“Hang on tightly, let go lightly.” It’s what Clive Owen’s character Jack said to himself as he sold the car his father bought for him in the film Croupier. It’s also what I said to myself as I stood in my empty apartment in Rancho Cucamonga, California for the last time before making the 2740 mile drive across the country to Washington, DC. In the weeks leading up to the actual move — something I have come to refer to as The Culling — I taped out a rectangle on the living room floor that was the same size as the cargo area of my car. Other than several boxes of books that were shipped, anything that didn’t fit was either sold or simply given away. The home that I had known for nearly fifteen years had become stagnant and unfamiliar to me. In the five years leading up to The Culling, I had lost both of my parents, shut down a website that I had been working on almost daily since 2009 and saw the end of a long-term relationship. At the same time, potential opportunities on the East Coast began to present themselves — first one, then another, then still another. “Leap, fucker,” the little voice in my head would whisper. Over several months, the whispers grew louder, until the way forward was clear. As excited as I was to see the Washington Monument and the low-slung DC skyline after five days on the road, I couldn’t help but be reminded of another great line from Fight Club that goes: “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.” Now, I don’t for a moment want to compare my situation to anyone else’s and claim that my transient sense of loss is in any way the same as, say, someone losing their house in a fire or a parent losing a child. But it is loss nonetheless and we are all simply trying to do the best we can with the tools we have. For myself, I had come to feel like a 48 year-old orphan, without a home and without a direction — on the world, rather than in it. I have always been somewhat prone to periods of existential crisis, but in this season of my life it felt different. More weighty, if you will. Youthful dreams of success and notoriety left me long ago. What I want now is significance — to simply feel like I matter, like I belong somewhere.
Over the past few months, I’ve started to get to know My Town — a town of museums and restaurants, little markets and cafes, streets to shoot and stories to share. I’ve made some terrific new friends and deepened my relationships with others who, while distant geographically, have become every bit as important as those close by. As I look towards the new year, I’m overcome with appreciation and gratitude that I am exactly where I need to be, which might be the most powerful realization of my life. Focusing my creative energy outward, rather than inward, allows me to take myself out of the equation in a way. By removing the need to be at the center of everything, I’m able to celebrate people who I find interesting or inspiring and in that, I feel a joy that inspires my own work, whether I’m writing or painting or making photographs. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I am both hopeful and optimistic about the coming year and I can’t wait to start sharing it with you.