Sweet Sixteen

It isn’t every day a girl turns sixteen.

I was honored when a family friend left a message on my phone, asking that I photograph her daughter, Chloe, for her sixteenth birthday. Her mother was willing to pay the dues in order to ensure that the image of Chloe be documented at the fresh beginning of this pivotal age.

I had a wonderful morning with Chloe dodging the rain, dreaming about Boston, and driving around Moscow to photograph Chloe in each autumn-tinted location she desired.

There is nothing like a good photograph to make someone feel beautiful.

I pray Chloe felt beautiful that day. I pray she feels secure in her body and her habits and her mistakes and talents, because being perfect is impossible, but being joyful in a way that touches surrounding hearts is not. Chloe, at age sixteen, owns that gift. She is able to project her originality and authenticity in a small Idaho town that doesn’t always condone uniqueness, all the while humbly displaying a respectful, open-armed disposition that gives others permission to be themselves and experience the kindness that lines her adventurous heart.

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Captured By Chloe

Chloe Russell, 2012 Copyright Miranda Rae Carter

Chloe Russell, 2012
Copyright Miranda Rae Carter

I can’t believe it is going on three years that I met my first-ever roommate, Chloe.

We meshed in a way that only God could have planned. And though she moved at semester to return to her beloved Montana, we have stayed close despite the miles that separate us.

I remember the day Chloe started her blog. Her first post was about the drag show she had agreed to go to with some of our other dorm friends, where it had been impressed on her the joy of dancing and laughing in an environment that lacks judgment and hate.

“We had sooo much fun!” she exclaimed, twirling around the dorm room as I lay in bed, half asleep but interested in what she had to report.

She posted a video of some of the performers on her new blog, and with an accomplished click, posted her first recount of something worth telling.

Lately, Chloe has a lot worth telling.

In honor of her brother, Kane Russell, who passed away in a motorcycle accident last year, Chloe has been using her newfound passion and talent for photography to post a picture a day.  “I thought it fitting to try my best, and cherish each and every day as they come,” she said on her blog, now titled Captured by Chloe. The project is called 365, and by the second anniversary of Kane’s death, will feature 365 photographs beautifully shot and edited in vintage tones.

8 photographs have been posted thus far. Each offers a peek into Chloe’s life and serves as evidence of her intent to treasure each tick of time given to her. When I see these pictures, I am continually reminded of Chloe’s genuine thirst for life and insightful reflection of it.

Below are the photographs I took of Chloe when we were freshmen not so long ago. You can see the many colors of her spirit radiating past the bounds of each frame.

I also left a link to her blog in hopes that you will follow her journey through the year.

 http://www.capturedbychloe.com/

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Being Better and the World Against Us

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I’d be surprised if my dear friend Abi and I don’t get beefy thumbs from the amount of texting we do when we’re apart.

It’d be one thing to simply text one another in light of simple things, such as “Have a good day at school!” or, “I saw your mom in the grocery store today! She says hi.” And while our correspondence sometimes falls toward the casual side, our conversation often evolves into ridiculously long MMS messages and one-after-the-other blurbs about complex realizations, followed by attempts to hash them out in order to better understand the world around us.

And this is only when we’re waiting impatiently for the next long Facebook letter to speed across internet airwaves.

There are two topics we covered a few weeks back. Abi asked something along the lines of, “Why is it that we’re twenty years old, but we still try to please people and always do what we’re told?”

Good question.

Abi and I are both perfectionists with a Do it right, or don’t do it at all mentality. We are also both soul-searchers, interested in discovering our integral selves and staying true to them. When these things get in the way of one another, we are at a loss.

“I think it’s always good to keep trying to better ourselves,” I told her, “but it’s crazy how many of our decisions are influenced by what people have to say, and other people’s definitions of what ‘better’ is.”

