I want to write for myself, as myself. One that has not been inspired to write just for the love of it in eight months or so. My mind has been distracted, filled with worry, and has simply been tired.
I took a walk by myself a few weeks ago. This is something that has never been done, even though it seems so trivial. I have never taken myself on a walk all alone. I guess I brought my camera, so I wasn’t really alone but to an outside perspective, I was very much by myself.
No car, only my feet to carry me to a park about a mile away from campus. I was honestly terrified. It was a beautiful day so I knew people would be exploring the outdoors. So many people, none of which I knew. Even the thought of making eye contact with a stranger as I walked by myself sent shivers down my spine.
When I woke up that late February morning, the sun burst through my curtains and there was no hiding from it. For the last month and a half, I had stuck to my schedule and tried to just keep my head down. It was the final semester of school for most of my friends at my University and instead of embracing that reality I denied it, I still do partially deny it. I just can’t imagine finishing school without them here with me. I’ll be forced to break out of my shell that I have created and meet new people, or simply be okay with being by myself and taking care of myself.
Phone buzzing beside me, I see a message from both my mother and brother. Get outside today Allie! Get some vitamin D, the weather isn’t going to last forever. Scoffing I push off responding and I roll out of bed. I fall into my routine: go to the bathroom, make some coffee, sit and do work or watch a show. I get another text from my brother. Go for a walk Allie, listen to music and bring your camera. It’ll be good; get some fresh air. Knowing he was probably right, I sighed, changed into more appropriate “outside” clothes. Finding a small backpack for my camera, I slipped it in along with another lens. I find my headphones, start a good playlist and walk out of the door.
It takes me about 15 minutes to make it to the park. Runners and bikers pass me, I get half smiles from parents pushing their children in strollers. I wonder what they’re thinking or if they even consider my presence at all. After a while, I come to realize that the people I pass are probably just about as concerned with me as I am with them: minimally. This first realization inspires me to pull out my camera and it remains in my hand for the rest of my two and a half hour walk around the park.
The sun had melted the ice and snow from a storm the week before. Mud covered my shoes with every step. The worst part was that the sneakers I had on had “breathable holes” on the sides of them which gave easy access to the mud to come and attack my socks. Surprisingly enough it didn’t bother me. I continued to walk down the various paths that spanned the length of the park’s grounds.
I find myself in a strange state whenever I put my eye near my camera ‘s viewfinder, especially when I’m doing this with no one around. Sucked into a world of composition, lighting, subject, and perspective, nothing in the world surrounding me could possibly be a distraction. Sitting in mud, crouching in tall, wet grasses, walking through a stream – I will do whatever it takes to get the photo I have sketched in my mind. It is also freeing to do this on no one’s agenda, except my own. No one is around to ask me questions or disrupt my creative process. All alone, I thrive. My ears stop hearing the music and my camera guides my feet. Moving forward, inch my inch, and of course making many stops along the way.
Suddenly it is 4:00 PM; I had left my room at around 1:30 PM. Surprised at the time I had spent with myself, I realized that the whole time spent out of my room, I have thoroughly enjoyed. Not once did I care about the weird looks I got for standing in the river or sitting in the middle of walkways to maximize the symmetry of my shot. There were people everywhere and I wasn’t afraid of their looks or smiles or actions. It didn’t matter what was going on around me, I was too engulfed in my photography to care about anything else.
My camera was not used as a way to hide, like how I normally used it. I often find myself in social situations, with my camera on my body – a shield from the outside world, an object to show my separation from the rest of the people around me. However, this time my camera brought me out and helped me enjoy myself, it brought me among others, even though I had feared going out alone. Photography had never been put in such a vital role for me, as it was on this randomly warm winter Saturday.
Photography is more than a creative outlet, it is something that I hold dear to my heart, something I know can connect me to others in new ways and give me confidence I didn’t know was in me. This walk I took, although I was against the idea, especially because it was something I had to do alone, showed me that I could be myself, surrounded my strangers and not become nervous and overwhelmed. This walk was a first step into my independence; a foreshadowing of what was to come and reassurance that I was going to be just fine.
And for the record, I was also able to get some sweet photos out of the experience as well.