Check out some of my friend Kieran’s new music. Check out the album art!! The acoustic, ambient album listening, breathing, feeling is on Bandcamp – give it a listen:
I have always thought that photography was such a cool hobby. I never really took it up though. I was always able to find some excuse not to; it’s too expensive, everyone does photography – nothing I do will be unique, what if I’m bad at it… I don’t know what changed exactly but I eventually came around. I thought, “so what if I’m bad at it? That’s what practice is for. Who care if everyone does it? I’m not interested in it to be better than anyone anyways”. So when Bryant and I returned from Oregon, I picked up my dad’s old Minolta XG-M, got a couple rolls of film off Amazon and started messing around.
My dad gave me the absolute basic, crash course on film photography and obviously it all went in one ear and out the other. I was just so excited to get started. I even signed up for a photography course on Udemy so I could learn DSLR skills too. It’s been a few months now and although I still don’t really have any idea what I’m doing, I’m still doing it. I had taken some of Bryant’s rolls of film to Ritz before to get them developed. It was always so exciting whenever we’d wait on getting them back. The only downside is that Ritz location is the only one left in the area and is pretty much the best option for getting film developed. It’s at least a half hour away depending on traffic and it costs upwards of $10 per roll. People don’t kid when they say film photography can get expensive.
I started looking into home developing and soon realized that it was much more possible than I thought. I discovered The Film Photography Project to be a really great resource. I did lots of research to learn as much as I could about the process and the materials needed. When I realized what the startup cost would be, I almost entirely gave up on the idea. I decided, though, that the initial cost would be an investment that would allow me to pursue this new hobby. It was worth it. So I went ahead and bought myself a film negative scanner, the chemicals and other “starter kit” accessories to get myself started.
I’m not going to lie, the process is definitely frustrating. I’ve sacrificed two rolls of film and way too many hours these past two days trying to figure this thing out. I developed and scanned two rolls of my own film so far. Of the 48 exposures from both, only 33 even developed enough to have some visible image. To be honest, that’s a way better result than I thought I would get the first couple of times around. Even though I wasn’t attached to or upset over losing certain shots, I do still wish they had all come out. I keep telling myself, practice makes perfect. When it comes to teaching myself skills on shooting better and on developing and processing film. Once I feel more confident in my skills, I’d love to start developing film for friends too. As frustrating as it is, I do still really enjoy the process. Hopefully in the New Year I’ll be doing better! I’ve been tracking my progress on my Facebook and Instagram. Check it out, let me know what you think!
Has anyone else tried developing film at home? I’m all ears to any stories, tips or tricks!
You may have noticed that I just recently added a logo for my blog; quick thanks and shoutout to the artist, Cassie O’Neal. I met Cassie at the 2016 Baltimore Tattoo Convention. She did one of my favorite pieces and since then, I’ve become a big fan of her art. I had come up with the general idea of what image I wanted to use for the blog and she was wonderful enough to be able to create it for me.
The sun and the moon have been of great fascination throughout human history. It has been found and described in just about every culture, belief system, etc. I have always really loved the images, simply on an aesthetic level. Only recently have I started looking into symbolism and meanings behind the images. Aside from the slight discrepancies in various interpretations, one trait can be found across the board – duality.
Whether the duality of the sun and moon is seen as a reflection of literally day and night, masculinity vs. femininity, strength and reliability vs. sense and emotion, yin vs. yang… Whichever exact meaning you want to go with, I feel like I identify with all of them in some way. Maybe being a Gemini has something to do with it? Regardless, I feel like there is a balance within myself that I always strive for. It’s something that we all experience. That balance and inner peace could be an example of the duality I see in myself. I also have little “arguments” with myself on opposing optimistic/pessimistic views. The way that I have thought and felt for so many years vs. how I am starting to feel and understand about myself; I feel like I am constantly trying to quiet the two sides of my mind. The negativity, self-hatred, the hopelessness stems from the years and years I have been depressed. That conditioning has led that thought process and behavior to become a sort of subconscious bad habit – my first thought is almost always something negative. I now am able to catch myself and switch it to something more reasonable. Now that I am more aware, I am learning to no longer identify with those feelings of depression or anxiety.