Sometimes, “better” is not saying sorry when someone asks for an apology. Sometimes, “better” is saying no. Sometimes, “better” looks worse in the eyes of others, because all the little hooks and buttons keeping your life together remain unseen and tucked away. Being better is working hard, but avoiding self-deprecation when our attempts fail. Sometimes, “better” is setting boundaries and keeping them despite the discomfort it may bring yourself and others, and sometimes, “better” is understanding that the right thing and the hard thing can be the same.

It’s mature to seek counsel, but immature to seek reassurance. It’s honorable to take advice and opposing viewpoints into consideration with patience, but disgraceful to deviate from what you know to be right and true in the spirit of people-pleasing or fear. It’s important to be humble, but respect your own dignity, and it’s vital to listen to deep-rooted instincts singing loudly in the center of all you are, because without it, your life will not reach the level of richness or wisdom intended for you.

Being better is trying.

The next question we explored was mine. After a long day full of doubt, I said, “Why is that we immediately assume the world is against us?”

I confessed that I rarely admit to myself or anyone else, sometimes including God, my desires. I don’t ask for things, because I am suspicious that the more I want something, the quicker my hope will be pulled from under my feet like a rug.

“It’s so true!” Abi agreed. She said that when we get a questionable text, we immediately assume the person is upset. When we like someone, we try to keep ourselves from pondering the possibility that they may feel the same to field rejection before it even happens. It’s natural to make Plan B’s, C’s, and D’s not only as backup plans, but to cushion any failed possibility that you never got your hopes up for anyways.

It’s the foolish habit of humans to use doubt as a shield against pain. It’s foolish because it has never worked.

This summer, I learned that it is okay to ask for your desires. Ask for everything on your list. The important (and more difficult part) is keeping faith when no is the answer.

Despite mundane, frustrating things that happen throughout our days (like locking the keys in your car in a big city, leaving the stove top on for five hours, or getting called out in class the one time you didn’t get your reading done), the world is not stalking us like a poltergeist prepared to sabotage our lives with hilariously irritating stumbling blocks; we only assume this in order to prepare for disappointment.

Be kind to the world, and it will be kind to you. Listen to and be kind to yourself, and you will be better for it.

The Decade Project

I spent the summer leading up to my senior year of high school on a project that got me accepted into Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle

Though financial circumstances pushed me toward the University of Idaho, and I no longer desire to pursue a career as a professional fashion photographer, I remain proud of my accomplishment and the project that earned it.

I titled it “The Decade Project.” Though its focus centered on fashion and its evolution throughout the decades, the series reflects the idea that though societal, economical, political, and personal situations ebb and flow from crisis to bliss, the persistence and general makeup of the human spirit remains similar throughout the ages.This is the reason I used the same three models.

I endured heavy research pertaining to the history of each decade from the 1920s forward and educated myself on the hair, makeup, and clothing trends to properly costume my models. By having each girl represent a different woman’s story through each decade while still keeping them recognizable, I hoped to procure questions of what beauty really is, what it means to be a woman, and how fashion fits in with these more complex bubbles, not as something that is materialistic, but rather as an art form.

Each photograph has a distinct behind-the-scenes story. There were arguments, near traffic accidents, hour-long hair and makeup sessions, creative problem-solving, confused passer-bys and wardrobe malfunctions. This is part of the reason why this series means so much to me, because in attempting to recreate other stories, we created our own.

EMILY

DECADE: 1920s

TITLE: What Is Beauty?

STORY: We gathered all the mirrors in the house and arranged them on the wall in my bedroom. The 1920s was a revolutionary decade for fashion, where women really began to toss aside practical clothing in favor of aesthetics. Because of this change, and because of the strain the Depression put on women to uphold this new standard of beauty while pulling out internal characteristics such as strength, helpfulness, and creativity, I wanted the use of several mirrors to symbolize the many faces of women and a single question pertaining to the true definition of beauty at this time.

This photoshoot with Emily proved one of the more difficult ones. Because mirrors were everywhere I was very limited on angles for fear that me and my lens would appear behind her in the reflection. Because Emily’s hair was long and 1920s women predominantly favored short hair, I had to curl her entire head of hair and then pin the ends underneath to create a thick, short bob.

