I met a stranger last weekend that piqued my curiosity while sitting at my favorite coffee place in Kensington Market, I was in the process of writing my last post and she caught my attention because she was working with some tarot cards. Some level of mysticism runs in my family, my dad’s mother dabbled with tarot cards and tea leaf readings and my father was into palmistry and researching old and weird things. Then there is the Filipino side of the fence, some really interesting stuff over there. Anyways back to the market, I was curious and asked her if those were tarot cards, she said yes but there was something about the way that she talked that made her even more interesting. I said hey if you’re ever looking for a guinea pig to do a reading on I’m game and so we agreed to meet up that Sunday. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen but she texted me to confirm, Sunday rolled around and I found myself at my favorite coffee spot once again. We chatted for quite a while, I love hearing the stories of peoples life adventures and she had some pretty great stories. We got onto the reading and I have to admit I can’t remember the last time I’ve had a reading myself, she asked her cards what they thought of me and they fucked with me a little which was kind of funny for both of us, the cards made fun of my “Think” tattoo (that thing is a story for another post). The process of a card reading is an interesting experience, if you’ve never done it you should try at least once if not just for the amusement of trying something new. The first reading we did was very on point, not scary or anything but it hit close to home on topics I’ve personally been avoiding cause I feel trapped to manage them. The second reading, no different from the first was just as on point and really hit home the fact that a. I need to stop avoiding shit and b. my life is pretty dope and I do some pretty dope shit (thanks Kanye). She commented that my readings were some of the most consistent shes ever done and then we got kicked out of the coffee shop because they were closing.
I have talked about my struggles with depression and anxiety but I’ve tended to skirt around the last one calling it dark thoughts or darkness. Well to bring that shitty bastard to light, its name is Suicide and it has had me as a passenger on its fucked up ride for as long as I can remember the depression and anxiety. There are plenty of reasons why I’ve never talked about it, the biggest one I would reckon is fear. The fear of judgment and persecution for admitting suicidal thoughts has kept me pretty silent about it over the past few decades. It gnaws at you though and if left alone will eventually win, a couple of years ago I caved and started talking to my counselor about the pit of despair that I felt I was in. She asked about suicidal thoughts and I nearly shut down at the fear of being sent off for mental examination or whatever, I have bills to pay, I can’t miss work. I admitted sure I think about it, but I’m good, these talks help, let’s move on. Back then I thought about it daily, and today? well, I still do. But here I am.
I am very aware that I am not alone in this struggle, people close to me, people in circles around me, people on social media and total strangers are all on this fucked up ride too. I’ve heard stories from good friends about their own struggles or those of family members they love dearly. It has been interesting to hear their perspective and how they are managing themselves or assisting their family member. Total strangers have reached out about the photos I post or words I write helping them when they were having hard times. It is nice to connect as humans and talk about something very real, something that can be upsetting but that is a part of being human I feel. The brain is a magical machine that we don’t fully understand, it can do some pretty amazing things and I am grateful for mine but sometimes it can be a real dick. Anyways the connection thing, it has been rad to connect to people but it has mostly been in private, which I understand given the nature of the topic. People get uncomfortable about it, even in this climate with more acceptance in the realm of mental health and wellness people clam up tighter than Jason Kenney in a gay bar.
So why am I talking about this unsettling business on the internet, where it will be seen by all the peoples and archived for eons and potentially get me flagged by the man for being mentally weak or whatever? Because I am tired of feeling weak when I know that is bullshit, I’m still here for as long as I can, and so are the people I know and love who are on this ride and so are the humans I have yet to meet but are also on the ride too. By sheer will and tenacity, I am here, we are here, we are doing our best. Maybe you didn’t know we’ve been fighting so hard to spend time with you and the people we love and doing things we enjoy. I don’t want to be the poster boy or voice for the people who feel lost, I just hope this helps you think differently. Because it may not be obvious to you that someone you care about is fighting for their life every day and they possibly may not want to draw attention to that because you may treat them differently. At least that is what I fear, and I am tired of being afraid. So here I am.
