible for the entire global industrial revolution’s fuck-ups, for our already aging parents, and for that tiny space inside all our brains for our now still imaginary children’s children. The greater our privilege was growing up the greater our responsibility is now and as American youth it would be hard to argue we didn’t all grow up privileged in most ways that count. I can’t be the only person of my generation who has actually shed a tear imagining the world my own grandchildren could inherit.
I know you’re thinking, “Dang, these kids are a bummer and cold.” Nope. Not cold or jaded – we’re just real and we know what is going on. Life’s a bitch and we’re not afraid to call it as we see it. Some of us still don’t speak out our truths, but we certainly know and think about them.
We Are The Realist-Idealists – The Idealist Part
Now for the rainbows and kittens. Oh, man, for all the coldness and cynicism you might detect from myself and my fellow echo boomers we’re all still the children of hippies and the grandchildren of the generation of real values. We got heart for miles. I think if we all thought we could make a decent living at it we’d all work for non-profits. Most of my closest friends are already nurses, therapists, teachers, firemen, artists, lawyers (the good kind), organic farmers, or baristas helping drown out our collective sorrows.
You’d be hard pressed to find a single young American person today who doesn’t in some way want to try and help make the world a better place.
Some of us haven’t yet found our own way to make an impact, but we’re trying. And we’re trying to do it at the same time that we’re trying to make a life for ourselves too. Finding the time to volunteer for a good cause or dedicating ones life to a peaceful mission shouldn’t need to feel like such a struggle, but we all know how hard it is out there right now to just get by. Yet, even in the downturn the beat goes on and positivism exudes from my people.
Everywhere I look and turn my fellow youth are making it happen in the most honorable way. We are the generation of genuine idealism. We know we can make a difference because we already are.
We can inspire you to rejoin the cause.
Maybe because our generation grew up with a bit of over-awareness we also gained a little extra wisdom too. When you grow up learning about and understanding pain and suffering in places a million miles from your own playground you know from a very young age how we’re all really connected in the end. There is no such thing as ‘us’ and ‘them’ we’re all just ‘us’. And it’s not even just ‘us’… it’s endangered animals, tropical rain forests, ocean waves, and tiny bits of energy swirling around the universe from atom to atom into infinity. There is awe behind it all and we are moving it forward from within it.
A modern gentleman knows that conversations about money, politics, and religion are all topics best left for private affairs and I know my generation is as much of a mixed bag when it comes to any side of those coins as any other generation before ours. However, the wisdom I’m referring to taps into something that transcends dinner party banter.
Perhaps it is my own uber-idealism at play here but I truly believe the youth of the world today will help get us all back home. And not back to the ‘American Dream’, but just back to the dream of being able to live a happy life while doing right by other people and the Earth along the way. Right now – as in right now – there are young people leading actual revolutions against decades of tierney in countries around the world. The revolution of our American youth might not be as visible, but it is happening.
Young people are moving away from corporate jobs and starting their own small businesses. We are buying less stuff and interested in living more simply. We are paying down our debts. We are learning where our food comes from and what the real cost of industrialized farming is. We are seeing ourselves in relation to our impact on the Earth and where our energy comes from. We ride bikes. We are spending our money more wisely and looking for quality over quantity. We are designing better more eco-friendly products and questioning what services we really need and why. After seeing a lot of our buddies, older brothers, and sisters lose their houses in foreclosure we’re not about to make that same mistake. We’re waiting to get married because we’re the generation of divorce and know what that fallout means.
Everyday some portion of our individual energy goes towards thinking about and actually doing something better. Making things better is a process and takes time. We’re trying to be patient. Even if you can’t see it yet I want you to know that my generation is solving real and serious problems everyday.
Basically, we fucking rule and we’ve got so much soul you’d cry your eyes out if you only knew how much we care. But, hey, we’re not trying to win medals over here, most of us are humble kids even though we post a lot of random self-promoting shit on our Facebook pages. We’ve all got at least one special someone to try and impress, and just because we care doesn’t mean we need to be boring.
How could I make broad and general sweeping statements about an entire generation of people without including a cornerstone of human existence? Oh, snap. It’s time for the millennial love tutorial.
Who really knows? Statistically we’re more single players than not. Yeah, we’ve hooked up. Yeah, we’ve been in a love once, twice, third times a charm. We’ve been cheated on. We’ve tried not to cheat. We’re looking for the sparks, the stability, the chaos, and the moments of silence and understanding. We carry all our fears and past experiences with us. We are just as vulnerable as any other person at any other time that has come before us. And we are either looking for, open to, hiding from, scared of, not ready yet, fooling ourselves, too selfish, or just content enough to know what happens next. Life isn’t static and neither are we. Marriage is amazing and awesome, except when it isn’t. Being single is awesome and amazing, except when it isn’t. Our friends and family help guide our thoughts in life and love and our hearts tell the truth if we choose to listen.
Maybe some things are a matter of destiny that someone like me shouldn’t be commenting on; no matter how hard I try I will never fully understand love, because matters of the heart aren’t things that are designed to be understood from a place that can be written.
I can say this from a completely personal place – my grandparents, both the living and the dead, inspire me in ways I’m not sure I fully understand. Their commitment to each other through 50 years, 60 years, 65 years and on, go beyond my imagination. Living my own life to the age of 65 will be a miracle – having someone else there with me and me with them that long seems as abstract as space travel and being described colors I’ve yet seen. That kind of connection, and maybe even more that kind of commitment, hits me so hard it feels like I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me.
Yet, despite years of turmoil growing up with divorced parents I know it was all for the best – for all of us. I know my life is better because my parents got divorced and that we lived through that reality together.
In all my relationships and interactions in matters of the heart I carry with me this duality from my lineage.
I also know those moments of the unimaginable joy in being alone – totally un-tethered – completely free in the moment you feel your own heart beat while on a morning run in time with its rhythm looking to the sky knowing with certainty that that moment was created for you. Absolutely nothing can touch a moment of singular clarity. Our souls may dance in time with others, yet they are ours alone.
We are the generation of future hermits and cat ladies. We are the generation of future divorces and long storms before long-term happy endings. We are the generation of the future Happy Days re-runs. We are the generation of the soul-mated and the broken hearted. We harmonize like crickets and fireflies in deep dawn.
My generation, well, lets just say we’re complex – and it’s as simple as that.
Mysterious Millennials now and forever — special people, for a special place and time, with a special kind of love for each other and for you.
This Is Our Time
This year, in my New Year’s letter I wrote:
“For all the world’s daily dangers or despairs and for all our differences and shimmering individualities I take solace in our commonalities and shared aspirations.
All living beings possess a basic shared desire to love and be loved, to be healthy and bring health to others, to be happy and inspire happiness, to feel success over pain and suffering, to conquer fears, and to hopefully pass with wisdom, integrity, and perhaps legacy. We all wish to live well.”
In the end, maybe the only thing you really need to know about our generation is that we’re trying really hard to do the best we can with what we’ve got. We are keeping it real and we will never say die on our collective dream to live well while doing right by ourselves and each other along the way.
Some of my fellow Gen.-Y’ers might disagree with me on my thoughts here, but then again they probably weren’t really into the Goonies that much either – just saying.
(If you like my thoughts here please share them. And if you’d like to share your thoughts with me on what I’ve written feel free to reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter or send me an e-mail at: revolution(at)clarkpatrick.com)