The Ultimate in Practicing “Forward”

Thursday, April 4th, 2013 19

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I wanted to share with you a great — and difficult — opportunity that presented itself which allowed me to work a bit deeper with my word for the year. As promised, here is that story.

As many of you know, I’ve been working on a 365 project since last April. I’ve been focusing on practicing (my one little word for 2012) my photography by shooting every day, and I’m oh-so-very-close to the finish line of this milestone journey. And while I may not feel totally inspired each and every day, I have been consistently shooting and diligently marking each day with a photograph from one of my Polaroid cameras or my digital SLR. A few Fridays ago, I was running fast and furious — I had my pre-op visit with my surgeon, multiple meetings with students, errands to run, Parker to drop off at the dog-sitter’s house, and packing to do as Tony and I were leaving the next morning to head to Nashville to meet up with some dear friends. At around 8:15pm, as I was sitting at my computer checking-in for our flights, it dawned on me that I hadn’t taken a photo yet that day and that I needed to take care of that. A little while later, Tony got home from a play at the high school where he teaches and I realized I hadn’t eaten dinner yet (hello after 9pm!). So I talked with him, heated up some leftovers, and eventually finished packing. The next morning arrived, we had some coffee while getting our remaining items together, I grabbed some film from out of the refrigerator, and off to Omaha we drove to catch our plane. After making our connection in Chicago and mid-flight to Nashville, a wave of awareness and an immediate sinking feeling washed over me. I DIDN’T SHOOT A PHOTO THE DAY BEFORE.

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I felt horrible. Sick to my stomach. Tony was asleep in the seat next to me and I desperately wanted to wake him up so I could tell him that I didn’t take a photo the day before. I realized that was selfish of me and that there was nothing he could do about it, so I let him sleep. But I so wanted to scream as loud as I could that I DIDN’T SHOOT A PHOTO THE DAY BEFORE. I was that upset. I wanted needed to tell somebody. I wanted needed someone to “talk me down off the ledge.” I was beside myself that I had come this far in the project, that I had only 45 days left to cross the finish line, and I had f*cked up. I was so mad at myself. I felt so stupid. HOW COULD I FORGET? It wasn’t even like I felt uninspired or bored. It wasn’t like I just didn’t feel like shooting something. It was simply that I forgot. It was the mere fault of being over-scheduled, over-full, and maxed out for the day, that it slipped my mind in the midst of all the other details. Not shooting a photo was a result of me simply being human.

Now I realize that this is not the catastrophic problem that I was feeling it was. I totally get that the world was going to keep on spinning, and that in the grand scheme of life, this was not that big of a deal. And I know that most people wouldn’t even really care. But I care. This 365 project matters to me, and I felt incredibly angry with myself. I felt such a sense of disappointment. I felt like I blew it.

And then I had to shake it off. I was not going to quit, even though the urge to do so might have been strong given the ways in which I felt I had blown it. I’m betting that this is what happens to many people who don’t complete a 365 project — one day causes a hiccup, a missed photo, and the feelings of f*cking it up makes people throw in the towel. But I chose to accept that this is what happened. I didn’t shoot a photograph on day 320/365. And while that was a total bummer, I had to pick up my camera on day 321/365 and move FORWARD. I had to dust myself off and keep going. I had to put one foot in front of the other, and keep doing the work. The Universe gave me a beautiful, if not painful, opportunity to practice my one little word for the year. And I’m grateful for it.

19 Responses

  1. Meredith says:

    I’m not going to say don’t feel bad about it because after all the planning, perspiration and sheer determination you put into it, I can totally empathize. I would feel exactly the same way. Gutted. What I really admire is the fact that despite missing that day, you haven’t let it stop you completing your project and that really speaks volumes about the kind of person you are. So kudos Meghan, cause in a world where so many take the easy road when the going gets hard, you’ve chosen to tough it out and that my friend, takes guts. M xx

  2. Corinna says:

    Your project is every bit as amazing as it would have been with day 320 included. And you are an inspiration to all of us who lose the plot in the middle of big commitments we make to ourselves. Forward, indeed. xo

