We're finished with Week 13 of the 365 More People Pictures project. I close this week feeling so fortunate to have met so many good people. Everyone has a story. Everyone can enrich our lives in some way.
Day 84 - Lee
This is Lee. I've known Lee for about 8 years or so. She manages a nail salon/day spa, and she and the ladies who work there are more like friends. I appreciate them beyond words.
I asked Lee the happiest thing happening in her life right now. Lee started to answer the question in a way that made me think she was answering quite literally, because her answer was about the customers in the shop at that moment. I simplified and clarified, asking instead, "what makes you happy?". When Lee began to answer in the same way, I realized that she hadn't misunderstood me at all. Lee's work ethic is so strong that there is no separation between her happiness at work, and her personal happiness. The two are directly related. Lee answered that being busy makes her happy. Lee is happy when she's providing a service for her customers, and she's happy when the shop is busy because it makes her happy for her employees. She's happy when customers return. Lee told me it makes her happy to know they're taking care of their customers and helping them to feel better.
I asked Lee if she's recently performed an act of kindness. Lee said that she gives money to homeless people she sees at stoplights.
"I hope for my children to be good and to be happy," Lee answered, when I asked her life's purpose.
"The business, my children and family," Lee said, is something about herself which she considers to be a success.
Day 85 - Ted
This is Ted. He was waiting for the bus when I approached to ask if I could take his picture. Ted was reluctant at first, only because he didn't think we could take the picture before the bus arrived. I assured Ted that I race the bus all the time and was confident we could do it.
"My daughter," Ted answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now.
I asked Ted if he had a personal mission statement or could define his life's purpose and he answered, "to take care of my family."
"I'm a good father," Ted answered, when I asked something about himself which he would consider to be a success.
And with that, the bus arrived, scooped up Ted, and we were on our separate ways.
After Ted departed and as I was walking back to my car, I realized that I constantly put myself in high-pressure situations where I'm trying to get a picture of a person before the bus comes. I do it so often, it's almost the norm and unfortunately, I have some bad habits because of it. When I'm not racing the bus and the person isn't in a big hurry to get gone, I still rush things. I'm working on s-l-o-w-i-n-g down. By working on, I mean that I know it's something I need to work on, but I'm not making progress. When I leave a person, I'm often kicking myself for not having taken more time with them. It's tricky finding the balance between spending enough time to take as nice a picture as I'm currently capable of doing, but not taking so much time that I'll annoy the person.
Day 86 - Courtney
This is Courtney. She was also waiting for the bus when I asked if I could take her picture. I sat down on the bench with Courtney, and we had a pleasant visit.
I asked Courtney the happiest thing happening in her life right now, and she was having trouble giving an answer. Courtney decided that she was happy there are people in the world who are trying to make things better for animals.
I asked Courtney if she had recently performed an act of kindness. She couldn't think of a specific example, but said that she tries to be kind every day, which led directly into Courtney's life's purpose - "to try to be as kind and unjudgmental as possible."
"Learning how to be more accepting and how to live each day," Courtney answered, when I asked something about herself which she would consider to be a success. Courtney went on to say that she tries not to dwell in the past, but instead, lives each present day.
Courtney and I talked for a while and I told her that I'm also working on being nonjudgmental, and confessed that I still catch myself getting wrapped up in stupid stuff that I should just let go. The example I gave Courtney was that I get bothered when I see grown adults wearing pajamas at the grocery store or out in public. I told her I knew this was a form of judgement and that it's ridiculous for me to be bothered. It's not my life. It shouldn't matter to me if they chose to wear PJ's in public. This is just a small example of course, but the point is, if I was allowing myself to be judgmental over stupid things like PJ's in public, then how could I ever expect to grow and be the person I want to be? Courtney suggested reading Anais Nin, as she is helping Courtney in her own quest for growth. Anais Nin is now on my reading list. Thank you, Courtney.
Day 87 - Mike
This is Mike. We met walking down the street.
"I just moved into a new place," Mike answered, when I asked the happiest thing happening in his life right now. Mike's recent move also put him on the receiving end of kindness because his friends helped him move.
I asked Mike if he had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose and he answered, "to be a good person and do right by people."
Something about himself which Mike considers to be a success is that he's doing well in school. He has 3 undergraduate degrees!
Day 88 - Andy
This is Andy. I spotted him walking down the street.
When I asked Andy about the happiest thing happening in his life, he said it was a hard question. I could tell he was thinking, but he couldn't, or wouldn't, give an answer. I told him it was ok and that we could come back to it.
