Monday, October 1, 2012

Washington, D.C. 2012 Wrap-Up

 The deeper involved that a person is in different things the greater the appreciation for how those activities can connect and make a person stronger.

Due to a series of unplanned events, I didn’t get home until almost 4am on Friday (actually Saturday) and had paperwork and repacking waiting which created a window for two solid hours of sleep.  Made it in time to catch the 7 hour bus ride to Lowell, Massachusetts for my team’s first regatta of the fall season.

The strongest feeling that developed this week is this: in no way do I regret returning to rowing for this fall but there’s nothing else I’d rather do next than conquer the next goal of getting an internship or assistant job. Once I get something in my head to get a hold of, everything else becomes a struggle until I catch it and put it to rest. So for that part, I’m relieved I went back to rowing and finished what I started. I realized half-way through the week that I didn’t miss rowing while away. 

 If anything that realisation caused me row harder this week because this will likely be the end of rowing for me for a long time and at last, I’m content in that. Completely content. In a circuitous path since graduating five years ago, I think I’ve actually narrowed in on the one direction for work I’d want to do and grapple with. NPR’s work is the intensely beautiful and fascinating. The idea of working with Dereck and Beverly Joubert, a couple who has created multiple documentaries in Africa for Nat Geo, creates a hold-your-breath kind of hope in me.

There’s no path to something I want- it’s now the path itself I find so intriguing and desirable. I don’t just want to win an award or “be” a visual journalist or achieve any specific title or goal- I just love multimedia and learning about it. Why not? The whole process and experience is so fulfilling and attractive to me it’s like, “Why wouldn’t I do it?” Well, there’s a slough of reasons but like we heard this week, there’s always going to be shit to deal with so it may as well be dealt with doing something you love. A person is willing to fight for something they love. Willing to risk.

Risk, getting sick, business management/marketing, and passion were the common themes of the week. Everyday we heard at least one photographer tell us they'd taken a chance at some point. Amanda Lucidon (Legal Stranger Project) talked about that and said, "The way I learned is by failing." Personally, Louie Palu had the most concise advice and next to NPR was the most interesting character we met. He told us, "There's no silver bullet. It's all hard work...Always be positive and just work hard. It's all about obstacles. I've got about four-hundred obstacles going on all the time." It was both a relief and a get-on-your-boots moment. Everyone who was really successful, which was pretty much everyone, had a lot going on. They talked about the importance of business management and Johnny Bivera went to far as to say 30% of gross income should go back into marketing oneself. McClatchy's photo editor, Linda Epstein, recently recovering from a serious bout of pneumonia, offered encouragement to combat our fears of never making any money. "Are you ever going to make any money doing this? Eh...There can be money to be found." Which means it won't pour into your bank account with direct deposit like some people's jobs. It will have to be sought and worked for. 

It seems like students are bombarded with the phrase, "personal project" (which this entertaining blog kindly voiced their opinions on) and we all just wonder, when? But they've all managed to do it; sacrificing marriages, time with friends, family, and working on vacation time like Jacquelyn Martin from AP who recently returned from Tanzania working on a person story about albinos who have been put into homes" after being targeted and killed for their limbs. 

The photographers were all highly motivated, passionate people. Those traits translated directly to their work. But we could listen to the best of the best all day long and unless we decide to reach out and do the work it won't even matter that we'll have met them. We'll be one of those people students always run into that say, "Oh, yeah I went to school for photography," and now work a desk job or something different. 

It was really a privilege to spend the week with everyone.

It’s terrible to be on the cusp of pursuing something that has the touches of deeply affecting you. There’s a choice to be made and it’s terrifying to say yes to that which you feel passionately about because, like anything, the deeper you love and are involved with something (or someone) the greater the potential for hurt and the sharper the agony of defeat. That’s why I said yes to rowing. I no longer wanted to be a person who walked away from things because they meant a great deal to me and I deemed the cost of both success and failure from it too great to tackle. It’s why I won’t be rowing again. This time around, somehow, the table’s been swapped and it’s not rowing that brings tears to my eyes thinking about risking it all for it.

I’m not sure exactly why it happened but shortly after sitting down in the rather unattractive, boring grey room of National Geographic and Ken Geiger began speaking, my little old sharp eyes got all watery. Of course, the page of the latest issue of the magazine was turned to a story occurring in Botswana. So really, it all came to a sort of rising action part in my personal story for the past few years. There it was- all on the table: Africa-based documentary work in the form of multimedia/video, created in the environment of living/working in the bush. It’s a challenge and a risk. It’s so exciting. I freakin’ love changing a tire on the side of a dusty road in the middle of nowhere and talking with people about their lives, not just in Tanzania, but everywhere I've been in the last year. Taking a year off taught me a lot of things but chiefly how to appreciate and value people wherever they're at in life. 

 I just feel like we have all these misconceptions about others and if we could only meet those “others” a little bit might change in them. Whether they’re those Republicans/Democrats, those Africans, those lazy people on welfare, those rich people with easy lives, those whores, those gays/lesbians, or whatever. I grew up in a house-hold hearing about “those” people and frankly, I hope I become a person who's willing to risk my life bridging the gap for other people to have their stories told.

More times than not, the seemingly random activities and excursions I've delved into have actually been another important stepping stone on the path. Like that semester in Tanzania that I secretly applied for which changed my life, sent me towards RIT, and created a friendship that provided not only a place to stay in D.C. this week with a dear friend but another relationship/connection with someone at National Geographic. I’ve been back to Africa, travelled a bit, and now that I’m nearly done with school, feel utterly grateful for everything I’ve been able to do.

A lot of people dread graduation but it's exciting to think about about the work I get to do before graduating, how positively most things have turned out so far, and what's possible for the future . John Newton who penned "Amazing Grace", once said, "I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I hoped to be. I am not what I wish to be. But, blessed be God, I am not what I was and by his grace I am what I am." It's been a challenging and crucial five years, albeit not a straight path. No one would mistake me for the most talented PJ student or the strongest athlete but I can accomplish more as a student than I have been in the past and lift heavier weights than the day before. Over time, the effort pays. Below are two quotes I memorized my freshman year of college that I've kept before me. They call upon the individual to compete against one's own self; the greatest contender we face. 

"Most people lose not because they attempt and fail but rather because they fail to show up all together. They allow the fear of failure to overcome them and they become apathetic, they find it easier to let go of their dreams than to attempt greatness and fall short...

There will always be those with more talent, those with greater raw tools but we are responsible for ourselves. Hard work closes the gap to the more talented, you just have to want it more than they do, work harder than them plain and simple. Claw, scrape, and bleed to get the job done. Treat your talents as the special gift they are, treat your relationships with the care and love they deserve, in the end relationships are all we have. Give everything, follow your heart, risk, put all your chips on the line. That is when we live. Chase your passions, do the the thing that makes you come alive, do the thing you are not sure you can do. Do that and you truly live. Do that and you have already won. Risk is good, risk is living."
- Josh Cox, elite marathoner

“It is not the critic who counts, nor the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” 
Theodore Roosevelt, "Citizenship in a Republic", Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, 23 April 1910

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