  3. rebecca says:

    Oh how I understand this feeling. I’m the person you speak of who has tried to start such a project, gotten overwhelmed one day, and tossed it. It feels so shitty. I admire you for picking up the camera on day 321 and keeping the project going. It’s perhaps a more real vision of your life now, one in which perfect lies not in consistency, but in the heart to push through the hardest part of a project like this. So proud of you. 🙂

  4. Shiny says:

    My wife and I decided to start a project a few years ago which debuted on my son’s eighth birthday — we would take a photo of him every evening, preferably in the same spot. We had seen people stitch together years’ worth of pictures on YouTube, and we felt it would be a nice project during his formative years as he starts growing from a boy into a young man. We still plan to have a finished product by the time his bar mitzvah rolls around in early 2016.

    It’s been slightly more than two years since we began. And there have been a few days where we missed out on the photo opportunity — even after we had obsessively hounded his grandparents, his aunts and uncles and other relatives to make sure the photo was taken. But that first day when we simply forgot? That was all on us. It was a day like any other. We were just tired, and it didn’t happen.

    And we felt foolish. We felt like we had let our son down. And let ourselves down. We had broken the routine.

    It took us a while to realize that we were our own harshest critics about breaking this routine. And that in the grand scheme of things, the project would still take a similar shape and look fantastic. We’ve missed a few days since then, and I’m sure we’ll miss more in the future. But we think of it like cheating on a diet or missing a day of working out: life doesn’t complete crash, and one doesn’t need to start over from the beginning. You just pick up where you left off and learn your lesson from experience.

    I’ve been enjoying reading through some of your journey over the past year — especially after reconnecting with you twenty years after college. Thank you for sharing your life so candidly with the rest of us. 🙂

    • Meghan says:

      Shiny–Thanks so much for your kind response and your own experiences. I love this part of what you said, “life doesn’t complete crash, and one doesn’t need to start over from the beginning. You just pick up where you left off and learn your lesson from experience.” Perfect. So good to reconnect with you after all these years.

  5. Laurie says:

    I know they’re “supposed” to be, but who says they have to be in a row? Keep moving forward and take those 365 photos!!! I’m excited for you that you didn’t hiccup to a halt!!

  6. That is a bummer that it happened, but you know what I like about the circumstances? PEOPLE came first in your actions and thoughts. Tony, your dear friends, that was foremost in your mind, not a personal goal. To me, that shows a true benevolent and caring person. 🙂

    I am glad you picked it up the next day. The project isn’t about 365 photos, it’s about the journey in my mind, but I suppose you do have to ask yourself why you are doing the project in the first place and what missing this photo means to what you are trying to achieve with it. Find that out and it may put it into more perspective as well.

    And I like the image in the posting as well…very fitting.

    • Meghan says:

      Thanks for your comments, Patrick. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. It *is* a good question to ask about the purpose of the project and explore what it means to miss a day. Photography is such a great way to explore my life more fully.

  7. playcrane says:

    You are beautifully imperfect. We make mistakes that suck big time. And then you moved on! Bravo to you.

  8. Melissa says:

    It’s interesting how important your word for the year, “forward” became in this experience. While others might have let it stop then in their tracks, you didn’t. 365s teach us about all sorts of things beyond just photography, and it seems like you learned a lot here about the kind of person you are– a determined, focused, brave and honest one.

    • Meghan says:

      So right on, Melissa! My word is unfolding in so many powerful ways. And this situation and opportunity really demonstrates my site’s tagline: using photography to build a creative life and focus on what matters. xo

  9. Jen says:

    Wow. I did the 365 challenge a few years ago. It was exactly that. A challenge. I think you are doing so very well, try not to beat yourself up about it too much though. One day is one day. It’s a marker in your project that you were so focused on living your life you didn’t document it. That in itself is a gift. Good luck with the rest. I found you through twitter #onelittleword

    • Meghan says:

      Thanks for your comment on my post, Jen! I appreciate you coming by and saying hello. Congrats to you on completing a 365! I know the work and dedication that takes. Clicking over to check out your corner of the world!

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