Current Location: Midland, Michigan, USA / 43°37′25.0″N 84°13′45.7″W
If you ever meet me in person, I'm much more friendlier than this blog. I like to consider myself as some what of a cross pollination between being openly forward, with a rather liberal ideology and a male version of Oprah Winfrey--soft hearted and can cry on command. In real life, I'm not always the "touching, heart wrenching" writer that I seem to be on this blog. No, I'm rather easy going. I can take a joke, poke back at you with wit that can tear Goliath into pieces, and will do things you'd never thought possible--like the time I rode backwards on a motorcycle...sober. But that's the topic of a future post.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'm normal. I too have a life outside of the fourth estate. I find comfort in friends and family, I enjoy driving on a Sunday afternoon, eating junk food on rainy days, having a beer or two after work--and some times, I even like my office job! But it's amazing when I think about it--about the flexibility I must have when I transport myself from one world to another, from peace to conflict, first and third. It's challenging some times to flick that switch, to mentally tell yourself that it's now time to act your age (or beyond), that it's not Kansas anymore, not your average nine to five day job.
It's hard, very hard. And sometimes, your life changes within hours, within seconds and minutes of landing on the other side of the world--and just like that, like the turning of a knob, you instantly become a different person. For me, as a photographer, it's like being a soldier adjusting from civilian life to being on active duty. I always have to be alert, cautious at all times, ready for the unknown.
I'm different when I'm in the field. Most times, I sit in the car in silence--peering out the window, finding shots, looking ahead for possible ambush. It's a soldiers mentality in a photographers body--a constant and re-occurring fear that something can and will go wrong. But just like all soldiers, we have a heart, too. We care for the people we meet, feel sorrow for the hardships they endure and weep in our bed when it all gets too hard to take in. We're human.
Lately, after coming home from my recent assignment in the jungles of Indonesia, I find it difficult to flick off that switch--to come back to civilian life.
The toughest is at night. I'd lay there in my bed, tossing and turning, trying desperately to fall asleep--but to no avail. And when I close my eyes, I imagine myself in the field, constantly looking for shots, looking for dangers, but also wondering if what I'm shooting will make my bosses happy. In my nocturnal dreams, I envision myself behind the camera, walking through the jungle, shooting in the slums, and falling from the sky in a Cessna single engine-airplane. When I awake, the images repeat itself, over and over again--tired, but triumphant knowing that I'm alive. This is exactly what I went thru when I first got back from Afghanistan--I guess that feeling never left me. Fear follows me with every assignment. It's embedded within me.
In America, no one really talks about life and death, poverty and despair. No one seems to understand. I'd go to movies, visit friends, spend some money and indulge in fine cuisine--but after a while, I find myself lost in a world of falsified fact and fiction. Out at night, looking for adventure, I'd weave thru traffic and lose myself in the crowd. Walking pass a bar, a group of girls with fruit colored drinks talk about plastic surgery and hot looking men. I'd see their lips move, look at their perfect lives--their snapshot smiles and expensive jewelry. I didn't know what to think, so I keep walking. Looking down, I'd see nothing but my shoes...and the dirt stains left behind from my recent assignment.
Slowly, I'm trying to adjust. But working overseas, traversing untouched territory and meeting fascinating people is what makes me happy. Being there, I can feel the air hum, neutrons and protons collide--moving through me in a never ending funnel of hope. No barrier between life and death, just one small step, one foot after another.