Current Location: Midland, Michigan, USA / 43°37′25.0″N 84°13′45.7″W
Sometimes, I have to remind myself why I'm doing what I do, what has brought me to where I am today, and the person that I am becoming. It's easy to be lost in thought, in time, and in life.
You see, growing up in front of a TV screen wasn't easy. My parents both worked long hours--I'd wake up in the morning and they'd be gone. I'd prep myself for school, locked the doors when I left--and at night, I'd go to bed and they wouldn't even be home yet. The television was my friend. It spoke to me, told me stories, took me to places I never even heard of, sold me on things I never could afford--in retrospect, seeing the world thru a tube was simply magical. It inspired me, sparked my imagination and forever left a lasting mark on my childhood. Maybe that's why when the councilor in highschool asked me what I wanted to do in life, I simply replied, "I want to work in TeeVee!" Next thing knew I was enrolled in the media program. They slapped me with a camera and proclaimed me "The Camera Guy."
So there I was--a ninth grade camera nerd. I looked like a Japanese tourist.
I admit, I wasn't the most popular guy with the ladies, nor was I the most charming--but let me tell ya, I was one lean-mean-picture taking-MACHINE! Day in and day out, I devoted my life to the helm of a camera. I worshipped the studio and proclaimed my camera my soul-mate. I named her Minoltalina. Girls thought I was gay. My parents began to worry. They contemplated about sending me to Japan. But by senior year, things started to change for the better. I became one of the most saught after guys in my class. Girls would say "Heyyy Ron, can you take our picture?" And I'd say, "Ohhh yeahhhh!" My camera was a "magnet for chicks!" My dad was so happy that he even gave me the keys to his 1984 Oldsmobile when I landed my first date.
In college, on top of my undergraduate curriculum, I'd con my way into graduate level classes--simply by telling them the truth: I'm poor, I'm hungry for knowledge (and food), and I just want to learn. Professors believed in me, guided me and trained me to become the cinematographer they hoped for me to be. I was trained by some of the best pioneers in the industry--like Richard Lietterman who shot Stephen King's IT and CSI. Like me, he was a ninth grade camera nerd too.
Over the weekend I had a lot of time to think about my options, about Dave's assignment in Afghanistan and about the reasons why I turned it down. To be honest, I was sad--upset at why I had to let down a good friend. But after hours of retrospect, I realized that I had forgotten about that ninth grade camera nerd. I forgot about how hard I've worked to get to where I am today--to enjoy the fruits of my labor without having to sacrifice life.
When I first went to Afghanistan with Dave, I was a mere rookie looking for a break. I went because I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, that I could survive. It wasn't because I believed in making a difference or changing lives, nope. It was for something trivial and stupid. I went for the adventure. It would've been for the same reason this time, had I accepted.
Well, I'm all grown up now. I no longer look like a Japanese tourist, nor do I drive my dad's '84 Olds. But deep down, I know I'm still that ninth grade camera nerd.