Dear 2020 Self: (At 13, A Letter to My Future Self)

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“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.  And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” ~ Max Ehrmann

Eli

Portrait Series Documenting the Journey of a Group of Silicon Valley Teens to Graduation in 2020 (and Beyond)

Part 1: “At 13, A Letter to My Future Self”

I have been planning for this photo series for many years and could not wait until the magic number “13”. I wanted to make portraits of my daughter and a group of her peers at the age of 13 and ask them each to write a letter to their future 18 year old self; their 2020 self.  However, the project wouldn’t end there. Each participant has agreed to meet me again in 2020 for another portrait/letter session, and perhaps again in 2025.

I began this project last summer, during their 13th year and asked that they write their letter before turning 14.  I have known most of these kids since their pre and elementary school days.  And, while 7 middle schools, 9 towns, and a countless number of sports teams, music groups and art programs now separate them, they have all remained friends or have become acquaintances.  The kids of the Silicon Valley all seem to know one another.

I’m thrilled to introduce this group of teens, each of whom I will have the privilege of documenting with photographs on their journey to 2020.  After each child’s name I’ve included one word their parents were asked to use to describe them when they entered preschool.  I look forward to watching them grow and witnessing the young adults they will become.  Godspeed!

Tyler   ::EnthusiasticTyler

Ally   ::EmpatheticAlly

Eli   ::UndauntedEli

Ava   ::GregariousAva

Kiley   ::CreativeKiley

Matthew   ::CuriousMatthew

Meagan   ::ActiveMeagan

Jackson   ::InterestedJackson

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Inspiration (or, lack thereof)

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“Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

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The last few months have seen a flurry of photo sessions of many flavors leaving little time to work on my blog or my art photography.  2014 was very good to me professionally, so, this is not a complaint.  I intended to take the month of January to get back to my blog and art, however, ended up taking on two projects that, once again, put everything back on the shelf.

I have been seeking inspiration and feeling the need for a new perspective.  A new path, if you will, for the next steps on my journey.  I thought my trip back to my hometown in the Ohio river valley would do the trick.  With railroad tracks on my mind, my goal was set – a cold, grey day on the old, rusty rails in my small town.  I envisioned capturing haunting images of the overgrowth and the deteriorating trestle over the little river.  The best laid plans.  The overgrown tracks were gone, apparently replaced long ago with a bike trail and the trestle most likely collapsed into the river long before the bike trail came to town.  I got one thing right, it was cold and grey.  My camera stayed snuggly in it’s bag, I didn’t venture out once, and somehow I caught flu.  I came home sick and uninspired.

Fast forward to yesterday.  With the hope of a new vision or direction still looking bleak, an artist friend and I went to visit some galleries in San Francisco in preparation of an Open Studio this spring that will feature her paintings and my photography.  First stop, an old coffee shop on the pier.  As I sat with my coffee looking out the window of the empty cafe, I felt the first hint of an inspirational wave approaching.  Before me, the perfect vision out of the dirty old window.  As if the Bay Bridge was painted on canvas.  Snap.  As we waited for the curator to welcome us to the gallery, I turned to take in the Bay between two old warehouses.  Below me, above the water of the Bay were the rusty, overgrown tracks of some railroad of long ago.  Built on a trestle, these tracks came out of nowhere below and reached into the Bay, disappearing into the grey morning fog.  This remarkable and eerily beautiful sight, presenting as if it was staged exclusively for me.  Perhaps it is true.  I am a child of the universe and the universe is unfolding as it should.  I didn’t need to travel 2,000 miles to find my inspiration, 20 miles was enough.  The universe conspired to make it happen.  Snap.

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Peace in Silence

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Quote of the Day:  “Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.” ~ Max Ehrmann

When I was eight years old, my oldest sister would play her 45 LP records on our little portable record player.  I realize “45 LP” and “record player” mean nothing to anyone born after 1980; however, 45 LP’s were to my generation what iPods and iTunes are to this generation of teeny boppers.

There was one record I adored.  It was mostly a man reciting words to a poem; but, then angelic voices would sing the chorus.  I loved to sing the chorus over and over.  It went like this, “You are a child of the universe; no less than the trees and the stars, you have a right to be here.  And whether or not, it is clear to you; no doubt the universe is unfolding as a should.”

As an eight year old, I had no idea that this was not just a popular song recorded by Les Crane in the 70’s.  It was a poem written in 1927 by Max Ehrmann.  It is a poem that has come back to me a various stages of my life and always holds great meaning.  I have carried the same copy of this poem with me from Ohio, to Washington, D.C and, here, to California.  Last year, when my daughter was eight, she found the copy of the poem in my desk.  I read it to her.  She liked it very much, so, I shared how I would listen to this song over and over when I was her age.  She googled it and found the song on YouTube.  She loved it and asked if I would put it on her iPod.   I can sometimes hear her singing, “you are a child of the universe.”   Children follow by example, so, teach your children well.  Oh, that’s a song for another day :).  Here is the poem.

DESIDERATA

— by Max Ehrmann–

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.