The Possibilities of the Future

"What is your favorite picture that you've taken?"

I was asked this recently, and it is one of those questions that I get often.  I feel differently about all of the pictures I've taken and been pleased with; it's difficult to narrow down a single photo as an absolute favorite.  It feels somehow unfair.  That being said, I do have a picture that is my favorite.  And that troubled me for a long time.

Highway 11 in Osage County

As many of you know, in January of 2011 my father passed away unexpectedly.  He had moved back to his hometown of Pawhuska, Oklahoma to care for his mother, who was in the last stages of lymphoma.  He had no will, so when I received that dreadful phone call, it fell to me to handle his estate.  For the next few months, I traveled to Pawhuska regularly to get everything taken care of.  The road I traveled was the same one that lined memories of visiting my grandparents in the summer or getting together with family for the Fourth of July.  These happy memories of my childhood were being mixed with new feelings of sadness and loss.  I took this photo one morning as I drove through Osage County, along a stretch of highway that mirrored my emotions; familiar, yet strange.  My life was moving into unknown territory, just as the fog obscured my destination.

I will never be able to replicate this picture; the time and emotional place are just as important as the physical location.  That's the reason it's my favorite.  However, until recently I felt that it limited me, which is why it troubled me.  "Surely, nothing I experience will ever match that day...so no future photograph will ever measure up."  Rather than choosing a limited view, that same understanding can open me up for greater success.  I will never take another picture like that again, but I can seek completely different images to express myself.  Acknowledging that I will not be able to replicate that image will stop me from trying...and move on.  Trying to re-create a "better" version of that picture is a waste of time and resources.

This same process is helpful in a variety of areas in life.  No two books are the same.  No two relationships are the same.  No two jobs are the same.  The longer we hold on to the feeling of, "This is what I've experienced before, and this is what I need to achieve again," the longer we rob ourselves of new and potentially greater experiences.  I encourage you to look around and see if there is anything you are trying to 'recapture' from the past; it could be limiting you from even greater heights in the future.



"What do you like to do in your spare time?"

It's a simple question.  When you are getting to know someone, it's one that inevitably comes up.  I was asked this question recently and found myself stumped.  My go-to answers I'd used most of my life didn't apply like they once did.  I don't read as much as I used to.  Video games don't take up hardly any of my time these days, save for the few releases that really garner my attention.  I don't even feel like I go to the movies often.  So, what is it that I actually DO?

Well, when I step back and look, I'd have to say the thing I'm most passionate about is photography.  I like to take pictures, and that's something I do.  But it's hard to really quantify that into an activity.  I'm not a part of any groups, or have any kind of tangible pattern to it; it just happens when it happens.  Sometimes I end up with a few photos I really like, other times the pictures are simply a catalog of my time.  After that, it's travel.  I love to experience new places.  Since I have an affinity for history, going to a place with some kind of significance is a bonus.  Although, when you sit and think about it, every place has a history...you may just have to dig a little more for it.  That can be fun, too.  Combining travel with my camera is even better.

So, when I'm not wandering somewhere with my camera (either local or afar)...what is it that I do?  I have my friends, for whom I am so very thankful.  I hang out with them and take part in whatever is going on with them.  But that, too, is difficult to quantify.  Sometimes it's a meal; other times it's hanging out at the park or watching a television show on Netflix.  It's rare that I have something going on independently.  So the question becomes muddy and my answer is vague.  I feel like I spend most of my free time sitting at my computer.  That's not an answer I want to give to anyone.  So, what do I WANT to be doing instead?

I don't rightly know.  I feel like being part of a community would be good for me, but I haven't found an option that sounds appealing.  I have zero interest in church or religion.  Exercise has never been a focus in my life.  I don't know much about being handy, so working on the house, car, or garden doesn't sound appealing.  I don't have any creative talent for crafts.  I don't know what I want to invest my time in.


Waffle House

Always a good idea!
Breakfast is my favorite meal, regardless of the time of day.  It's the meal I cook most often for myself and also the one I am most likely to reach out to friends for company if I have none.  Even though my tastes are pretty simple (usually a couple of scrambled eggs, some bacon, toast, and hash browns) I will never tire of it.  Brookside by Day is my favorite local spot, but my favorite chain is Waffle House.  This confounds just about everyone I know.  "Are you serious?" they either ask or plaster all over their facial expression.  They don't understand.  But it's like going home for me.

The genesis of this emotional attachment goes way back.  Breakfast is tied to Sunday mornings at home with everyone pitching in to help prepare the meal.  Even Dad made the eggs.  However, Waffle House came into the picture in the mid-nineties.  We took a road trip to Florida to go to Disney World and, at some point, we realized just about every highway exit in the South had a Waffle House nearby.  It became a game for my brother and I to spot them first and point them out to Mom and Dad.  Of course, we stopped a time or two as well.  Once I attached that bond, every dining visit strengthened it.  When I worked out at the Cingular/AT&T call center on the eastern edge of Tulsa, there was a Waffle House two miles away that I became a regular at.  In fact, I came in so frequently that the staff knew me by name and order.  When I left Tulsa to start my trip around the world back in 2009, it was the last place I ate at before hitting the road.

2009 with Reva and Virginia

I have fond memories in many WH locations in and around town.  The 61st/Aspen location in Broken Arrow held conversations with my old friend Tony Finley.  The 11th St location was a frequent stop for Indi and me when we were first dating; after they tore it down & turned it around, it became a memory cache for drunken 2 AM dinners.  The Mingo location is the one I visit most often these days, as it's closest to work.  Last time I went in, one of the waitresses asked why I had stayed away so long.

This morning, I woke early and had nothing planned.  Since nobody was awake or available, I decided to head out to Catoosa for old times sake.  It had been over a year since I was last in. It exists next to the Hard Rock Casino, a place full of terrible memories for me; my stomach still clenches as the old emotions flood my system. Happily, my two regular waitresses from back in the day still remembered me and gave me a hug.  "Where the heck have YOU been?" they asked.  I sat at the counter, ordered my regular, and enjoyed my meal.  "How've you been?" "How's work?" "You seein' anyone?"  It's like something out of a movie.  A comfortable place with food I enjoy and people I care about.  It's the most accurate version of comfort food I know.

Before the huge expansion