Traveling in My Own Backyard and
Learning to Stay Amazed
I have a point to make but I need to say a few things before I get there. I’m a cinematographer. Not just by trade. It’s how I live. I see the world cinematically and theatrically. My mind doesn’t have to work hard to see the stories that unfold around all of us every day. I work hard every day at it and I always think about how I can do something bigger, better, and more uniquely than I ever have before and I fight hard for my vision. Life can get in the way, though… That’s bad phrasing —life can throw you a curve ball, sometimes. Nope, still not good enough —life always throws a curve ball. Swing. It’s the only way to see what happens. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing will remain to be seen, but you won’t know if you don’t swing.
I swung at an opportunity, recently. I was facing many challenges all at once; continuing a long-distance relationship and risk it dissolving over the stresses of living apart, sacrificing a budding freelance film career for a sturdier corporate production job, leaving my hometown of New Orleans for a place I’ve never lived (or even visited, come to think). A lot of things looking me in the eye, demanding an answer. I took the job. I moved from New Orleans. I ended the long-distance factor of my relationship with Leith (my girlfriend. As of today, we’re celebrating 4 years together, to give a bit of foreshadowing). I’m so happy that I swung at this opportunity. Not because of the job, which didn’t last long. Not because I moved to an even better town than New Orleans. It’s all because of people. One person, particularly. Leith. All this craziness and lack of direction, ironically, led me to exactly where I needed to be and who I needed next to me for the whole thing. None of that would have happened if I didn’t take a chance on it. I learned a lot from that experience. Particularly about what’s actually valuable in life. To me, there are only two values that are key to happiness and content: time and company. How time is spent and with whom it is spent are more cherished to me than anything thinkable.
I live in Nashville now. Since moving here, I’ve had difficulties as a cinematographer. Operating under one’s own accord is difficult for most, but after having put effort toward building a network in New Orleans and then moving 550 miles away from that market, I found myself tight-chested. Anxious. For a while, I took that feeling as something that I need to eradicate, because of how uncomfortable it made (and makes) me feel. That’s not what I needed to do. What I needed to do was turn that energy into “fuel” for finding my next adventure. Finding my next opportunity as a filmmaker. This is one of the reasons that I started my YouTube
channel. I was suffering from a lot of frustration with not having something to do. Not having something to work on. I was frustrated with not filming, not working as a cinematographer. I’ve heard athletes (particularly actionsports professionals and racers) say things similar. So I found an outlet for this frustration. My outlet was anything. I filmed and edited anything that I could. My life had a complete lack of direction and it showed in my films. I had subjects pop up in my videos like prize giveaways for blankets and weird park benches and how many emails that I’d sent that particular day… you get the point. There wasn’t any direction. Then something happened. My brother is a photographer in Boulder, CO. He had gotten a photo job from a company and they needed video services, too. Naturally my phone rang. He and I went to New York City and naturally, my creative pores opened up and soaked in something that I hadn’t felt. Whatever realization I had just had, it was perfect timing. This is when I really started finding direction.
I realized that the places that I go are only as important as the experiences that I have there and who I can share those experiences with. Through the wonders of the internet and YouTube, I’m able to share my experiences with the world and, as a result, have them become more meaningful. New York is a special place and for most, if you don’t live there or near there, it’s not a place that you go to very often. At least not for me. The accessibility is not very high. This is when reality starts to kick in for me. I knew that I wanted to document my adventures and share them. I knew that I wanted to do these things with Leith by my side and me by hers. Now, all that I needed was adventure. Damn. Where’s my adventure? All around me. Here’s the problem that I thought I was facing: in order to have an adventure, I have to go far away to an unknown territory and experience something super crazy in a place that’s full of magic. I was being a bit thick-headed thinking that meaningful adventure had anything to do with any of those traits.
The truth, I’ve come to find, is that there are adventures to be had all around me, both far away and right next to me! I don’t have to take a 17- hour flight to Perth, Australia to find meaning in an experience. I can drive 2 hours away and go somewhere I’ve never been before and meet people I’ve never seen and hear stories I’ve never heard and it can be AMAZING!! This is the stuff that gets me so excited and I really wish that you could see me typing right now because I look like a crazy person in this coffee shop and I’m typing so hard because this excites me so much! We all pine for these amazing, culture-shifting, conscience-bending experiences that lead us to as-yet unknown personal growth and we mistakenly think that they all lie in some petrified forest on the fringes of the Arctic circle in a village only accessible by hovercraft. It’s not true. Your adventures (and mine) are all around, quietly waiting for you to come say hello. The coolest thing about these undiscovered wonders is that they’re all amazing and they’re all viciously unique. I try to live my life through positivity, hard work, and an open mind, which is why I always leave by saying this: Work hard. Think big. Zoom out.