Whenever I sit down to interview someone for my documentary photography series The Womanish Project, I ask them the question, "What did you want to be when you were little?".
The person, more often than not, responds with a laugh and a pause and then a list of careers- of dreams. Things that probably lay uncovered in their mind for years as they became adults and left behind their wish of being a fireman or a cat or a veterinarian who was also an astronaut.
I've always wanted to be an actor. I don't remember a time before then. A time before I dreamed of acceptance speeches and silk sheets and extravagant kimonos (I watched a lot of old movies so my idea of fame was stuck in the Golden Age of Cinema).
I don't remember a time before that itching feeling to succeed and become someone didn't gnaw at my every thought, my every word. Becoming someone meant a persistent dream to be somewhere else- to be someone else. To climb my way out of the suburban monotony of growing up in a place where all of the houses look the same. Where all of the people look the same. To make my way in the big city.
I look back at those dreams now and see that the foundation of everything I wanted was built on my desire to be anywhere else than the present moment. To escape.
That dream carried me through my formative years, through high school, college, and my twenties. It was like I climbed aboard an express train and said take me anywhere but here.
But then I got sick and better and then sick again and I looked at my life and I said, is this it?
But more importantly- I looked all around me and said give me more of this.
I want the wind and the rain and the sand under my feet. I want to stare out into the horizon and let my mind wander. I want to stick my hands in the dirt. I want the feeling you get after a good cry or a good laugh. I want to watch paint dry as it drips down the canvas.
And as I got better and got back to my life. The life I had built in New York. That revolved around being an actor. The way I was taught to be an actor. The restaurant work and auditions and the watching what you eat and constantly running from place to place and does my hair look okay does this dress make me look fat am I good enough am I enough?
Well- I was startled to realize that something didn't feel right. The job which revolved around me waiting tables while I waited for that big break. The constant self evaluation. Self appraisal. How much am I worth? The rushing around that kept me from taking the time to watch the leaves rustle outside of my window.
I was sad in a way that I had never felt before. It was a palpable pain and I couldn't place where it was coming from.
I said to myself: something has to change.
And so. I left my job. And then I left the city. And then I came back. And then I embarked on this new chapter of my life which consists of cobbling together money from artistic pursuits. A time that is altogether temporary but important.
It's been a month since I've left my job and over the past few weeks I've been consistently struck by the feeling that I'm a visitor in my own life. This city is strange to me in a way that it never has been before.
I thought that was because I was lost. Unmoored. For the first time in my life, I didn't have the next five years planned out and that should terrify me. But I wasn't terrified. I was... a new emotion. One I had never experienced before.
And I hemmed and I hawed and I wondered and wandered and then today I realized what it was. That emotion that was so indescribable.
For the first time in my life I didn't want to be someone else.