The new Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), by Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7
For numbers in your own province click here
For readers in the United States click here
For friends in the UK click here
You ever get that feeling, you know the one, things start to slip and you just can’t be bothered. How long does it last for you? minutes, hours, days, weeks? Have you forgotten how long it has been since you cared? Does it feel like you’re living in your own personal groundhog day, the day may be different but you feel the same. Leave a comment, send an e-mail, dispatch a carrier pigeon or maybe a telegram. I’m curious and want to know what daily life is like for you out there.
Now I don’t want you to think that I don’t care, if I didn’t, well I wouldn’t have spent the time and energy to write this and attempt to share and engage with you strangers, lovers, friends, and family out there in the ether. That doesn’t mean I don’t struggle and that is where these questions come from. Talking with friends and even some random people, there has been a noticeable commonality that these feelings are abundant with many people, however not often discussed. Now I understand that I’ve spent a great deal of my life ignoring, hiding, masking or lying about feelings and thoughts out of fear of the reaction to them. Fast approaching 4 decades of this dance I’m feeling exhausted so fuck the draining banality of pretending and let’s get real.
Someone who I would like to call a friend but if I’m being honest is really more of an acquaintance, a guy I look up to personally and professionally, has been exercising his own brand of blunt honesty. I won’t say it has inspired me cause I kind of loathe that term in a similar vein to “Live, Laugh, Love” ugh, but I’d say it has encouraged me to do something similar. It feels scary sometimes to lay it down and give the raw untapped truth instead of the filtered safe for public consumption version. Anyways this new direction of bluntness has been curious and a few of the adventures it has taken me on have really surprised me.
Recently I was being reviewed at work and when posed with a negative about myself instead of making up some kind of bullshit like I’ve done in the past to make myself not look as bad, I tried blunt honesty and well it surprised the shit out of me. Midway while explaining to my boss the reason for this negative feedback my mind starts talking back to me like “Good job asshole, the next time we meet with him it’ll be with HR and that’ll just be great won’t it.” Thankfully it didn’t, which I have to give credit to having the privilege to work with a true leader who does his best to make sure I am enabled to do my best. I left that meeting thinking holy shit a. I still have a job and b. it felt really good to share what was really happening and be supported.
This exercise of brutal honesty has also extended into my personal life and it has been really interesting. In the last 6 months, I started a new relationship that has tested my personal boundaries and has helped me grow in ways that I never thought about previously. This is the first time I’ve been in a polyamorous relationship and it has been one hell of an experience, I am grateful for my partner and for the richness of our time together and what that time has taught me. The most important lesson learned is being completely open and honest about everything, the good, the bad, the embarrassing and the shameful. It has been mind-blowing to experience love and appreciation from someone at this level, for just being me.
It’s humbling to think about all of these really great feelings and people in my world that I am deeply grateful for and appreciate with every part of me and its fucked up that I still wake up some days, a lot of days with this apathy so deep I don’t know where it even began. Does it matter to know the genesis of this void, by wondering about it am I feeding into it and giving it relevance? How do you deal with it? do you deal with it at all? is this what drugs are for? are all adults like this? I am truly curious and would love to talk with anyone about this, hit me up on the intarwebs or if you’re in Toronto we can go for a coffee some time, hell I work across Canada and sometimes travel down to the states so we can schedule some time to drink some kind of beverage, breathe the same air and talk about life and shit. I know I’m not alone and I want you to know you’re not either.
The making of this post was powered by:
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I signed up for Instagram May 22, 2011, and in almost 8 years I’ve shared over 5000 photos (fun fact, it takes almost 3 minutes of constant scrolling to get through 5000 photos) that are viewed by countless people around the world and somehow captivated 1200 some people to follow me and it totally blows my mind. The first time I opened the app I had no idea how much this platform would change my life.