“Before enlightenment, I used to be depressed; after enlightenment, I continue to be depressed. You don’t make a goal out of relaxation and sensitivity. Have you ever heard of people who get tense trying to relax? If one is tense, one simply observes one’s tension. You will never understand yourself if you seek to change yourself. The harder you try to change yourself the worse it gets. “
–Anthony deMello, Awareness
So that’s a bit on why I chose the sun and moon image as the logo for my blog. I feel like I can relate and identify with the various meanings. That, and I still just think it’s really beautiful to look at. Again, thank you so so much to Cassie for designing this for me. She’s a great artist and a really cool person all-around. Definitely check her out on social media and all. I linked her website at the beginning of this post.
What do you all think about the logo?
“Love people and use things, because the opposite never works”
– The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus
I have found that there is a sort of stigma surrounding the word and lifestyle of minimalism. People hear “minimalism” and typically respond with a big eye roll and a “Okay, we get it, you don’t want things” while imagining an apartment with a single chair and a mattress on the ground maybe. While that could be defined as minimalism, for me it’s something else entirely.
My interpretation of the concept of minimalism is pretty simple. Live with more intention. That’s the most watered-down, basic foundation I have for it. I definitely do agree with the whole opposition of materialism (to a degree). This year I’ve donated probably a good 80% of my belongings and I still feel like I own too much stuff. Owning things isn’t inherently bad, though. That’s where a lot of confusion stems from, I think. In my opinion, you don’t have to strip everything down to the absolute bare minimum just to survive. Just simplify things. Get rid of the clutter. Of all of the things that you’re holding onto for “one day” or for “just in case”. It’s still hard for me, but I’m trying to keep only the things that genuinely bring value to my life. Whether it’s literally something functional – like a my desk or my laptop, or if it’s something that might bring me joy – a hobby-item, for example. I feel like I have been explaining why I feel this way more often lately – mostly to family who have been asking what gifts I might want since the holidays are coming up.
Aside from just the material goods side of minimalism, I believe that it also means minimizing and simplifying your mental state. I don’t think I really worded that quite right, but what I’m trying to say is that there is so much that goes on in our minds that I think everyone needs to just quiet it down every once and a while to reflect. Just take a minute to calm all those thoughts. To not worry about what’s coming up in the future or what happened in the past – all we have is this moment right now. Try to not get too occupied with other things. I’ve found that the Minimalists have a lot of messages that echo many ideas of various spiritual teachers and philosophers that I have been learning about lately – Anthony De Mello, Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Alan Watts… These concepts are found everywhere – that’s got to mean something, right?
The documentary Minimalism (it’s streaming on Netflix!) was the first thing that I watched that sparked my interest in a change in lifestyle. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. There is so much that I could ramble on about because everything is connected and everything that I have learned so far is so intriguing. Don’t worry, I won’t talk your ears off. I’ll leave you all with this little post for today, though – I’m sure I’ll touch on this topic again in more depth in the future. Look into some of these peoples’ teachings – let me know your thoughts!
panacea • [pan-uh-see-uh] • noun
1. a remedy for all disease or ills; cure-all
2. an answer or solution for all problems or difficulties
Don’t you sometimes wish that there was some big red button to push, a magic spell that you could recite or that just a simple snap of the fingers could solve all of the world’s problems? Could you imagine? No more wars, no more poverty, no more waiting in line at Costco on a Saturday afternoon. Never again would you have to experiences any depression or face any challenges in your life. Especially with everything that’s going on with the world right now? I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wish for it.
Unfortunately, there is no real cure-all. There may be false panaceas, but those are only distractions. We only have so much time and so much energy. Spending it wistfully hoping for something that just doesn’t exist doesn’t make sense. Now that’s not to say that we should just give in and decide that the world is always going to be this dark dismal place or that things are always going to be unjust because “that’s life”. Why not take that energy and channel it constructively? Into ways that would incite change and conjure strength. I really do believe that we have the power to change the world.