The slip Emily wears was the one my mother wore to her wedding. We had to be very careful not to smear any of Emily’s dark makeup on the fabric. Because it was much too large for Emily’s frame and the sentimentality of the garment kept us from stabbing pins through the straps, we had to use hair clips and pins to tighten the straps. Once again, this caused an issue with the mirrors; if Emily moved too quickly, not only would the clips come undone, but my lens would easily capture the securing instruments, making for a tacky photograph if gone unnoticed. Luckily, her arm hides the clips in the finished photograph, her clothing and hair remained stable, and I am nowhere to be seen.

'30s E

DECADE: 1930s

TITLE: Fast Company

STORY: Not everyone suffered the Depression the same. In fact, several parties took place during this time, especially among upper-class and previously upper-class families. It’s as if times of darkness call for celebration.

This photoshoot took place in the confines of the dining room in my house. Because the lighting in there is questionable, we eventually took the window, where I asked Emily to look as if she were waiting for company to arrive. The light from the window helped tremendously.

'30s, '40's, '40s 198

DECADE: 1940s

TITLE: Daily Oblivion

STORY: Everyone may have known about the war, but there was a great deal of suffering and despair that went unsaid in America until after the war was over.

I wanted Emily’s emotion to portray this. I wanted to depict a woman who is going about her life at home, hearing about the war without fully understanding it.

We played a lot with coloring in the different shots. In this one, I emphasized the red of her lips as if to represent the smallness of her focus on the issues she reads about in newspapers in comparison to the grander picture of what is her reality.

'50s E

DECADE: 1950s

TITLE: Fly 

STORY: This picture was inspired by a photograph of Amanda Seyfreid in Teen Vogue, where in a vintage bathing suit she closes her eyes and leans toward the sun.

I chose a completely different angle with Emily, and made more dramatic coloring choices. I wanted her red shoes to stand out without taking away from the meditative emotion of the photograph.

At this time, vintage bathing suits were hard to find unless we wanted to pay a large amount of money. Instead, we paired my black halter suit top with a pair of Emily’s old volleyball spandex, tucking the edges of the spandex into themselves to hide the Nike sign.

I photographed her on the docks of the old Rooster’s Landing in Lewiston. She was deeply embarrassed walking in heels and a high-waisted suit from the car to the docks, but once I pulled out my camera she felt like our purpose was understood by onlookers and did a fantastic job of making the photograph a priority over her self-consciousness.

'60s E

DECADE: 1960s

TITLE: Hitting The Books

STORY: University of Idaho students might recognize the administration building towering over Emily in the background.

We hit up campus and tried to work with the wind, a pair of fake glasses and a bundle of heavy Harry Potter books in hand, to capture the scholarly side of the sixties. Educational, social, and civil rights movements affected campuses all over the nation in the ’60s, and this picture was a tip of the hat to that.

'70s E

DECADE: 1970s

TITLE: Class of 1976

STORY: Some family friends let us put their vintage “hippie van” to use for this sassy ’70s photo.

I remember Emily calling me after a shopping trip to Spokane to say, “I bought a pair of high-waisted pants that we can use!”

Well, the pants weren’t as high-waisted as my parents’ bell bottoms were, but they would have to do.

Nevertheless, I have no complaints about this photo. I love the use of colors, the unique expression on Emily’s face, and the fact that her hair sorta-kinda stayed styled after spending way too long trying to get it just right.

I wanted something lighthearted that spoke of carefree high school years, and that is what I got.

'80s E

DECADE

TITLE: Waiting

STORY: The professor at Cornish told me that this photograph was his favorite of the series because it could serve as commentary to so many different situations; abandonment, city life, even prostitution.

I love that so many questions rise from this photograph. I had a clear vision in mind, but without the proper tools, I knew it would be hard to get a clear picture of Emily in her sparkly dress waiting in the dark.