My life in 2011 was very different, I was getting married, worked for the government, had a nice little house in northern BC with a big yard for our dogs to rip around. All in all, it was a pretty mellow life. I had been issued the newfangled iPhone 4 at work and was going through withdrawal from my BlackBerry and learning this brave new world of apps. Some work peeps were talking about this funky app called Instagram and it was apparently a neat way to share photos of your life, the food you eat, the places you go and whatever random things you felt like people needed to see. There was also filters, oh so many (well like 10) but they made your shitty camera phone pictures look all artistic an shit. So I signed up for the grams, it was still pretty fresh, not even a year old yet and I started posting all the things. My first post was a photo of my (ex)wife’s brother and nana, from there it was posts of our dogs, food we cooked at home or dinners we had out, friends we would visit with and places we went on vacation.
It’s kind of crazy to look back now and see how much of a fixture Instagram grew to become, slowly ingraining itself into my world. It was there when we got married and then spent the weekend in Tofino with friends. The time we went to South Korea, whenever we found WiFi we would update the world with our exploits. When we took our honeymoon and drove down to California and spent a week in NorCal and a week in SoCal, our exploits were on the grams. I tried to curate my feed a couple of years ago and realized that it was a stupid and futile thing to attempt but also that it was more than just pictures. It’s a living journal of who I was, who I am and potentially a magic 8 ball into who I may become and I felt it was better left alone.
Social Media is a polarizing topic, its a mixed bag of negative and positive experiences, feedback and strong opinions. For the most part, I can’t say I am a huge fan of social media, I participate because it is part of the societal construct I live in. That being said, If Facebook, Twitter and whatever else all disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t be terribly bothered. But if something were to happen to the grams, I would probably be pretty distraught. It isn’t because I am codependent on it, or addicted to the likes (however appreciation is nice) but so many of the good things that have happened in my life as of late are a direct result of being part of the Instagram Ecosystem. It surprises many people when I mention this to them and when I ask why the common response is well its full of fake negative bullshit, why would you waste your time on there. I will agree that there may be a lot of fakery of people living their best lives when the reality could be very different and some people may buy into the lie and then feel awful that their lives pale in comparison. But the thing that stands out in my mind with that is choice! We all choose the experience we have on Instagram, or any other social media platform really. We choose the people to follow and like and adore and idolize. The platform doesn’t force false idols down your throat or makes you feel bad about yourself, the choices you have made to curate your experience have. Today I feel that I have curated an experience on the grams that makes me feel good and allows me to contribute good to people in the community, but it wasn’t always like that for me.
Before I really understood what Instagram could do for me I had curated a toxic experience, for myself and my partner at the time. There is so much content all over IG that you can find literally anything on there. I was following famous people, friends, artists that I found interesting, people that modified cars, some photography stuff, bands, and models. It all seemed innocent enough but I fell prey to the negativity that people talk to me about today, the lives of these people that I would see on there would make me feel crummy about mine. Insecure feelings of jealousy, envy and not being good enough or skinny enough or beautiful were common for me and the things I would follow and like exposed my partner to bad feelings too. We would sometimes get into arguments about the things I would like or follow, at the time I didn’t understand why she got upset but hindsight is 20/20.
It’s 2019 and I am living on the other side of the country in a place that is still fairly alien to me. I am separated, paying a mortgage on a house I don’t live in, rent in one of the most expensive cities in Canada and tending to a multitude of other things resulting from poor life choices. I am grateful to have a decent job that affords me the ability to keep up with my responsibilities and still live a little. This is something I have been making more of a conscious effort to do, the last few years have been pretty crazy and very dark at times. In doing my best to be responsible, I had forgotten to take care of myself. I struggle with mental illness, I’ve written a little about it and I’m sure there will be more words I’ll share on the topic. I was so focused on trying to work through things and putting off living until after I had cleared my plate of issues. Life is short though, we only have so much time and we don’t even really know how much time we have to begin with and there are always going to be new hurdles to deal with so something had to give.
Photography and I lost our way for quite some time, I still dabbled but I never took it as seriously as I used to. Instagram was a way to dip my toes back into it without committing fully. When I first arrived in Toronto I wasn’t sure how to connect with this city and I’m still trying to figure it out today. I decided that maybe photography would be a good idea and picked up a used Nikon D300, I still had some glass from my old busted ass Nikon D70 so I just needed a new body. Now my Instagram feed was flooding with random things I’d see while trucking around Toronto trying to get to know it. A few months into rekindling my relationship with photography shit got serious, I started shooting film and fell in love with it. Toronto is a dangerous place for a film nerd because there is an amazing used market here and I started acquiring gear I had always dreamed of but figured I would never be able to afford. I got deep into Polaroid, then 35mm and 120mm and eventually medium format.
