Three years ago my landlord of the previous 6 years told me he was selling the house I had been living in, and that my housemates and I would need to be moved out by the end of the summer. It was unbelievably hard to let go. I lived on the same neighborhood block of the building that I was born in and I had never felt so connected to any other place.
After speaking with my landlord, I packed all of my heirlooms and extra household goods into a storage unit and loaded my truck with all the necessities I needed to survive. I loaded up my dog, threw an atlas on my passenger seat and left everything I knew and loved behind.
As I wandered through the western American BLM wilderness without a plan, I made some major adjustments in my life. I had to plan meals in chunks of 3-4 days with nothing but a mini ice-cooled cooler. I had to adjust to rationing water between having enough for my dog and I to drink as well as having some for cooking and bucket showers until I could fill up at the next stop. I had to stay alert and aware of my surroundings. I had to make my own fires and set up my own camps. I switched to drinking cowboy coffee and my laptop stayed mostly tucked away.
The little adjustments throughout my daily life were muddled profusely by the emotional toll this new life had in store for me. When I left, I had a tiny little budget. I had a little over $2000 for, well, I had NO idea how long. The town I left was a small community in a picturesque town that I had spent much of my youth trying to prove to city council how badly it needed affordable housing for local laborers. Many, many years later even though I was a native born citizen there, I was forced out again and this time it was not possible to stay. The emotional and fiscal strain made leaving my home valley my only plausible option.
I was defeated, and I cannot express in words just how painful that felt when all I wanted to do was stay home and continue living in the community I had loved so much.
Once I left, I was completely on my own. The daily adjustments and learning how to live an isolated and solitary new life with new habits and new challenges gave me a chance to divert my focus from what I had lost over to the puzzle of figuring out how to navigate my new reality.
Sustaining the next meal, maintaining hygiene, deciding where to go next, and keeping my daily journal kept me pretty busy and it became easier and easier to find joy in my new reality through new landscapes and defeating unpredictable challenges.
I never have, and will never stop thinking about and yearning for the home I once knew, but I’ve learned that life is an ever-evolving journey and the definitions of things can change and evolve over time, including what you consider home / comfortable.
This is where I transition into the relevance of my journey to our current reality.
Today is Monday March 23rd, 2020. As anyone reading this right away already knows, we are in the midst of a historical global pandemic. A virus that we cannot control has spread across the globe and entire countries are shutting down and insisting that their citizens “shelter-in-place” This has put entire industries at a stand-still. It has shut down “non-essential” businesses across the globe and is wearing our resources thin.
Personally, I have been navigating through this with more solidarity and stamina than many of the people I have been communicating with and this has everything to do with my perspective of the way our reality evolves.
As a photographer, I tend to see the world through the lens of a photographer’s perspective.
Let me explain; as a photographer your job is to create the most accurate portrayal of the image in which you are trying to capture. Often you must step back and take a look at the image in adjunct to what remains outside the frame. You’re essentially capturing a small blip of a much larger picture, or existence really, because with each image you are telling just a small piece of a story.
As our situation mounts into uncharted territory of uncertainty of what may lie in the future for us all, consider time traveling with me for a brief moment…
Go back to your formative years. Think about the days when your imagination was filled with dragons and fairies, being an astronaut or even learning how to fly. Go back to a time when magic still existed and there were no limitations or repercussions for 'day-dreaming'. Think about the time when you were excited to believe in the idea that grandpa actually pulled that quarter out of your ear.
… Remember those times? Now consider this;
Use that same imagination to step away from the current frame of life. Maybe even use meditation to guide you to where your soul thrives. Construct a new frame surrounding an existence that makes your soul happy deep down in its depths. Strip away the guidelines and rules you’re used to. Build yourself an image that tells the story you actually believe in.
Make sure that it is one you truly believe in.
What would that look like? What would you be doing? Who would be there? What would they be doing? How would everyone be acting? What does the environment look like? How would it sustain itself?
•••Use that imagination•••
Give it another moment and rethink it.
Refine that image.
Now, don’t mind the cliché, but consider taking this phrase seriously:
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” -Mahatma Gandhi 1869 -1948
This new found state of the world is not as much a threat, but rather is that clean slate you’ve been dreaming about every time you get another bill in the mail, every time you pay taxes and then immediately hit a pothole that those taxes are supposed to be taking care of while sitting in traffic to get home from the tax office, every time you can’t afford a babysitter, every time you get an outlandish bill from the hospital and even more so from the Pharmacy, every day you get up to go to a job you hate, and every time you hear your leaders boasting about the benefits they're working for you to have, even though you just never see them no matter how hard you work.
I’d like to share a few of the “What Ifs” I’ve been mulling through lately and before all of the comments flood in, I’d like to proclaim that I am not a scholar and there is a multitude of information that I do not have on these subjects. They are merely ideas surrounding parts of my own day dream of a world where:
The dollar does not exist and we survive as humans through our skills in communication and our roles in our community practiced in every facet of life and trade.
Our labor bears the fruits of the work in which we’ve put into it and our livelihood matches our efforts communally.
Our livelihood does not fall subject to greed and dirty politics.
Our trade is not damaging to the earth because we actively choose to produce and use sustainable practices and operate only through the principals of altruism.
Our education is accessible and viable to the needs of our greatest collective existence.
We teach our children to sacrifice unnecessary comforts in effort for others not to suffer.
We all spend a small amount of time helping others every day.
I could continue, but I think you’re starting to understand the image I’ve created in my own 'day-dream' of the world I want to live in and this article is step one of an attempt at “being the change I’d like to see in the world. I’m here to plant the seed of a world outside our current frame of view.
Money works because we agree that it does.
Politics are sour because we agree to not hold politicians and leaders accountable for their actions. You believe you should “own” things because we all agree that it’s necessary to conceal and keep separate what is yours from what is your neighbors. We live just feet from each other and some of us have never met even though we’ve been right next to each other for years.
What if hotels were just community houses and we all had shifts to help keep them running while also having the freedom to up and move to another location at any time.
What if malls became mansions and retail shops became community closets with laundry attendants.
What if offices became learning spaces for practice and organization of trade that’s completely open to the public.
What if the locks were taken off all existing transportation vehicles…
Before my ideas become too controversial; all the oppositions that just flew through your head and into the comments came from your existing knowledge of social norms and essentially your existing “frame” of the now old way of life.
When building your new image of a brand new existence we just so happen to be entering into, try to remember to step away from the frame and analyze the possibilities that lie outside that frame. Introduce yourself to new ideas and your capability to stand for the change we need in this world. Ask yourself what you actually agree to and how much power you really have to create a brand new image that can become an actually tangible reality.
You might actually be surprised by what you find.