We gave it a shot. We walked down the street and I asked her to stand under the light of a streetlamp. She paced back and forth for me. Every shot I got was simply too dark and grainy until I went against my usual standards and used flash.

For this picture, flash was totally the right choice.

I love the grunginess, and how this photograph can be applicable to a wide range of time periods and, as the professor said, situations.

'90s E

DECADE: 1990s

TITLE: Even If It Breaks Your Heart

STORY: Downtown Moscow is the perfect place to tell the story of a musician.

We kept the guitar case empty, so that posing and carrying the guitar case wouldn’t wear on Emily. This was one of the few pictures we didn’t have as clear of a vision for, so we tried several different alleyways and street corners until we captured a shot that had the right hint of ’90s rock’n’roll.

2011 E

DECADE: 2000s

TITLE: Imprint

STORY: For each of the 2000’s/today photos, I let the girls choose their own outfits as long as they were able to design styles that differentiated from one another.

Emily choose a tiered flowered skirt and basic tanktop and hung a key around her neck. She wanted, she said, to look more like herself than she was able to in the others, having represented several different women for months. She let her hair dry naturally out of the shower, applied minimal makeup, and ended up looking very much herself: simple, collected, and down-to-earth.

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HOLLY

'20's H

DECADE: 1920s

TITLE: Determination

STORY: This has to be one of my favorite photographs of the entire series.

My mom purchased a beautiful, vintage, olive-colored coat in Seattle that we nabbed. The cap was my Great Aunt Marge’s, a true antique piece that I was excited to use. Holly was horrified to put on the lipstick I suggested, but the color ended up being perfect and was put to use several times after.

I love how though it is summer, the overcast sky and colors we chose makes it look like autumn. Autumn represents a time of transition, much of which women during the ’20s were experiencing daily.

I remember Holly actually being quite resistant to being photographed that day, but once we got onto the road and kept a look out for cars coming from both directions, Holly did a wonderful job keeping her face a relaxed balance of serious and hopeful instead of angry!

'30s H

DECADE: 1930s

TITLE: Faith In Small Places

STORY: We received an uncomfortable amount of speculation from the inn next to the ornate Catholic church in Uniontown, Washington, but we worked through it and got this movement-filled shot of Holly in a rose-printed dress, representing the women of the Depression who used faith as their guide.

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 DECADE: 1940s

TITLE: Filling Their Boots

STORY: Many women assumed positions in the work force during the ’40s, when many of the men left for war, leaving gaps in industries that couldn’t slow.

Holly’s look is inspired by Rosie the Riveter, a character created in the ’40s to encourage women to join the workforce and believe in their abilities to be successful there.

It took a Google search on tying headscarves, a jumpsuit, workboots, and Holly allowing us to smear mud on her face, chest, and arms to get this shot of her looking happy and resilient at work.

'50s H

DECADE: 1950s

TITLE: Pop!

STORY: I’m going to be honest: part of the reason we chose a face-shot over full-body was because we simply could not get our hands on a dress that was true to the ’50s style. So, instead we chose to focus more on the aesthetics of the makeup and a prop that became prevalent in the ’50s–Coca Cola.

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DECADE: 1960s

TITLE: Hollywood

STORY: I obtained a fantastic dress in Texas that was very much ’60s glamour, and couldn’t wait to put it to use.

Holly’s hair and makeup is inspired by fashion icons of this time, such as Brigitte Bardot and Sharon Tate. We went to the arboretum for the bright light and pops of color to emphasize her appearance and a lucky-girl emotion.

'70s H

DECADE: 1970s

TITLE: No More Walks In The Wood

STORY: Some don’t like this photograph because it is contradictory; a very mod outfit in a natural setting.

This was my purpose.

I made these conflicting choices because the ’70s was filled with friction-inducing ideas about the environment and industrialism.

To get Holly to this area, we had to pull off the highway at the top of the Lewiston grade, jump a fence, and hike a trail, all the while praying that a cop wouldn’t see my car and ding us for trespassing. I believe one of us got hurt and the other got an allergic reaction to a weed or bug bite, both of which were nursed after the picture was taken.

