Oh, Joy.

mumford and sons

About a month ago, I found myself smack dab in the center of Joy. I didn’t navigate my way there. I just stumbled upon it, like a secret garden or a hidden hot spring that nobody can quite tell you how to get to. It happened right here, at a Mumford & Sons concert.

It sort of snuck up on me. It tapped me on the shoulder a few times, but I ignored it - chalking it up to a song or the energy of the room that night. It was, after all, a great concert. But at the end of the last song, I stepped back, away from the crowd, and I just took a breath. It was in that moment of space that I gave myself that I recognized where I was. Smack dab in the middle of Joy.

It was bound to happen. I had been denying myself Joy for so long….pretending like it didn’t even exist. Maybe I just didn’t recognize it because it had been gone for so long. So each time I saw it, I looked away, seeking it in some other format. Or maybe not at all.

Depriving ourselves of joy is not new. We do it for many reasons. I think mine was a sort of self-flagulation, as if I didn’t deserve a relationship with Joy….as if I wasn’t meant to live side by side in the presence of something so simple and true to our well being. I wish I had a better explanation of why I have left Joy behind in a dustcloud - shame, guilt and fear all vying for shotgun in my life, but I don’t. It’s silly and ridiculous and I wish I didn’t feel this way. But the fact is that I do. Or at least I did.

After I snuck away from the mosh pit of humans that night, I squared myself up center to the stage - iPhone in hand to take a shot. I took a deep breath in and smiled, just lingering in the moment a little. That’s when I realized Joy was back. And there we were… face-to-face, hand-in-hand with all the other couples in the back of the room. We cozied up and renewed our long lost commitment to one another, dancing under the confetti like we had just renewed our holy vows.

And if you, too, are seeking Joy in your life, I think you can find it tucked away at the crossroads of love and gratitude. Just make sure you don’t bypass it as you take a direct route on the superhighway to where you think it should be. It’s not clearly marked on that map someone tricked you into believing. There are no shortcuts. No direct routes. No signs pointing to a singular destination. It’s tricky to find and even harder to recognize. But once you arrive, you’ll know it.

On becoming the spark

The Dave Matthews Band last week at the N. Charleston Coliseum. Taken with my trusty iPhone.

The Dave Matthews Band last week at the N. Charleston Coliseum. Taken with my trusty iPhone.

How do we stand out in a crowd? How do we become noticed instead of one of the masses? How do we move from the crowd onto the stage and into the spotlight of our own lives?

I watched an interview with Dave Matthews (yes, THAT Dave Matthews) a few weeks ago. In the interview, he spoke about a turning point in his life. He said when he was young, singing in the living room his father turned to him and said "Son, you sing so well that you can even sing off key on purpose. That's incredible!" This was a turning point for him. He said he knew at that moment he was going to be a musician. That became his belief. That became his mission. He knew he loved what he did, but one person validated him and it was a done deal.

As a photographer, I think about following my passion and standing out in a sea of talent almost daily. The quest for getting noticed can be real and strong at times - much the same as I imagine musicians to feel.  So what is it that puts you in the spotlight over a million others out there?  Is it luck? Confidence? Kindness? Sheer determination and a will? Or is it someone believing in you just like Dave Matthews' father did for him all those years ago?

I think it's perhaps a combination of elements for most of us. But what I know for sure is that the more you believe you can do it, the more likely it will be to happen for you. Like any energy in the world, it just needs something to get started. A spark. A drop. Something to give it momentum and speed.

Just remember, always, that the spark starts with you first.