Finding My Way
I've been struggling with writing this latest post. So far, it's been pretty obvious what to blog about. Either something amazing happens, or an idea bounces around in my head for a bit, and then I write about that. The past week hasn't been entirely uneventful, it just doesn't feel like there's anything cohesive that ties it together. The only kind of cohesive thing has been my mood, which I still haven't entirely figured out. I've already tried writing about it twice so far, and while I think I've made some progress in defining it better, it still feels like a puzzle I haven't solved yet. Maybe the third time is the charm.
I think there are a few parts to it. The first part that hit me is that I might be really bad at relaxing. As soon as I took the photos of sunrise at Cadillac Mountain, I was struck with an overwhelming urgency to move on, despite operating on three hours of sleep.
I toyed with the idea of relaxing for about half a microsecond before deciding to just drive off. I packed a hammock for the express purpose of setting it up in the middle of nowhere and aggressively doing nothing for long periods of time. I'm still not sure why I was in such a hurry to leave Maine. I loved Maine! Especially Acadia. I thought I was good at relaxing, but nope. I just go, go, go until I exhaust myself. I hope this is just a holdover habit that will start to fade away, but I'm keeping an eye on it.
I think another big part to my mood this week is a vague, overbearing sense of obligation. I'm not sure, I'm still grappling to find the edges of it, but I think the bucket it fits into best is "obligation". I'm not entirely sure who or what I think I'm obligated to, which makes it difficult to deal with the resulting resentment. For example, I was editing photos, and I realized that there were a good chunk of the photos I was putting time and effort into editing that I just didn't give a damn about at all. It's not that they were bad photos, they were just ... photos. Like, "Here's a thing. I took a picture. It doesn't look bad. Here's another thing. I took a picture. It doesn't look bad." I don't know who I owe these photos to. Is it to a future version of myself? Is it to prove I was there? Is it for people following along through social media? Is it fluff so that I have more content?
So I just stopped. I skipped over the photos that didn't make me really happy to work on, or at least felt like they had my voice in them somewhere. I've been taking less photos since I left Maine, partially due to less opportunity, but also because I feel like I'm falling into a trap of doing it for the wrong reasons.
Over the past decade, I've been forming my personal list of rules of what I shoot when traveling, so that in the moment, I don't fill up my camera with crap that gives me that "blah" feeling when I'm editing. Some of the rules have bounced around in my head long enough to have settled into words (maybe I'll write a companion blog post on them), but it's still a work in progress, and I still end up with gluts of photos that just make me think, "why did I take this photo?"
But that abstract sense of obligation extends to more than just the photos I take and edit and publish. I went to Maine partly because I felt obligated to check it off of my "states I've visited" map. I went to New Hampshire almost entirely because I felt obligated to check it off that map. I stayed in New Hampshire for a much less abstract obligation: I was waiting on a package from Amazon that delivered late (but I made the best of a boring situation and drove down and wandered around Boston for the day, and met up with a friend who was out there for work).
I didn't want to write off New Hampshire just on one small area, so I went up to the White Mountains, but I was in no mood to appreciate them. Maybe someday I'll go back and give New Hampshire a better chance, but I just wanted to get moving, get closer to my original plan of heading west.
I came to Vermont for a similar feeling of obligation. I've never been, and I've heard it is gorgeous. It is. The night that I drove in, it was just stunning. It was so nice, I waited in Burlington through a day of shitty, rainy weather to actually see it. The next day, the rain stopped, the sun came out, it was a really nice day. I tried to park by the waterfront, but everyone else had the same idea. I was originally planning on hitting up a few spots in Vermont, but at that point, my patience was so thin. I just said "screw it" and started driving towards Niagara Falls, deciding to appreciate the scenery on fast forward as I drove past it.
I've been appreciating Upstate New York on fast forward too. It's beautiful (when it's not being drenched in downpours of biblical proportions), but I needed to be a bit more selfish, and what I want is to go west.
But first, I'm going to Niagara Falls. People tell me I owe it to myself.
And that would have been a really solid, pithy ending to this post, but I had a moment today that I think is a worthwhile addendum. I stopped last night in Oneida, NY where it's rained almost all day, and I hit 3,000 miles traveled yesterday, so I took the van in for an oil change. The place was super busy, so I walked off to the nearest place to get coffee and write, and worked on a draft of this post. After a while, I came back and waited in the lobby at the auto shop, and ended up having some really wonderful conversation with two of the other guys waiting. One was a kid in his 20s, the other guy was retired. I haven't had nearly as many random conversations with people as I'd hoped, and it really lifted my mood to be able to do that. I think it's something I'm going to have to push myself to seek out while I'm on the road.