This past trip to California has been different than the others. I leave today around 1pm for the airport to go back home to Chicago, and this time around I’m feeling a different kind of fulfillment – nothing better than previous visits per say, just different. And I think I know why. I’m about to let the cat out of the bag – I left my camera back at home. I didn’t bring it with (on purpose). Not only that, but I have only a handful of photos of Soren from this past week, and just two videos of him telling his two newest “knock knock” jokes. Generally, I am knee deep in photos and videos.. and as I’m reviewing them on the plane, or even a week or so later, there’s a little pang in my chest that feels a little bit like sadness. Not the kind of sadness from leaving the ones I love (obviously that happens!), but the kind of sadness that makes you feel like maybe you could have done better as an aunt or as a sister. Always thinking: I could have been more present.
I vowed this time to embrace each laugh, every joke, and to soak up every little thing that came out of his mouth. I didn’t reach for my phone and make him pause mid-sentence to make sure that I could “catch the moment” that was no longer organic. Instead, I listened. I locked eyes with him and really heard him in all he had to say. And quite frankly, I found his gestures and choice of words all the more precious actually living in the moment with him, rather than living in the moment, through my phone.
It gets difficult with my job as a photographer -because I almost feel this intense responsibility to document every little thing I experience in full, no matter where I am. And it’s true, it is important to some aspect, and sometimes I actually really DO want to document every little thing because it feels good to my soul. But it’s equally, if not more important, to be present. I don’t ever want my family or future littles to think that I hide behind my latest piece of technology – whether it’s to capture something cute they’re doing or not. The thought of them thinking that I may not be really listening as much as they’d like me to – or thinking that I might be distracted.
I know that my job is to capture moments in life – and I’m so grateful for that, to have a job that I love. But that’s just it – while it’s a large part of what makes me who I am, it isn’t ALL of who I am. First and foremost, who I am is an aunt, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, a best friend. Sure, you’ll still find me instagraming photos from places that I’ve seen or things I find to be strikingly beautiful or worthy of a share. I will still bring my camera along with me on trips and vacations or when I’m out for a walk, and continue to photograph the people that I love – but perhaps there’s beauty in the balance of letting life take the lead to preserving our memories some of these times. If my camera is alongside to catch something magical in the making, I’m thankful. But I’m trying every day to remember that life can also be re-lived through words created from our memory; a beautiful part of the brain that surely in this day in age, doesn’t get enough credit.
So perhaps we can do our best, as Jim Elliott said.. to be all there, wherever we are. Unplugged.
* Sidenote: While we are on the subject of being present, watch this video. It’s perfect.
** image creator unknown // found here.0