Wow! We're finished with week 51 of The 365 Day People picture project! (Technically, there are 8 days left in the project.) I've found myself continuing to get pretty emotional when I think about this past year. I confess... I've had to shut off my thoughts because I get a little too overwhelmed when I think about all of the people I've met this year. At this moment, I'm not feeling the sense of accomplishment that I thought I would feel. However, the project isn't over yet and admittedly, I've had to turn down the volume on my emotions just to get through this. Have you or a friend ever had plans to move away and you start to miss someone before they're even gone? I feel like that. I'm missing people I haven't even met yet. This feeling tells me that I can't be done with this yet. But on the other hand, I am pretty tired. I don't know what to do, exactly, but we have an entire 8 days for inspiration to strike.
Day 351 - Franklin
This is Franklin. He was just about to change clothes to race in the Vancouver Courthouse Criterium. I didn't want to keep him or interfere, so I only asked two questions.
In real life, he was about as nice as could be, but I liked this picture because he looked like a fierce competitor, with a serious "game face."
"Being successful going to school," Franklin said, is the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
I asked Franklin if he had a personal mission statement or could define his life's purpose and he replied, "to be dedicated and self motivated."
Day 352 - Ben
This is Ben. We met at the stairs at Mt. Tabor Park. I asked Ben the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he replied, "work...work is going well."
I asked Ben if he had recently performed an act of kindness. He replied, "I sure hope so!" After thinking about it, he said that he's given a lot of his stuff away.
"Doubts are traitors," Ben replied, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement. He then explained it's an abbreviated quote from Shakespeare. I learned Ben's statement is shortened from a quote from Measure for Measure; "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing attempt." Wow! This is perfect! One of the major lessons I've learned this year is to simply attempt. Things don't have to be perfect...just start. No matter what it is, just get started and everything will fall into place and work itself out. We only truly fail, when we fail to even make an attempt.
I asked Ben something about himself which he considers to be a success, and Ben replied, "my family life."
Day 353 - Josh
This is Josh. "Summertime with family," Josh said, is the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
Josh's recent act of kindness is that he helped a friend move.
I asked Josh if he had a personal mission statement or if he could think of one on the spot. "Do the generous thing, be generous," Josh answered.
"Not giving up, and seeing things through," Josh replied, when I asked something about himself which he would consider to be a success.
Day 354 - Jason
This is Jason. He was sitting at a patio table outside of Whole Foods when we met. He looked so content and interesting. When I asked if I could take his picture, I sort of just sat down and made myself comfy at his table, hoping he would agree.
Jason asked if he could do something in the photo. I asked what he had in mind. He thought a moment and explained that he wanted to cover his face in a Patti Smith like move. I was hesitant and explained to Jason that I really wanted to see his eyes. Jason asked if I could use more than one picture and I said, "yes, it's my project so I can do whatever!" We reached a compromise that I would use both a picture of him covering his face, and also a portrait.
Jason gave me several different pictures of himself covering his face in various different ways. I attempted a few portraits but I wasn't confident I had captured a picture. We moved onto the "interview" and after, I was going to take a few more pictures.
I asked Jason the happiest thing happening in his life right now and he replied, "psychotherapy." Jason explained, "I'm learning how to inhabit my body in my own psychic world."
When I asked Jason if he had recently performed an act of kindness, I didn't quite understand his answer at first. After thinking about it and reaching an understanding of what he meant, I felt a little silly for not understanding immediately. Jason explained that earlier, he saw a crow get hit by a car. He was sad and worried for the crow, but he couldn't stop in traffic to help the bird. He was able to see that although injured, the crow didn't die. Jason was feeling sad for the crow, and sorry that he couldn't stop to help. He said he finally just had to forgive himself, forgive the crow. (From the way Jason described it, I like to imagine the crow just being a little dazed but that he was trying to shake it off, collect himself and then go on about the business of being a crow.)
