Last November, I treated myself to an adventure.
I went to a photography workshop in NYC that took me far outside my comfort zone. I was certain that I would be the junior member of whatever group assembled. By junior I mean less experienced, less talented, less technical. Just less. I mean, I emailed the workshop coordinator and asked about who typically attends - his response was that they had a wide range: from Joe McNally to those new to photography [Joe McNally? A National Geographic caliber photographer might be in my class? Ack!] This was not my day job, know what I mean?
But, it seemed like an opportunity that I shouldn't pass up: I could afford it, I had not taken a major vacation in a few years, I missed the connection I once had to my photography and what if the photographer conducting the workshop decided to stop? I'd been looking at the workshop for a year and thinking "one day I will do this".
So I signed up, paid (gulp), booked a flight, booked a hotel room, booked my dogs into the boarding kennel. I evaluated my equipment. Bought a backpack. Googled the NYC weather forecast. Several times. Bought a couple things to wear on the trip. Borrowed a rain poncho. Asked some folks to look at some photos to help me create a 'portfolio'. Resolved to take at least a photograph a day until I left since I had not shot much during 2011.
I figured the first session when we would go through the 10 sample images would be the toughest. And then everyday life got busy and I didn't have much time to fret. But I did say to a couple of people what I said above about being the person who was sort of the junior person. And one of those people let me have it for having that less-than mind set. Huh, I thought. I'm just being realistic. I mean, it's not my day job. You know?
Finally the date arrived. I packed, dropped off the dogs, called the security patrol with my travel dates, called a cab and stepped into the unknown.
On the ground in NYC, my cab driver and I looked at each other in confusion - his GPS said we were at the hotel but neither of us could see the entrance until finally he looked at me in the back seat and said "there it is!" We were both relieved - he could get his next fare, and I would not be on a dark block in Chinatown wondering where the hotel was.
The next morning, I set out for the studio and my iPhone GPS failed me and sent me in the wrong direction (you aren't thinking user error are you?). No matter - I figured it out and had plenty of time before 8:30. A guy on the street stopped me and asked if I needed directions and then asked if I'd been to NY before. We had a nice chat and he said 'with that smile, you're going to have a good day".
And I did. Every day for the next 5 days. What happened next was amazing. The class. The venue. The Photographer. The photographs. The experience. Me.
I made 3 rules for myself for that trip the Sunday night before falling asleep: Be Open. Be Willing. Be Present.
Be Open: Accept what is going on. Let things come to me. Don't hide behind sunglasses and iPod earphones. Smile at people.
Be Willing: no making up my mind in advance of the facts. Trust the workshop leader - I mean, he had my money and all that feedback from former students. Do what he suggested to the best of my ability. Get the experience I deserved.
Be Present: No blackberry. And very little iPhone. iPhone is there to serve me, not for me to serve it and the interwebs.
That week was the right person, the right time, the right place and it all equaled the right experience. I can't help but believe it was the mental posture I adopted on Sunday evening before falling asleep. I admit it was easier to do since I was not in my everyday routine. Everything was different.
So I sit here on January 1, 2012 and I wonder what is possible if I take that same perspective on the new year?
Be present - no time like the present. one thing at a time. multi-tasking ain't all it's cracked up to be. focus.
Be willing - take the opportunities that are part of everyday.
Be open - see what's right in front of me without making it more or less.
I think 2012 can be the best year yet.
Happy New Year!