I’m packing. Again. Packing has always been one of my least favorite chores, along with laundry and trips to the post office to mail things, both of which need to be done as well. A year ago, I would have been packing for my eighth trip of the year, to be immediately followed by a ninth, but this year it’s my first and also possibly my last.
This year is different from last year in so many ways. Last year I wandered from continent to continent, from sea level to 19,000 feet, over oceans and across the equator. This year, I’ve stuck to New England, with only a single recent trip to New Jersey to visit my mom. Last year I photographed rhinoceros and crocodiles, this year nothing. From the outside, this year might seem anticlimactic and ordinary, but I’m not only okay with it, I love it.
This year, I am buying a house, starting a new full time position at a place I love to work, and spending time investing in myself and nurturing relationships with people I care about. I am busier, happier, and healthier than I have been in a long time. My work has nothing to do with photography, and months go by where I don’t pick up my camera. Photography is still a part of my life, but not an everyday part.
When I see photographers posting advertisements for workshops on Facebook or images from their latest and greatest adventures abroad, I feel no envy. I actually think, “Thank goodness I am done with that.” Then I go to work, get accidentally pelted with a hockey puck, reprimand a group of 6th graders for yelling too loudly, and discover a new bruise on my collarbone from dynamic dumbbell squats.
These days, I am most inspired by the kids who work a project on our climbing wall for days, weeks, or months until one day they finally make it to the top. I’m inspired by local photographers who capture the beauty of New England with such detail and artistry that you would have no idea that they work night shifts behind a bar and shoot with an entry level camera. I’m inspired by the obese woman who gets up the courage to join a gym and put on a bathing suit because swimming is the only activity she can do that doesn’t hurt her joints because of her weight. It’s cool if you are one of those photographers who has spent tens of thousands of dollars on camera gear and traveled halfway around the world to photograph the same attractions in ways similar to how hundreds of others have before, but you no longer inspire me and I no longer envy you. It’s cool and all, but it doesn’t bring happiness to my heart or tears to my eyes the way the people in my life now do.
This year is new and exciting in a much different way than last year, and I find myself enjoying each day more and more and very happy with the direction my life has taken. As I pack, I am reminded of all of the clutter of the past. I am both surprised and saddened by all of the unnecessary possessions I have accumulated in the three years I have lived here. My goal has always been to “Simplify! Simplify!” as Thoreau once wrote, and now I am finally doing it.
It has never been easy to decide between wanting to travel and explore and experience the world and my desire to have a place that feels like home and people who are more or less constant forces in my life. Balance is key, of course, but it is hard to find. Now, as I pack my backpacking gear for one last trip, and everything else for a final move, purging all the excess I don’t need, I feel happy and light. I am at peace with my choices and their outcomes. I am happy where I am in life. I know none of these things are forever, but it’s nice to know where home will be and where my paycheck will come from for the foreseeable future. The very best part – familiar hugs are just a few miles away when I need them.