I then asked Andy if he had recently performed an act of kindness, or if he'd been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. Andy questioned me why the questions were so tough. Again, I told him we could come back to it.
When I asked Andy if he had a personal mission statement or his life's purpose, he answered with a quote by T.S. Eliot - "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."
"I'm still alive," Andy answered, when I asked something about himself which he considers to be a success.
We then circled back to the first two questions. Andy again said they were tough questions, and that's when he explained that he's not a very happy person. He asked why I couldn't ask him negative questions, like what makes him unhappy or about things that are wrong. Andy said it would be much easier for him to answer those questions. I laughed and explained to Andy that the question is a cleverly disguised exercise in gratitude and it's my hope that when people think about the things that make them happy, they'll consider all the things they have to be happy about.
Andy finally answered, "I'm happy that I met you." I felt shy and didn't know how to respond. I figured this was exactly Andy's intention with his answer, and that he was trying to make me go away.
Ok. Now to circle back to question 2. I asked Andy for the second time if he had performed an act of kindness or if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. "It was nice of you to take my picture," Andy replied. Again, I wondered if Andy's answer was an attempt to make me go away, or if he was poking a little fun at me. Andy may have been unable to think of an act of kindness, but I consider it a huge act of kindness that he let me take his picture, and that he opened up to a complete stranger.
I was enjoying our time. For a person who doesn't think he's happy, Andy is quite friendly and playful.
After we parted and as I was on my way home, I thought of Andy and hoped the exercise worked. I hoped he was considering things in his life from a different perspective, and that he was able to find something in his life for which he is happy.
Andy, if you happen to read this and if you can't think of anything else, I hope that it makes you happy to know that you make others happy.
When I got home that night and prepared the picture for Instagram, I was pleased to see this picture in which you can detect a tiny bit of happiness spilling out from Andy. He may not have known it, but for at least a moment, he was happy.
Day 89 - Michael
This is Michael. I had just parked my car to go in search of a subject when Michael and his dog walked by.
When I approached Michael to ask if I could take his picture, his dog circled around my feet, tangling us with his leash. At that moment, I was giving my attention to Michael and having only seen the dog out of the corner of my eye, I thought he was walking a chihuahua. (A fat chihuahua.) I love dogs and I normally want to pet and love on every dog I meet, but thinking the dog was a chihuahua, I was holding back. There's very good reason. I'm afraid of chihuahuas. Yes. I said it. I was viciously attacked and scared for life by my aunt's chihuahua, and my mother-in-law's chihuahua didn't like me much either. (But, that dog didn't like anyone except my mother-in-law.) However, Michael's "chihuahua" was quite friendly and obviously wanted my attention. After Michael agreed to let me take his picture, I looked down to untangle ourselves and realized the chihuahua wasn't a fat chihuahua at all!! It was a puppy! Michael confirmed it was a Frenchie puppy!! Oh no. It was over. I lost my ability to focus.
I resisted the urge to scoop the puppy in my arms and give him lovins, and instead, proceeded to take Michael's picture and ask the questions.
When I asked Michael the happiest thing happening in his life right now, he answered that it was his puppy, Biscuits.
I asked Michael if he's recently performed an act of kindness or if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. He said that someone bought his coffee at Starbucks.
"Enjoy life to the fullest because we never know when it can be taken away," Michael answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose.
When I asked Michael something about himself which he would consider to be a success, he answered modestly, saying that he used to be a good soccer player. I gave him a look which invited him to explain further. Michael then when on to say that he played professionally in England. I'm one of the few people in the world who knows little to nothing about soccer. The only thing I knew is that if Michael played professionally in England, he was very, very good. I was embarrassed I couldn't ask him more questions about soccer and his career, but instead I asked what brought him to Portland. Michael has coached with the Timbers and also a local high school team.
We continued to talk about his accent, Liverpool, and Biscuits. I told him how we have a customer at work who got one French Bulldog, and she now has three. I told him how she used to bring her three puppies into the office and that we all fell in love with her Frenchies. I asked Michael if he planned on stopping with just Biscuits, or if he was considering another. Of course, Michael is already considering another - and its name shall be Gravy. Biscuits and Gravy.
And then, being the ridiculous person I am, I proceeded to tell him about how "gassy" our customer's puppies were and how they could stink-up the entire office. Great. Just great. I'm meeting a professional soccer player from England and what do I talk about? Dog farts. I simply wanted to prepare him, had he not already known about Frenchie flatulence. He was already well-aware of intestinabilities of the adorable little creatures. (Yes, I embarrass myself on nearly a daily basis. I'm trying to get better.)