Along the way a Bronica SQ-Ai medium format camera landed in my hands and I was in love if you have never experienced one before it is something you need to feel just once even. There is something really magical about the way that the camera feels to hold, to focus and then the shutter noise is like nothing else out there. My Bronica and I started exploring the city and capturing photos of all the random convenience stores that are littered all over Toronto. I had a loose idea what I’d do with these photos, which is more than I can say for the bulk I shoot. My good pal Koehn and I were playing with the idea of making a book. In late 2017 I got a random e-mail from a rad lady who had found me on the grams and wanted me to do a showing in her space and offered to do a book release party for me so the book idea became a reality and in a way, it was because of Instagram. I wrote a lil post on it that you can find here if you’re curious.
I was up late one night in early 2018 and saw that Jason Lee was going to be hosting an event at the Leica store in Boston that April. Jason’s work has been very inspiring to me and is one of the reasons why I made the transition to shoot film. It was a two-day thing, day one a book signing which included a copy of his latest book A PLAIN VIEW which I was eyeing up anyways and day two was a small group workshop with him and a photo walk around Boston. It wasn’t crazy expensive for the two days but it was enough that I fought with myself over signing up for it or not. Seating was limited and also there’s that whole never meet your hero’s thing. I could put that money towards debt or whatever, what if he was a jerk and it ruined how I felt about his work. With a heavy feeling in my stomach, I committed and spent money I felt I should not be spending on myself and went to bed. Looking back it is so stupid that I felt like shit spending money on myself, like what the hell man, what is so wrong with investing in yourself. Anyways the day came and I flew down to Boston, it was my second time in the city but the first time I’d actually get to explore it. It was rainy and I got lost really fucking bad, like ended up way on the other side of town from where I was supposed to be bad. But a couple of trains and an Uber later I made it to my Airbnb, the host was awesome, she picked me up at the train station because she felt bad for the mixup. If you ever go to Boston, don’t drive, its a nightmare, buy yourself a 7-day transit pass at the station near the terminal and just rock the transit.
That weekend in Boston transformed my life, I met so many great people, random people, people I will never meet again but that I will never forget the moments we shared. I was able to photograph some of them (which will help me remember when my brainmeat starts failing) Jason wasn’t a jerk, he’s probably one of the nicest people I’ve met so far and it was something else to be able to share some time with him and learn from him. I felt alive, walking around in a new city, breathing new air, seeing new things, eating at new places, holy shit why don’t I do this more often. I met this dude Armand during the weekend, he was traveling with Jason and runs the Denton Camera Exchange in Denton Texas. While we were hanging out we learned we’re both into Instant Film and he told me about this Polaroid event that happens in Denton/Dallas every year called Polacon that is run by The Instant Film Society.
Fast forward to September 2018 and I’m on my way to Dallas Texas to check out this Polacon thing. Similar to my experience in Boston I ended up meeting so many great people and fell in love with the Dallas Fort Worth area, I didn’t really want to come back, the light there was so beautiful. The weekend was filled with workshops and photo walks and I learned a lot of cool stuff and made some really important connections. I learned a lot about myself from these experiences and they would have never happened if I had not been on Instagram and saw these events and met the different amazing people I’ve met.
I’ve rambled a lot and I’m pretty sure I lost the direction to the original point I had intended to make. TLDR: Instagram is a tool, like anything else. It can be used for good and bad, it’s easy to focus on the bad but the good if you can find it is truly amazing. I have made some seriously awesome friendships and have had really rad adventures because of Instagram. I’m sorry I didn’t mention all of the awesome people here but you know who you are. Life is about choices, we get to choose the direction we go on the paths that life puts in front of us. Try not to get stuck on a false path that looks too good to be true, don’t live in a screen forever, use the tool, make real connections. Choose life.