When you spend a lot of time by yourself, there comes a point when you simply get fed up with you.
It’s the worst too, because you can’t blame anyone but you. There’s no scapegoat, no assistant that forgot to charge your battery or clear your memory card. There’s only you.
If you’re like me, the times I really get on my nerves are when the stupidest, most preventable things happen.
Like when I misplaced my key for the gajillionth time, only to realize that it slipped out of my pocket in an overgrown field in the dead of night under a new moon (side note, 45 minutes and a lot of cursing later, I found it).
Or that time I lost my headlamp the first day I moved from my apartment into the Jeep (still haven’t found that sucker).
Or how about just last week when I woke up early (I’m talking 4:45am) to see the lunar eclipse and sunrise, only to drive 45 minutes outside of town and realize that a) I’d forgotten my camera and b) I only had my Eddie Bauer RipPac rain jacket to keep me warm in the gusting mountaintop winds.
Whhhyyyy I remember whining to myself. Why can’t this be easy?
Immediately I gave myself a mental bitch-slap-across-the-face, chastising myself for such a foolish thought. That’s what I was asking myself? Why can’t this be easy? Really?
Who told you this was going to be easy? Living on the road was your idea. You don’t even like when things are easy, I reminded myself.
For the most part, that statement is pretty true. Especially when I was in school, I would get bored, apathetic even, when classes didn’t challenge me. I’d do the bare minimum to skate by, always managing to pump out an A (except ceramics, that blasted class). I thrive in the face of challenge (except in ceramics). Sometimes I flop and flail and fail, but it’s that working hard, that struggle, that motivates me.
But living on the road is inherently hard, especially when you have this laundry list of traits that aren’t very conducive to a happy-go-lucky life-on-the-road. Disorganized, distracted. Not exactly what you’d want out of someone whose life fits into a Jeep Cherokee and a few Deuter packs.
That being said, I’ve made leaps and bounds since I ditched my apartment at the end of April. I have a system of organized chaos down, I know (mostly) where everything is, and I’ve since adopted my friend’s double-triple-check technique before peeling out of a parking lot (that one came about after I drove down the main drag in West Asheville to a number of cars honking and lights flashing…apparently my CamelBak water bottle was riding high and dry between the crossbars…).
Despite the progress, I’m no road warrior savant, as my less-than-ideal sunrise excursion last week proved.
Thankfully, my space-cadet-self had left a charged GoPro in the passenger seat the night before the lunar eclipse. So with nothing more than that, my iPhone, and a perfectly functional (albeit slightly sluggish) memory, I followed my friends through the dark to the overlook just a 1/2 mile up the mountain to watch the sunrise.
With every step I took up the muddy trail, I actually started to feel better about having forgotten my camera. It was kinda cloudy, kinda rainy.
Maybe the sunrise won’t be that great, I convinced myself. We obviously weren’t going to see the lunar eclipse with the cloud coverage, so it’s not like I’d be missing any opportunity there.
But when we reached the forest’s edge and the landscape opened up into a sweeping view of the mountains surrounding Boone, N.C., that earlier irritation with myself returned full-force.
This sunrise was going to be brilliant.
While my friends whipped out their tripods and fancy cameras and lenses and shot long exposures of the increasingly stunning sunrise, I sat on the damp rock, hugging my knees in a useless attempt to trap my body heat, and pouted. I took a few photos with the GoPro, some video to capture the wind, but that’s about all I could muster the creative energy to do.
You’re useless, I kept saying to myself. Totally and utterly useless.
I know. It sounds harsh, and I’ll be the first to admit I’m my own worst critic. But given that I’d been up early nearly every day that week already, staying up late working, sleeping little, and (due to the unpredictable weather in Boone) not shooting a lot, I was beyond annoyed that I woke up early that morning just to shoot the sunrise only to forget the most important piece of equipment to accomplish that.
As the sun peaked over the horizon though, I had a change of heart.
Not a significant change of heart, but a subtle one, mind you.
For those of you that have taken the time to watch the sun rise, you’ll know that it happens fast. One moment, you can barely see the hint of glowing red peaking through the clouds. A blink of the eye later and the sun is big and full, high in the sky and beaming its golden light down below.
As my friends scurried around furiously snapping away, worrying about underexposing or overexposing or which ISO to use or from what vantage point to shoot, I found myself content with simply sitting still and watching. Observing. I don’t do that a whole lot (remember the time I was sick?), and as I sat there, soaking in every second of the sun rising, I realized that I rarely do that. I rarely watch the sun rise without feeling obligated to snap a photo or shoot some video. It was a nice change of pace, a much-needed break from the norm. After the sun had made its way into the clouds above, I snapped a few photos with my iPhone and GoPro to document the morning and at least make an attempt to capture the beauty, but I hardly did it justice.
Who cares that I didn’t take an epic time lapse of the sunrise? Who cares that I didn’t get the shot? Aside from that little voice in my head, my own worst critic, the answer was nobody. What matters is that I was up early enough to see the sun rise at all, that I had breathed in a little bit of mountain air before most were even awake.
So maybe it wasn’t that you forgot your camera. Maybe it was that you forgot to return a call, pay the electric bill on time, or show up to the doctor’s appointment you planned six months ago. Maybe it’s that this project you’ve poured your heart and soul into for the past semester didn’t turn out quite like you’d initially imagined it. Whatever it is that you did to disappoint yourself, forget it. Let it go, and remember that nobody’s perfect and everyone is their own worst critic. Cut yourself some slack and hop off that pedestal. If you don’t, it’s a long way to fall.