Before meeting Michael, I was starting to feel confidence with the correct camera settings for nighttime. Michael and I were in a dark parking lot and just the slightest difference between the dark parking lot and more well-lit sidewalks where I normally shoot, was enough to trip me up. When I got home to prepare the pictures, I regretted not having done better with Michael. I rushed things too much, I should have tried other settings, and I should have made sure I had a good picture of both Michael and Biscuits before we left.
I had fun with Michael and Biscuits and hopefully we'll bump into each other again some day. I'll be sure to ask for a do-over so that you can meet the adorable and heart-stealing Biscuits.
Day 90 - Nick
This is Nick. I didn't realize when I approached Nick to ask if I could take his picture, but he was actually in the process of looking for his iPhone, which he had just dropped somewhere within the past block. Nick agreed to let me take his picture, but I told him we could first look for his phone together.
Nick knew his phone was on vibrate but I called it anyway. We knew it would be difficult to hear because of all of the noisy street traffic rushing by. The phone rang, but didn't help us to locate it. I continued to dial his phone and we continued searching. The phone wasn't anywhere to be found. Nick then had the realization that someone walked by him right before he realized he had dropped his phone. It was possible the person who walked by him picked up Nick's dropped phone and then went on his way. After calling Nick's phone a few more time and having it go straight to voicemail, we realized this is probably what happened. The person who took Nick's phone probably freaked out that I had kept calling and they turned the phone off. I was bummed for Nick. Nick decided to stop looking and come back later in the evening when it was dark, hoping the phone would be illuminated when called.
This was the cherry on top of a perfectly bad week for Nick. Nick told me that his car broke down a few days prior, and that he had some other bad luck as well. Nick was so nice and so calm, and he was rather optimistic considering he now had one more inconvenience to take care of, after already having a few to deal with this week.
I was impressed by Nick. He has a good head on his shoulders and he was able to keep great perspective on his situation. Having your car break down and losing your cell phone within a matter of days is stressful, but Nick wasn't letting it get the best of him.
I apologized to Nick for asking the questions I was about to ask, knowing he wasn't having the best week.
I asked Nick the happiest thing happening in his life right now and Nick explained that he wasn't 100% sure about the answer because he was feeling like he was in a transitional period. He answered that he's happy he decided to stay in Portland for the next 10 months which gives him time to figure out his priorities and strategize his next move. Prior to renewing the lease on his apartment, he was uncertain on whether or not he would stay in Portland or move to LA to pursue a career in film/animation.
I asked Nick if he had recently performed an act of kindness, or if he's been on the receiving end of an act of kindness. Nick said that he tries to do everything in his power to be kind and helpful to people. As of recent, Nick is feeling like he's been more on the receiving end of kindness. The day his car broke down, his friends helped him with his car and helped to get him home.
"I believe the meaning of life is the lack thereof," Nick answered, when I asked if he had a personal mission statement or a life's purpose. Nick went on to explain that the main thing needed to be happy, is his "ability to seek truth and beauty in all things, and to try to learn how the universe works."
I asked Nick something about himself which he considers to be a success. Nick answered, "I manage to be consistent with my world view." Nick explained that he's happy, day-to-day, despite that his life isn't exactly where he wants it to be right now. He dreams of working in film, and being creative in general, and he knows that some day he will realize his dream.
Nick and I took one more look around to see if maybe the phone would jump out at us, now that we had taken a break for a moment. Still no luck. We said our good-byes and I offered my old phone to Nick if his phone didn't turn up when he came back to look for it. I explained to Nick that my old phone's camera was broken and he would have to baby the navigation button, but at least it would be a temporary fix so that he wouldn't have to put out two fires at once - having to find a new car and a new phone.)
Nick has such a great outlook on life. I have no doubt he's going to make it far in life, in whatever he chooses for himself.
Wishing you good luck, Nick!
Here's the summary of the wisdom we gained from this week's subjects:
- I hope for my children to be good and to be happy.
- To take care of my family.
- To try to be as kind and unjudgmental as possible."
- To be a good person and do right by people.
- Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
- Enjoy life to the fullest because we never know when it can be taken away,
- I believe the meaning of life is the lack thereof - seek truth and beauty in all things, and to try to learn how the universe works.
Thank you to each and every person who has been a subject in this project. My sincere appreciation for your kindness and for sharing yourself with us.