“There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.”
I feel that if you focus on figuring out who you are and on learning to love yourself that you will wake up and see everything in a new light. Once you have that strong love radiating inward for yourself, I believe that it will naturally radiate outwards as well. And that it will spread and grow exponentially. Love and fear are the only two fundamental emotions. Love can change the world. I’m trying really hard to change myself and to further educate myself on various teachings and concepts of people who have already made the journey. I have spent the vast majority of my life being programmed to think and feel certain ways and let me tell you – breaking bad habits is so much harder than forming new ones and I never thought forming new habits was easy to begin with. You are the most important person in your life – it all starts with you.
Even though there’s no extraordinary cure or any way to never suffer from any disease – whether physical or otherwise – that doesn’t mean that there’s no hope. Take the time for yourself and soon enough, I think that you will start to see that change that we all hope for.
“Sometimes my thoughts get so crazy, they’re like those little bingo balls flying around in that cage or like radio static while trying to tune into a station – any station, just something that comes through clear.”
Yes, I did just quote myself, thank you for asking. It’s an excerpt from one of the posts that I wrote soon after we moved to Oregon. That analogy is how I describe what goes on in my head sometimes. It can be so frustrating. I try so hard to focus, to pinpoint what may have triggered the anxiety or just to think and reflect. Something so simple can be really hard when all you have is a frantic swarm of bees flying around in your head. The blur of thousands of thoughts flying around and the buzz of the background noise that i can’t seem to cancel out. It’s like the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry, Ron and Hermione are ambushed by the horde of magical flying keys. I could keep coming up with analogies but I think you get the idea.
I recently started to read The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and was shocked and relieved to find him mention that exact experience. He describes how this mind haze is defined by the Toltecs – ancient Mexican women and men of knowledge. The Toltecs called it mitote. It is the chaos inside one’s mind described as a “poisonous, contagious virus” in which thousands of voices are speaking over each other and not a one understands another. Even if I am able to reach out and grasp one of these flying keys, these bingo balls, it doesn’t quite make sense. There’s some sort of disconnect. Even if I am able to tune into a radio station in my mind, there is still not enough clarity. That is one thing that I have trouble with. Clearing my mind. I’ve tried many things and so far the only thing that even kind of helps to alleviate the feeling is just to write it all down. Word vomit everywhere, just writing my train of thought, whether or not they’re concise thoughts. I’ve tried to meditate without much success so far. I try to spend time practicing these strategies and exploring new ones that may help. I want to develop the skills needed to calm the storm raging through my mind so that I really can take the time to reflect and think. What tactics have helped you to focus and to clear the mind?
A few weeks before my birthday this past summer, I couldn’t stop thinking, “My god… I’m almost twenty-two years old.” Twenty-two. I barely believed that I was going to make it past 18. But I did. And then I turned 19 and thought, “This is it. I just can’t do this anymore. I’m done”, but before I knew it I was 20. I kept going and I didn’t give. There were instances where that was the only thing I desired. All I felt I needed. I sobbed because all I desperately wanted was the ability to just give up. Something inside of me just wouldn’t allow it. Then I turned 21 and started hoping for better days. Now at 22, I’m doing what I can to make every day one of those “better days” I used to fantasize about.
It’s still a little ways away, but I’m already preparing for my next birthday because nobody likes you when you’re 23 (thanks, blink-182). I think I’m funny, whatever. Whether that’s true or not (the “nobody likes you” bit. I know I’m hilarious, that’s not in question), I’m going to continue growing and making the most of my life. I can do that because I’m alive; because I didn’t give up, I get to experience every single part of life. The beauty of nature all around me, of love, of life. I got this far and I’m not stopping anytime soon. Realizing this gave me the courage to keep live, to conquer challenges and to learn more about myself and about the world. That’s when I feel like I really because ready to live.