One might think that a story such as this would have taken a different turn, one in which you rescue the bird with the help of the Audubon Society. But what if you couldn't? What if you couldn't stop to help the crow? That feeling of helplessness and guilt can stick with a person and leave an impact, especially to people who are sensitive to others. Whether it our inability to help an injured bird, or something else, sometimes we let situations affect us so intensely that we're weighed down by the guilt. I finally understood what I didn't understand when Jason first answered the question. Jason had to let go. Jason had to be kind to himself. Jason's act of kindness was in not allowing himself to be swallowed by guilt and regret for being unable to stop to ensure the bird was safe.
When I asked Jason if he had a personal mission statement or if he could think of one, he answered, "to remove the prohibitions from my life and to become fully embodied in the world."
It was right about this time when Jason greeted someone who I sensed had just come upon us from behind me. He said to her, "I'm being interviewed." Jason then introduced me to Faith, his girlfriend. Faith joined us at the table and we resumed.
I asked Jason something about himself which he would consider to be a success and he thought for a moment and then answered, "I've got a great array of shirts." I laughed, and asked, "T-shirts or button dress shirts?" Faith joined in and confirmed that he does indeed have great shirts. With Faith's help, he refined his answer to be, "I have a well-curated collection of button-down shirts." We all laughed and I agreed that it would be nice to be able to go to your closet and know that you're happy with everything in it.
After our interview, it was time to take a few more "portraits." As I was taking a picture, I was struck with the intense sadness in Jason's eyes, which I hadn't noticed before. I said to Jason, "you look so sad." Jason responded, "I am. I'm a sad guy." I felt for him. We had been having a pleasant conversation, but as soon as I became aware of the sadness in Jason's eyes, I couldn't focus on anything but that. Wanting to help lift his mood, I asked Jason if he could just try to fake happiness for just a moment. I assured Jason that if he could fake it for a moment, he could trick his brain into actually feeling happiness. Faith confirmed, "yes, it's how the brain works." I validated the effectiveness of faking it, as as I often trick myself into happiness! Jason agreed. He would fake happiness.
I asked Faith to join in the picture. Jason was attempting to give a convincing performance of happiness, and then it happened...happiness happened.
We continued to visit for a little while longer and I learned that it was Faith's Birthday. They were going to a movie at the Hollywood Theatre. I gestured to Whole Foods and asked if they were going to get birthday cake. They considered it, and then decided it was hot, and instead, they wanted birthday Kombucha. I could see that both Faith and Jason were both happy, and I was happy too.
As I was walking back to my car, I recalled a line from the movie Vanilla Sky - "I think she's the saddest girl to ever hold a martini." I imagined Faith and Jason as they were heading into the store to get birthday kombucha, and thought, "I think he's the saddest boy to ever hold a kombucha." I was feeling regret at not having asked for their contact info so that I could check in on them in the future. I was feeling protective and motherly. I want Jason to be happy, genuinely happy. I realized that Jason is going to be just fine. Jason's got a well thought out mission, he's finding himself and he's helping himself, and he's got great shirts. Everything is going to be ok. I have faith, and so does he.
Day 355 - Kim
This is Kim. She and her companion were sitting on the benches at the Park & Ride bus station. They looked like they were just as content as they would have been were they sitting on lounge chairs at the beach. The sun was shining from behind them and I soaked in their contentment for a moment before approaching them to ask if I could take their picture. Kim's companion encouraged her to take the picture alone.
I asked Kim the happiest thing happening in her life right now and she replied, "a new relationship."
Kim's recent act of kindness is that she gave a young homeless girl a bus ticket.
I asked Kim if she had a personal mission statement or if she could define her life's purpose. "To see all three of my girls graduate from college, and make it," Kim answered, is her life's purpose. Kim has raised three daughters as a single mom. Two daughters have already graduated from college and one is still in high school, but she already has her sights set on art school! This is an amazing accomplishment for any family, but especially when you're a single parent. When I asked Kim something about herself which she considers to be a success, she replied, "raising three girls, single."
Wishing success to Kim and her girls!
