plenty of nothing at all
minimalism has been a topic in my head since 2012. during my Spring semester in college Yahoo! posted an article about a guy, Glen, who quit the 9-to-5 race to pursue a life on the road, traveling in a van and composing music to earn his income. they linked to his blog & once i was into my third entry i knew i was hooked. i went through his every post trying to understand the guy’s mind — what the hell was so appealing about living in a van?
i’ve struggled with permanency since i was young. i’ve moved, on average, once a year since i was about 5. the most grounded version of a home that i’ve had is my grandparent’s home; i’ve spent a lot of time and lived there on many occasions, but to this day i move once maybe twice a year. i either get bored or long for something new. i feel restless. i feel like a stranger. no matter where i’m living that week. (i just did the math and i’ve moved 13 times since 2012 alone, yikes)
after i ate up every entry in Glen’s blog i wrote to him to share my admiration for his mission of a pursuit of a simpler life. he wrote back, encouraging me to experiment with trying to simplify my own life and travel a bit. but i was 18 and had no fucking idea what i was doing with my life or any control, really.
back in 2014 minimalism made a rapid reappearance in my life when i stumbled upon the work of Kevin Russ. Kevin is a traveling photographer who was thrusted into the spotlight when multiple sites and news publications picked up on his crazy journey of leaving his home in Portland to sleep in his Chevy Blazer & take photos of nature and wildlife with just his iPhone 5. his work was, and still is, a testament to the notion that gear doesn’t matter — Kevin’s iPhone photos are some of the most beautiful photographs i’ve ever seen. the simplicity & emotion in each image speaks to me on a level that most others don’t. suddenly i wanted to do the same: i wanted to leave behind everything i knew and just say fuck it all, take off into the wild blue and have only the things that i needed and enjoying my life in the process. i began reading blogs and books on minimalism and discovering what life could be like with less. i sold off possessions i loved, clothes i never wore, and began having massive panic attacks every night and day trying to formulate the “best” life for myself. a bad habit had begun to form.
a year later i picked up a book called Walden on Wheels. Ken Ilgunas wrote a book documenting his experience with student debt, using minimalism to eliminate his debt as quickly as possible. Ken eventually bought a van to live in and enrolled at Duke University with his primary goal being to graduate debt free by living in a van during his enrollment. i had massive waves of panic attacks that sent me spiraling down a rabbit hole while reading this book. i began obsessing over what my “perfect life” looked like. i made countless lists of items i need, what i wanted to do, who i wanted to be, but it never did anything for me other than paralyze me and any ability to make decisions.
throughout the last few years i kinda dismissed minimalism in favor of buying a lot of shit to make myself feel better. clothes, tech toys, anything. loads of shit i didn’t need, and loads of shit that i no longer own. last summer i picked up minimalism once again, this time going pretty overboard. i lived in a studio apartment at the time, so i didn’t have much room for anything to begin with, but what items i did have i ended up reducing by about 60-70% in the matter of a week. i got rid of books, CDs, my TV, records, items of personal significance, decorative items, pieces of technology, anything that didn’t serve a purpose that wasn’t inherently productive to me at the time was either donated or discarded. i slashed my belongings and i felt absolutely fantastic. i started wearing the same thing every day: a plain black shirt, jeans, and vans. i loved it. but it still didn’t feel perfect.
in the winter i fell off the wagon again. i started buying clothes, another TV, more stuff to make myself feel better during a very rough period in my life. once again i find myself back on my minimalist bullshit of selling off items that i don’t want or need in order to tidy up my mind and my home. but this time i’m trying to turn minimalism into intentionalism.
i’ve been freelancing full-time for almost 3 years now. at first i loved it — people paid me to take their photo & i literally made a living off of it. i couldn’t ask for anything more. but after 3 years of struggling to get clients, working myself to fucking death, and still kinda scraping by i’ve decided to take intentionalism & minimalism and point them at deeper aspects of my life besides possessions. the trouble with freelancing is finding a balance of time. i take on many different projects often in order to make more money, while steadily trying to raise my prices for my services based on experience and demand. i have a weird battle with pricing myself “fairly” — if i had a dollar for every time friends or colleagues have told me i need to raise my prices i wouldn’t have to work for a year. i am my own worst critic, and i often don’t believe my work is worth much of anything to begin with. so i struggle to price myself competitively & fairly, then take on too many projects to make ends meet and end up completely burning myself out. i’m no longer having fun with anything that i’m doing. at all. shooting portraits is not fun. i’m trying to do new things but it’s hard to initiate the change when i’m still having to focus so much time and effort on just paying the bills.
i am afraid to do what i want to do. i say this a lot. i would like the correct path to present itself for me. i would like someone to guide me. neither are going to happen. so i’m doing what’s absolutely necessary for me before i drive my car into a wall: i’m stepping back on my focus from portraiture to pursue avenues in my life that i have interest in. i’m going to be experimenting with new lifestyles and trying to step more out of my comfort zone every day. i will be saying no to more things. i will be strong.
i have to.