It’s been a long time since I was on a college campus. The sensation is different, like visiting the playground your parents brought you to when you were a kid. All the elements are still there; the monkey bars, the merry-go-round, and the seesaw…except you’re not really supposed to being playing on them anymore. I guess I should feel self-conscious, but I don’t. For sure, I’m older than the average person I see walking around, but certainly not the oldest…and that’s comforting.
Slung over my shoulder is my Cannon backpack that holds, you guessed it, my Cannon camera. I’m here among the young’uns to take a night course in photography and I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time. Originally, I signed up because this was something I needed to learn a little more about for work, but it’s become something else entirely.
This time of day is really beautiful. There’s still enough light in the sky to appreciate the details that surround me and yet it’s dark enough to pepper my world with rich shadows. I don’t know if I would’ve paid much attention to the shadows before I started the class, but now they seem important. When I was young I was afraid of shadow, always wary of what harm might be lurking in those dark places, but perspective changes things.
Someone bumps into me and I apologize; the impulse of a person who daydreams more than he should. Out of the corner of my eye I spy the campus bookstore and smile. Let’s see how the passage of time affects collegiate commerce. Well, aside from the abundance of iPhone accessories, not much has changed. There’s plenty of sweatshirts, textbooks and junk food to keep the student work-study program well funded and I find myself craving Domino’s pizza, which is embarrassing on many levels.
It’s [6:45]; I better head up to the classroom. These days I like to be on time for my commitments; a priority taught to me by my college girlfriend. She was a gentle soul who one day explained to me that when I kept her waiting I was telling her that my time was more important than hers and she felt disrespected. I never forgot that. Also, being early has the added benefit of giving me time to mentally prepare for what’s next… and I love what’s next.
I think if I had all the money I could ever want I would spend my time seeing the world, writing, playing music and learning (one out of four is not too bad). For the next two and a half hours, I can forget about my age, my bills and my responsibilities and learn something new like when I was a in school. I read somewhere that learning a new skill keeps your brain young; something about creating new pathways for electrical impulses to travel, and I believe it. During class I feel more engaged, more passionate and more aware than is typical for me these days. It’s easier for me to exist in the moment and I miss that feeling, but here’s the best part.
I used to think of photography as a skill, but now I see it for what it really is…art. There’s such beauty in catching the right moment, the right look, the right light, so that you can tell the story that only you can see. I’m especially drawn to street photography for this reason. It occurs to me that it’s the same with writing, painting and music. It’s the chance for the ultimate individual expression of ourselves and for all of us it’s as necessary as breathing. I don’t think a person needs to be an artist to get the benefit of expressing themselves through art. Based on the popularity of karaoke, I’m even more convinced that’s true with music.
I’m so grateful for this class and I will continually remind myself to seek out more opportunities for creative expression. The real surprise is that I can get as much out of photography, as I can from writing or even music. I only wish I had known this the first time I went to college.