Just Shoot Me! (A Conversation between Life and Death)
I'm dying. I mean, sure it doesn't look like I'm dying and, certainly, you might not think that I'm dying and I'm not dying right away, I mean not right this moment anyway, but I am dying. We're all dying. "Dying since the day they were born," can maybe best describe it. Each and every day, each and every breath brings us one step closer to our last. In the history of all of the world, nobody has ever gotten any younger and nobody, not one single one of us, has gotten out alive. (Well, unless you count Elvis and the jury's still out on him really. I mean, some say he's dead and others? They keep spotting him in 7-11's all over the place, sure, but do we really know for certain he isn't dead by now? I mean, like, hasn't that milk passed it's expiration date already too?)
Sure, I might look like I'm over here celebrating-dancing in the street in fact-but the cold hard truth is that, while I may be doing all that, while I look like I'm all happy, out dancing, and having a party in the middle of the street, I'm also quietly dying. Is this my last breath? No? Maybe this one? Brace yourself, it's bound to come sooner or later. Someday, that last gasp of air, why it will have your name on it too, I promise. Yup. That's me. Little Miss Dying Since the Day I was Born.
What? Like you were expecting a birthday cake and a smiley face? Please! Give me a break.
Well, aren't you just a ray of sunshine and a box of good cheer? Dying since the day you were born? Excuse me, but what ever happened to living it up a little? Why so gloomy? Yes, everyone's going to die someday, but what about the here and now? What's so wrong about having a life while you, well, while you have a life?
Life is what you make of it. Sure, we only have so many breaths to take and, yes, there are only so many beats to a heart, but I've got a lot of living to do. I want to wake up in the morning and see the dawn of a new day. I want to smell the morning dew, see a thousand moon rises, run a marathon, watch the sunset by the ocean yet again or, heck, even just live a little, even if it's just for a little bit longer.
What is it that you're doing over there? Why I don't even call that living, no, it's more like a quiet existence. Eking out a quiet existence. Is that what you're doing? Is that what passes as life in your little corner of the world? Go on, grab life by the horns! Quit your day job. Dance in the rain. Send me a postcard that says, "Greetings from Madagascar!" Come on, you know you want to.
What's stopping you? Why hold back now? Is it really too late to dance like nobody's watching?
I'm the bump in the night. I'm the chains you hear rattling down the hall. Catch a draft? Yeah, why that so could be me. I'm the one who slams doors when nobody is around or quietly moves your car keys when you are not looking. Hey, I'm the ghost in the hall, you know the one. Yes, I am. I'm trapped here, in the in-between. Unable to get basic cable, but still able to futz with the remote from time to time. I'm not quite in my final resting place but I'm not all here either. I'm the ghost of Christmas past catching up with you. Go ahead, pinch me if you dare, I might just fight back on you. You don't really want to make a ghost rise up in anger now, do you?
All of this talk about dying since the day you were born and living a little has me confused. I just want a ham sandwich. Well, maybe that and to know that my life, when I had one, was actually worth something, even if just a little bit.
Can you hear that? This war between the living and dying is sure stirring up some ghosts in me too.
Don't turn over my apple cart. Don't run with scissors. What are you some kind of a nut? Do you really want fries with that? There's a certain quiet safety in just asking these kind of questions. I feel safer already, knowing that Mom watches out for me, knowing that I eat my vegetables for they are good for me. I like to tuck myself into bed at night knowing that it's safe and quiet outside, the door is locked, and the iron is turned off. You turn your irons off, don't you? I mean, I'd hate to go out and leave the stove on, wouldn't you? And that iron, why it's just as hot, isn't it?
Play it safe! Better safe than sorry. Better to sit quietly in a cube farm but have a regular paycheck. Better to lead a healthy lifestyle and not to take any chances. Don't date any bad boys: they are never good for you in the end. Look both ways before crossing the street.
Sure, accidents will happen but why take unnecessary chances? Is the risk really all that it's cracked up to be? Do you really want to jump off the diving board right into the deep end of the pool? I sure don't.
No, thanks! I'd rather not turn over that apple cart. I don't want to find out what might be on the other side. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put that camera down carefully and make sure to tie my shoelaces so I, you know, so I don't trip.
