Catharsis. It’s such a rare beast. Of all the experiences I have ever experienced it seems to be the most endangered and the most short lived.
I’ve been pent up as of late. Old patterns of self-hatred have been rearing their ugly heads. Of course to distract my brain I drowned myself in beer and new projects.
The beer made the patterns more pronounced, the projects just created new negative emotions about all the projects yet to do. I want to do a million things and all that desire just eggs on the anxiety.
“You never see things through. Don’t start something new.”
“Where’s the profit in this? You’re spending money you’ll never make back.”
“There’s so many ways to get where you want to be. Why can’t you just find them?”
“Where do you even want to go?”
“This isn’t the life you wanted. You’re a failure.”
I bought cameras. I made cyanotypes. I made t shirts. I posted posts. I bought film (which I’m now terrified to use). I bought an adapter and a controller and two games for my old Nintendo 64. I ordered prints. I dug out old treasures from the closet.
Each and every time I hoped something would give me a little punch of endorphins that would push my negative thoughts and emotions out for good.
But a few days ago I did find something that made me pause and *almost* crest that hill of tears.
As I’ve gotten deeper into photography I’ve started looking back through my old portfolio trying to find the gems. Unconsciously, I was also seeking some validation that perhaps I’m getting better. I don’t know about the latter (photography has its ups and downs) but I have found a lot of gems.
After listening to a podcast about street photography I remembered taking candid shots of a concert I attended just before the pandemic hit. At the time, the world was about to lose such experiences. I was about to lose my wife. She had already signed a rental agreement and at the time I was teetering on accepting her choice. The future was bleak for me, and for the rest of the world as well, though they didn’t know it.
I scrolled back through to that night, February 28th, 2020. The concert was at Jackrabbits in Jacksonville, FL. The acts performing were local: Hensley, Yellow Steve, Denver Hall, and Faze Wave. I went primarily for Hensley and Faze Wave as I had seen them before at Raindogs, but after this night I was a fan of all the acts.
Seeing that world in photographs smacked me so hard.
A world without social distancing. A world without masks. A world where people were just people, all colors, all ages, just enjoying a night out. This really was the last hurrah in a lot of ways.
And for me it was such a last gasp. I never even noticed the pandemic. My life completely fell apart and I didn’t have time to waste on the world outside. I wouldn’t even recognize the man who took these photos. He probably would despise me, and I envy him. He was as oblivious as the crowd was.
So many feelings broke loose looking at these. The very memories are tainted. But I saw the world through those past eyes. It’s a vision that eludes me right now.
I want to see that world again. To have those eyes again. But I can’t. I am a different person and the world has changed around me.
Is this catharsis? Have I purged the negative thoughts and emotions? I’m still working on it. Looking back seems to be one of the best ways to look forward. I see where I was. I see where the world was. Maybe some of that “innocence” is still there.
Even though I have been to many concerts and social events since, none of them quite have the feel of that particular time and place. Perhaps it’s my jaundiced emotions that make modern experiences less enjoyable. Perhaps the world truly *is* different. Either way, I’ll keep searching for that old world feel.
As for my emotional constipation, I don’t have to keep chasing newer and better things. However, there is nothing wrong with trying new and different things. They may not spark permanent joy, but they are worth doing, and doing as well as I can.
Perhaps in doing new things well, I’ll finally break the clog. If not, at least I’ll have fun right?
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