Okay, here it is – a reflection of the year: I’ve taken a bit longer to get this out than I thought I would. Every time I sat down to digest the past year I just ended up looking at my screen, typing something, reading it and then deciding that it’s a total pile of shit and deleting it, but I finally feel like I have the energy to do this.
Where to begin, I always try to digest the year or at least reflect somewhat before stepping into a new year. In a nutshell? 2018 was wild. It was a rollercoaster of self discovery and it was challenging in so many ways. I spent a significant amount of the year traveling which I’m beyond grateful for, but that was also in truth some of the most challenging times. The couple of months in New York on my recent trip being the most challenging. But it’s all allowed me to see the world though altered eyes in ways that I never thought I would. I got to spend more time with my New York photography family and made new beautiful friends. (If you were one of the people that I got to meet this year while traveling and if you took the time to walk through the streets of a city with me, or sit down and have coffee with me, there are no words for how grateful I am for your time and your friendship.) I also had countless incredible moments shared on foreign streets with strangers who I may never see again.
I saw the beautiful and caring side of humans during late nights in hotel bars and diners, unable to sleep due to a restless mind. Which lead to many conversations that won’t soon be forgotten. This year has been a reminder that we need to be more receptive of those around us – and that even though we all come from different places, chances are we face similar struggles and all it takes is giving someone a chance to listen, and in return a chance for them to be heard. Patrick Rothfuss said this in ‘A Slow Regard for Silent Things’ and it really rung true:
2018 taught me so many things. The last year hurt me too, but I owned it. I think that’s often the most difficult thing, to own the choices we make, and to accept the choices of others.
Recap of the year, I left for New York winter in February, I spent time with my friends, shot my heart out, got pneumonia, broke my camera (Canon has great weather-sealing but I discovered that after nearly 10years it’s not always still blizzard proof, my bad) I experienced shooting on 120mm thanks to Liam and met even more incredible friends along the way. I returned home slightly more broke than before but with a full heart. I adopted a cat – which was totally unplanned but he’s the best. Unbeknownst to me however I would soon be returning to the States in a month or two and I would end spending the summer in the city.
Fast forward to July and I’m back on flight EK773 to New York via Dubai. I journaled about this trip quite a bit, so I won’t go into too much detail, but it was hella taxing and also really incredible. After I gave in to the fact that I will forever be sweaty and there’s absolutely nothing that I can do to change this I fell in-love with New York in the summer – which shocked me since most of you are well aware that I’m a winter body. I haven’t experienced the city in summer in over 7 years – for the first time ever I saw Jakes neighbourhood where I always stay with trees that bare green leaves.
I walked around until late at night almost every single day, often starting in the Financial District or Chinatown and winding my way all the way uptown until I got to the Upper West Side or Central Park – trying to get lost in the streets and in my mind.
I started running again. (I still hate it.)
I briefly mentioned this before, a lot of people on talk about the great parts of traveling as if their lives are this amazing adventure, people very rarely say much else. It’s not always a magical adventure. It’s often very lonely. When you’ve kept yourself busy all day with clients and projects, with friends, with taking photo’s and you go home to your hotel room and shut the door suddenly there’s nobody left but you and your own thoughts.
That’s all good and well if you’re away for a short period of time, but when time stretches it becomes challenging in ways that are hard to imagine. When your family and your close circle are so far away, and you have nothing but yourself for company day in and day out is when the realness of life begins to hit. I had some of the worse anxiety and insomnia spells of my life this year – often going days without any sleep at all, but I had to face it and deal with it which I did, and am. New York is a broken yet beautiful city, and it mirrors that in everyone, life breaks and it reforms, and it has a way to show you beauty through it all if you just open your eyes and look for it.
I also got the chance to travel to Maine to help produce a shoot for a client which was amazing and so peacefully beautiful – I remember waking up the one morning, making my way to the kitchen to get a coffee and sitting down on the porch outside. The house is situated on a massive lake, the air was crisp with the morning chill and I could hear the lobstermen talking to each other from one boat to the next, their music playing across the water. It dawned on me yet again that no matter how much shit life often throws at me I’m damn lucky to be able to experience all that I have, to work with such incredible clients and with an inspiring team, and to be fortunate enough to have the most supportive friends and family.
I got back to Cape Town early September just in time for my birthday, 29. What even the shit is time? I’m 30 this year and I may or may not have a total panic attack and breakdown when that happens. I also got to be a part of a great campaign for Land Rover, which 1) was really incredible and I loved ever second of it and 2) meant that I had some extra unexpected budget and since I blow ALL my money on travel I decided to visit my best friend in London.
As much I know what a huge privilege it is to be able to travel it’s really important to know that it’s not always ‘instagram pretty’, in fact I bet you that life is never as Instagram pretty as people make it out to be, ever – and I want that to really hit home if you’re reading this. We’re very quick to compare our lives, and to think we aren’t doing enough with our own, the illusion that social media sets can, and often does, get very self destructive. I feel like we all have a responsibility to keep it real and in check.
In summary: Despite my battles with my own mental health and life this year I wouldn’t change anything about 2018. Our experiences, our choices, and how we handle them is what makes us who we are. They build us, change us, and help us cut through the bullshit. They remind us both who and what is important. 2018 saw me loosing people that I loved, and some friendships and relationships came to an abrupt and unexpected end, but other’s strengthened so much, and I made connections with new incredible humans whom I can’t wait to see again.
If there’s one big take-away from this year, it’s this: We can not change or control the decisions and actions of other people, no matter how much they hurt us or disappoint us. We can not change how people react to us, or the way other people think or their own preconceived notions and behaviour, the ONLY thing we can control is our reaction to this uncontrollable thing called life and how we allow the curve balls to affect us.
So where does this leave me for 2019? My shrink keeps telling me that I need to let go. That I’m forever trying to control things that I can not. To plan ahead and think ahead and account for it all and that I should learn to just ‘go with it’ sometimes. SO, a couple of weeks ago I was talking with a good friend who has been backpacking across the world for the last 6 months. He mentioned that he’s decided to go to Japan, and joked that I should join, so I decided ‘fuck it, I’m going to go’ I’ve always wanted to see Japan, but I never pulled the trigger. Partly because it’s so foreign and for a first trip I’d like to go with someone (and let’s be honest – finding a travel partner is nearly as impossible as winning the lotto or getting a ‘ripe and ready’ avo that’s actually ripe and ready.) and partly because I always end up going back to NYC. Well it’s all aligned and I’m doing it, because life is short and what even is having savings?
I’m also starting some projects closer to home, and documenting a story that I think people would like to hear. I’ll be taking more of a photojournalism direction for this piece so that’s something to look forward to!
In short – I honestly have zero clue what this year will have in store for me but I’m feeling positive about it. I’m by no means less of a mess and I have no idea where I actually want to be or go, but I’m moving forward, one step at a time – and I’m excited for where those steps will lead.
I also want to thank every single one of you for your constant support and for following along – it’s been a really amazing year and that’s partly to-do with all the beautiful connections that I’ve made thanks to photography, Instagram and this blog. I appreciate you.