Day 356 - Justin
This is Justin. He was outside the Hollywood Theater, waiting for a friend. Justin agreed to let me take his picture as I was only 5 words into the explanation of the project. I love it when I meet someone who is so agreeable! They don't even need to know why I would ask to take their picture, they just "get it."
"I went to the river today," Justin answered, is the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
"Treat everyone around you like you treat yourself, and if you don't treat yourself well, try to," Justin said, is his personal mission statement.
When I asked Justin something about himself which he would consider to be a success, he was hesitant to answer. I persisted. Justin then answered, "I'm good to other people, and good at understanding other people." We agreed he was successful at having empathy.
Day 357 - Xolani and Guy
This is Xolani (left) and Guy (right). I spotted them just hanging out at Esther Short Park, in Vancouver. I sat down to join them on the grass as soon as they agreed to let me take their picture.
I asked them about the happiest thing happening in their lives right now and Xolani answered first, "learning how to code." Guy explained that would be his answer too. They're both in the same program in Portland. I've never met anyone who is so enthusiastic about writing code. Not only is it cool to see them so happy and passionate about code, but it was actually contagious and I was happy for them and everything they were about to accomplish.
I asked if they had performed a recent act of kindness. Xolani's recent act of kindness is that he's given money to homeless people. Guy's recent act of kindness is that after finding an iPhone, he spent close to an hour trying to figure out if he could get past the security lock on the phone in order to reach the owner's contacts, and then call one of those contacts to inform them he had found the phone and is trying to track down the owner. There's no way to manually unlock the security code, but Guy was able to figure out that he could access the contacts by using Siri, via voice command. Guy picked a common name, just hoping the owner would know someone by that common name, and instructed Siri to call that common named person. It worked! The owner did in fact know someone by that name! The person answered the call and Guy explained he had found the phone and was trying to track down the owner. The person was able to tell Guy the owner's name, and it turned out to be a neighbor.
I asked the pair if they had a personal mission statement or if they could think of one. Xolani answered, "to be happy and not tread on other people's happiness. Live and let live." Guy answered, "to live with nothing." Guy went on to explain that while he was traveling abroad, someone once asked him, "what do you have?" Guy considered the question and realized, "I have nothing." Guy explained his answer further in "not needing to have anything to feel good about myself and my situation." It seems to me, when you reach that level of enlightenment, you truly discover that you have everything you need.
I asked the friends something about themselves which they would consider to be a success. Xolani replied, "I finished my degree" and also, "I'm taking risks." Xolani was, at one time, terrified of risk. He said that until recently, he was just "going with the flow." He challenged himself to "go outside of normality", which for him, meant leaving his home in South Africa to journey here and learn how to write code. Xolani answered, "the fact that I'm here right now." Guy also explained that he's successful at coding. They both share respect and admiration for the process of learning how to build something from scratch. They explained that although coding isn't actually something tangible, the results are. Guy is able to look back on on where he started and see his progress to where he is now.
I enjoyed meeting Xolani and Guy. They both dream of being able to travel the world and their new skill will facilitate in making this a reality. Of course, Guy will be traveling lightly. After a few more pictures, I put away my journal and just visited for a little while longer. Once again, it felt like I was just hanging out with friends and not a couple strangers I had just met.
Wishing you to both the best of luck and success!
Here's a summary of the mission statements and life's purpose of the subjects from this week:
- To be dedicated and self motivated.
- Doubts are traitors
- Do the generous thing, be generous
- To remove the prohibitions from my life and to become fully embodied in the world.
- To see all three of my girls graduate from college, and make it.
- Treat everyone around you like you treat yourself, and if you don't treat yourself well, try to.
- To be happy and not tread on other people's happiness. Live and let live.
- To live with nothing -not needing to have anything to feel good about myself and my situation.
Thank you for following along, and my sincere thanks to each of the subjects in this project for sharing your time and a snippet of your life with us. If you've been a subject in this project and you would like a copy of your picture, please be sure to e-mail me and I would be happy to e-mail your picture to you!
Have a great week!