Since it's the start of a new year it's natural to reflect back on the previous year and look forward to what 2018 might bring. I'm not one to do new year resolutions, but I have been mindful lately of the direction I want to take my life and the decisions I want to make. It really is an ongoing process as I feel this recent wave started sometime in 2017, but was built off of ideas and actions that started far before then. These dreams and goals relate to my family, my career, photography, and all other aspects of my life. And while I'm also not one to select a word to define the upcoming year... if I did, I think it would be SIMPLIFY. I'm sure I could think of many other words to connect to this need. And yes, that's really what it feels like - I NEED this. I need to simplify my life.
It's not that my life is crowded or busy with events. I'm not running from one thing to another. I don't have multiple children to attend to and I don't work over 36 hours a week, but I often feel there are too many things... distractions in my work and personal life. I don't have any immediate plans to change my job so for now I plan to focus on my personal life. But like I said, this process has already started and, in all honesty, I'm still figuring out what it means. It's things like unsubscribing from emails that I don't really need, backing off (some) social media (thank you 2016 election for starting that process), but it's also finding more time to work out, to get outside, to continue going to lunch with my dad, and reading books with my daughter.
In some ways it's turning off all the channels that are always buzzing about me to focus only on one. So far it feels satisfying.
So while I've been reflecting on my personal life, I can't help but think about how photography plays into it as it's become such a big part of my life. I've looked back to see how I used to take pictures to document events so I could put them on my (former) blog, but then I stepped back from that. Instead, I began a 52 project where I started focusing more on the skill of photography, and last year it turned into a 365 project. And I did it! I took pictures every single day of 2017. So many other photographers said it was life changing for them, that they grew so much in that year so I hoped I would feel the same at the end of the year.
Truthfully, I was so grateful it was over. I'm not good at allowing mistakes like missing a day. I don't give myself enough grace in those situations (perhaps 'grace' could be another word to focus on for the new year). So, in the end it felt like a bit of a chore. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad I did it, but I don't think I grew as much as I did when I focused on the 52 project (and to be clear, I took waaaay more than 52 pictures, but just not pictures everyday). This past year I took pictures because I felt I had to and I spent almost every night editing so I would stay on top of it.
I didn't take a single picture for the first 3 days of 2018 and it was absolutely freeing. But, by day four I was ready to start capturing memories again. I needed a break during those first few days, but also everything I saw felt mundane. I've captured it before, why should I capture it again? It's nothing special. But you see, last years goal wasn't only to take pictures everyday - it was to capture our life. Hopefully, I would grow in skill (working with different light sources for example), but I wanted to capture Riley playing with her friends, talking with her dad at dinner time, reading a books, stopping at the Little Library on the way to school, and so many other daily or not so daily events in our lives.
I'm glad I did. I love looking back at her reading the Spiderwick Chronicles and remembering how excited she was to read each book in the series and then watch the movie. I treasure the picture of her reaching into the Little Library on our walk to school so much more now because that family has moved and taken the Little Library with them. I cherish all the pictures I captured of my dad and am grateful at how accommodating he was.
I know photography isn't for everyone. I know a lot of people don't get why some of us take so many pictures and that's okay. It's important to me so that's all that matters. I look back at pictures from my childhood which are often the only reason I have a memory of that event. I'm grateful for every single picture I have of my brother who died far too young. I know I need to get in more pictures as I wish my mom was. So this year I plan to continue taking pictures every week, but not necessarily every day. I'll work on skill building, on telling stories, and capturing moments. I won't edit every night which means I'll spend more time working out, reading, watching TV, feeling less obligated to complete a specific task. I might even write more. I'll admit I miss it a bit.
So hear I am, ready to start the new year, a continuation of the past. A building of a life I want to live... and capturing it along the way.