What? Me? Take a risk? Come on now, I don't think so.
It's hard to stand out from the crowd. Sometimes, it seems like the world is nothing but a bunch of sheeple and we are all merely one "Bah!" away from being just another sheep. There is uncertainty, yes, nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, but that doesn't mean we need to stop reaching for those stars. For all we know, there could be a light at the end of that tunnel. Now, I know, you will try to convince me that the light at the end of that tunnel too could be an oncoming train but I'm not having it. Nope, not today, you're not getting me. I need to live my life a little bit.
The author Marianne Williamson once said, "as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others." This is true. We need to learn to light out own lights from time to time if, for nothing more, than to allow our own selves to shine on in the darkness. We need to embrace uncertainty, we need to learn how to live. If you wait for the perfect time to do something, it often never happens.
There is never a better time to re-define yourself than right now. It's a great time to be an artist and photographer. Being a photographer, you get to go out and see the world and, if you're lucky, get to re-live it again when you print the photos. Sure, a lot of people will tell you that you won't be able to make any money, that it will be hard. It's a tough life and a competitive field but maybe, just maybe, this really is what you're supposed to do. I mean, wouldn't it be a waste if you gave up all of this only to sit in a cube farm somewhere wondering, "what if?"
Maybe there's a reason photography and hunting share a lot of language in common. It's all about the hunt, the kill, the trophies you get to bring home, and the stories you can tell your friends afterwards. That's really a great life to live. It's a lot of fun with a Hemingway-esque kind of swagger. Nobody really wants to be a bank teller, do they? Nah, this! Now, this is a whole lot more fun.
I always said that, when I die, I want a jazz funeral. I don't want to see anybody crying, rather I want them to have a party. An actual party with elephants, dancing, face painting for the kids, the works. I don't want people to be sad that I'm gone, no, I want them to be happy I was once here.
As we live our lives, go through the motions each day, there are times when we get to live it up a little and other times when life is not such a party. We have obligations, demands, and responsibilities that we all must carry. Life isn't always, and it really can't be, a party all of the time. But, sometimes, you know, sometimes too we need to let our hair down because, if we don't, well then, it really isn't life at all, more like just going through the motions, and nobody wants that. We need to enjoy it once in a while too.
It's especially difficult for photographers. We have lives outside of the camera. Life doesn't stop when you pick the camera up, no, instead sometimes it seems like it goes by at lightening pace. Everything seems to happen while we were out taking pictures. The daily grind is anything but, and we have the pictures to prove it, but that kind of living can take its toll too. In the land of the camera, we have to always be there to be there. There's no getting away with half an attempt and we can find ourselves trapped in the cycle of travel, work, shoot, edit, print until we're dizzy. Each and every little success, it seems, only brings out more demand.
If you ask people about their "dream job" many, if not most, would say something along the lines of "travel writer" or "travel photographer." It always comes up in those top ten list of things people want to do, in fact, it's often in the top three. When I tell people the dreaded, "I'm a photographer" they get visions in their heads of partying with rock stars, half naked models with little wind machines blowing up their hair, maybe a few shutter clicks or two. It all sounds so romantic! Try going through customs with a case of film at 3 o'clock in the morning or missing you kids soccer practice because you have to sign some release forms and fill out insurance paperwork for your upcoming gallery show. Most people see the glamor but few spot the work. There's a lot involved in what we do and it's not all parties with rock stars, in fact, most photographers aren't even famous-we're the folks behind the cameras, not out in front.
I love being a photographer and would not change a thing. Well, maybe one. At my funeral? At my jazz funeral? You know, the one where everybody is up dancing in the streets? Yeah, I so want them to take some pictures of that. I want them to remember my photos, yes, but I want them to keep taking pictures, always for, if I were there, I would wish them all safe travels and good light.
It's so all about the pictures for me. It's always been about the pictures for me. The only trick in this game? Yeah, it's to try to have enough fun to enjoy it while keeping it real long enough to get something out of it. It's a tightrope we all walk, what can I say? I'm a photographer. Just shoot me!