Alone In McCurtain County

In the last year and a half, I’ve learned the difference in being alone and being isolated.

Being alone looks like a quiet house, a fat book and a full glass of wine. It feels full but also spacious.

Being isolated feels like no one can hear me, not even me. It looks like 3 a.m. and bad TV infomercials.

Isolation is a frightening feeling. I would characterize it as depression’s best friend and anger’s favorite third cousin. What we do in isolation is even scarier than what we do in the dark or behind closed doors. Feeling isolated is scraping the floor of the emotional ocean, bottom-feeding on the worst of the worst: insecurity, resentment, madness.

But being alone – and traveling alone – is one of my favorite things. At 19, I ditched my group of classmates during my study abroad and proceeded to take the train all across London. Alone.  This was 100 percent against my professor’s instruction and university policy, but like usual, I said to hell with the rules. Because I know and believe in the things that lie beyond the parameters of conventionality and rule-following: creativity, exploration and self-discovery. Taking that train to Picadilly Circus and back again was exhilarating, but never, ever scary. I vowed to take more solo trips in the future.

Then I read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild,” a book about a 22 year old and her decision to hike over 1,000 miles across the Pacific Crest Trail alone in an effort to find her way out of intense internal isolation. I read this book during a time where I as feeling most isolated and incredibly sad. You wouldn’t think the cure for isolation is time alone, but it is. It’s about shifting your thoughts – not your physical surroundings.

So I took off to McCurtain County, Okla. to visit a friend. When she was off to work, I’d spend the day hiking alone in Beaver’s Bend State Park. I packed my backpack, grabbed a water bottle and trail guide and crossed my fingers I wouldn’t get lost or mauled by mountain lions, Sasquatch or meth heads. And behold, I didn’t. I hiked for hours without seeing a human, and traded the company of people for that of deer and toads and minnows and crawfish.

And I never felt so safe, or full.

I know a lot of us feel isolated…classmates in new jobs and in new cities, newlyweds, the newly divorced…pretty much anyone and everyone under the age of 30. But we aren’t alone in feeling isolated. We are just a road trip, a phone call, an email away from each other.

And, maybe, just a long walk in the woods away from ourselves.

Love,

J.

 

Camera 101 – The Basics

In summer 2011, I ordered my first DSLR. The Canon Rebel came in this sexy, sleek black and red box. I thought I was big time.

And guys. I took some shitty photos. Heck, I’m still taking shitty photos…just not as many as I used to.

I wanted to share you guys what I’m doing to ever-so-slowly get better at this little thing we call photography and how you can, too.abbey_OKC3

1. Don’t believe the hype. Lots of folks around the ‘net say full frame sensors are the way to go. They say buy the biggest and baddest camera body, paired with a brand new top-of-the-line lens and *poof* you’re a photographer. Not entirely the case (I love this post about why).  I’m still holding on to my crop sensor and still loving it. She’s a big girl, she’s capable of more than she let’s on. It’s all about your skills and how you’re working and growing behind the camera.

Also, I buy lots of used equipment. Used lenses are cheaper but usually impeccably cared for. Plus, I kind of dig meeting up with local photogs and hearing their advice, stories, etc. and buying some equipment they’ve outgrown.

2. Get legit. This is a hobby for me and sometimes a nice, small side gig that affords me some pocket change. If you want to really do this professionally and full-time, I would suggest drawing up some contracts for your clients and familiarizing yourself and your business with the legality of what you do. Because it’s all fun and games until you shoot a wedding, the bride hates her photos and then proceeds to take you to court for all you’re worth.

Of course, that’s not likely to happen. But it is possible. If you’re aiming to run a business, protect yourself and your finances. Contracts are a great way to set and manage expectations for yourself and your clients, and ensure you get paid.

3. Sharing is caring. For whatever reason, creatives can get super territorial and defensive about their work and their clients. Guys, newsflash: there is plenty to go around. Plenty of clients, plenty of creativity, plenty of money. By simply shifting your attitude from a place of defensiveness to an attitude of abundance, you open yourself up to greater and more diverse opportunities. Share your tips and process with others instead of being shy or secretive. Encourage others in the game. Celebrate the growth of others. It’s good karma and teaching is the only way to truly master anything.

abbey_OKC1

P.S. – These photos were shot with a Canon t2i and an 85 mm 1.8 lens. I almost always edit images in Photoshop…I run a clean edit color base action and then top that off with some eye brighteners and (if needed) some skin correcting.

What camera Q’s do you have? What photog skills are you working on? Tell me in the comments!
xo,

J.

The L Word

I’m only, oh, 10ish years behind on watching and loving the TV series The L Word. To be fair, I was 14 when the series first aired – the Showtime hit that follows the lives of a group of lesbian friends living in L.A. isn’t exactly tweeny bopper material.

I first heard about this series from my husband – he had lots of lesbian friends in college and often watched bits of the series with them. He laughed off the sometimes-super-racy scenes but gave it a great review.

After being hounded by friends to finally watch it, I found the series on Netflix and hit play. I’ve been watching it nonstop since. It’s funny, sexy, relatable and addictive. The women are executives, housewives, hairdressers, students, writers, small business owners and sports figures. They’re witty and funny and kind, sometimes confused about their own lives and choices. They face parenting alone, discrimination, breakups, breast cancer, the death of parents, divorces, military deployment and career changes. They’re extremely loyal and painfully honest.

It’s the most relatable series I’ve ever watched. Which is interesting for someone who isn’t gay and has very little in common with anyone who lives in West Hollywood. I’ve never dated a woman, a solider, a person dying of cancer. I’ve never buried a parent or been fired from a job. I’ve never dealt with addiction or fame. But on a very simple but profound level, I understand what it means to be a woman. And I’ve never watched a series that so perfectly illustrated the nuances of female friendships and what it means to be a woman in this world – an educated, passionate, ambitious, smart, funny woman.

What series are you watching and loving (even if you’re a little late to the game)? Tell me in the comments!

XO,

J.