Today’s Daily Prompt is a pretty fitting one for where I’m at in my life now. The word “enlighten” has come to mean something different to me over these last few months. Out of curiosity, I searched Merriam-Webster for the dictionary definition of the word.
One thing that I’ve heard a lot over the years is how I – and others – are “battling” depression, “beating” depression. I guess that’s true. As hard as it gets sometimes, I’m going to keep fighting it and keep moving forward. If nothing else, it’s all I’ve done these past few years. I don’t like those phrases though because they insinuate that depression is something that must be defeated before one can live their life. That there’s something inherently wrong and needs to be fixed. Well, surprise everyone – I haven’t been fixed, I haven’t been cured but I’m still able to find happiness in life. I’m finding peace.
One of my new favorite artists and Instagrammers is Bunny Michael. They create “Higher Self Memes” that are posted daily. As they said in an interview with Posture Magazine, “the Higher Self memes are messages of self-love and expressions of how we can all treat ourselves better, that we are more powerful than we even realize.” One of the first ones that was shown to me was this:
I love their memes because they’re funny and relatable and so, so very spot on. I feel like the spiritual path, personal growth, recovering from living with mental illness… All of those go hand in hand. It’s never as easy as it seems. It sounds like growing spiritually would be a journey filled with rainbows and butterflies, but more likely it will be a stormy one. Even though I’m learning and growing, and I feel like I’m moving in the right direction, this journey is by no means an easy one. I still struggle, I stumble, I fall. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it can be painful. I have wanted to give up more than anything. But you know what? I know that it is worth it. Becoming more of a spiritual person, more enlightened, more aware isn’t just a trend or hobby, or a cool, hip thing that the kids do these days. It’s more than that. It’s a change in lifestyle that requires effort throughout your lifetime. It’s something that brings change, compassion, understanding and consciousness into your life and into the world.
People always say that it’s harder to break a bad habit. I always thought that would refer to biting your nails or picking your nose. Bad habits are easy to pick up and often go unnoticed until they’ve become an integral part of our daily lives, so much so that they’re hard to just let go. For example, I’ve spent my whole life being told certain things and being led to believe these false ideas about myself and my life. I wasn’t happy and I developed a negative way of thinking and of being. I used to be in such a bad place and I would go through these cycles, trying my hardest to develop good habits and practice self care and then falling back to square one. I tried everything. Nothing seemed to work. I honestly don’t remember how I got to where I am now, but I think that’s part of it. I wasn’t feeding into the negative as much. I didn’t actively participate in the defeatist attitude I had acquired. I didn’t always focus on it and let myself stew over all the negativity floating around inside me. Gradually, I was able to naturally pull myself out of that hole. Just by being. Existing. Becoming aware of all of this makes it a bit easier to move forward. That being said, it’s still hard as hell but I’m trying to understand more in order to find peace.
Since being back in Maryland, I’ve run into more than a few challenges and roadblocks but I’ve always found my way back on track. I really am trying to make a more conscious effort to do right by me and to do the things that will help me to continue on this journey. I signed up for a bunch of courses on Udemy that I am very eager to dive into. I’m teaching myself about photography. I’m reading more – right now I’ve picked up The Way to Love by Anthony De Mello again, as well as The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz. I highly recommend both of these books to anyone and everyone. They’re such easy reads but are so eye-opening and powerful. I’m trying to get outside into nature more, too. Doing the little things that I know will aid me in increasing my physical, mental and emotional well-being. A couple of steps forward, a couple back, but I’m still trying and I’m still fighting. A lot of the things I write about are lessons that I have learned and am trying to put into practice into my own life. I am by no means an expert. I have to work really hard every day to unlearn everything that I have been programmed to accept and to reteach myself how to be.
What kinds of things do you do that help you get out of a funk? Or that you feel helps you grow and move forward? Or even just things that you do that make you happy, that you’re passionate about? I would love to hear about them!