'80s H

DECADE: 1980s

TITLE: Leave This Town

STORY: Holly started out with this cropped sweater and a fake belly button ring. No lie. As you can see, the ring didn’t make an appearance.

I had a lot of difficulty getting Holly’s hair to stay teased and full. We also had difficulty figuring out exactly what we were wanting to do with this picture, but in the end, we were able to capture a wistful picture of Holly before by a pink, weathered door, gazing past the lens and into the road. It was as if the meaning took place after we captured it: angst onset by a tacky small town that no one ever leaves.

'90s H

DECADE: 1990s

TITLE: No? Watch Me.

STORY: Holly may have looked the part, but definitely did not fit in at Moscow’s skate park. She felt uncomfortable, surrounded by people who actually knew what they were doing, and had trouble making any of the shots taken with a skateboard in hand or underfoot look genuine.

In the end, we tossed the skateboard idea and had her kneel instead.

2011 H

DECADE: 2000s

TITLE: Friday Night Lights

STORY: Holly chose a white mid-length sleeve, jeans, and Texan cowgirl boots for her current-day picture. Happy and laughing, with curled tendrils spiraling over the wooden beam of a playground, Holly’s humor became the centerpiece of this picture.

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LAUREN

 '20s L

DECADE: 1920s

TITLE: Because

STORY: Lauren had the clever idea of taping a match to the end of a painted shishkabob stick to create the stylish cigarette holder many women in the ’20s carried with them. We would strike the match, quickly blow it out, and then Lauren would immediately pose for my quick-to-come click of the camera.

This is actually the first shot we got–and the last the flapper dress saw of us. Lauren’s mother took it away after we admitted to spilling candle wax on the skirt, which became quite the tragedy considering we had promised to keep it safe.

'30s L

DECADE: 1930s

TITLE: Barton Hollow

STORY: I wanted a Bonnie-and-Clyde type of story to resonate from this photograph. The legends of romanticized crime from this era are timeless, exciting, and will be told for decades to come.

'40s L

DECADE: 1940s

TITLE: Parade

STORY: We chose the colors of the American flag to be prominent in Laure’s prideful ’40s picture. With blue-bowed pigtails, high-waisted shorts, and an ice cream cone fresh from a diner in Uniontown, Lauren had a lot of fun portraying a classic version of America’s youth. And eating the ice cream, of course.

'50s L

DECADE: 1950s

TITLE: Finding Him

STORY: The prom dress is more modern than ’50s, but the bell skirt was exactly what we wanted to exemplify a pert ’50s prom look.

We tried to hurry while taking this picture, because the person who so carefully pruned the leafy archways leading to their house were not home for us to ask permission to use their walkway. We knew it’d be extremely awkward if they showed up while we were snapping pictures, pushing us to get a good shot quickly.

'60s L

DECADE: 1960s

TITLE: Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

STORY: Lauren got to represent the counterculture of the ’60s revolution. Though today’s stigma of hippies pertain to peace within, history shows that those involved in free love and anti-Vietnam protests were very much troubled by the world they lived in, which is what drove them to advocate for peace, equality, and freedom.

I wanted Lauren to give me that emotion of disturbance and skepticism, and through the use of her big, beautiful eyes, she did a wonderful job.

'70s L

DECADE: 1970s

TITLE: Flower Child

STORY: There were tall purple flowers alongside the highway, and we got this shot of Lauren wading through them just before their season was over.

We also almost got hit by another car in the process of parking.

Lauren 80's 3

DECADE: 1980s

TITLE: Growing Up, Getting Out

STORY: The concrete threw waves of heat at us the day we hit up Lewiston High School to get Lauren’s ’80s picture out of the way.The texture of Lauren’s hair was very accepting of the teasing and heavy use of hairspray we used to scrunchie it up into an ’80s style ponytail, and I’ve never had so much fun with an eyeshadow palette before. Past highlighter dances contributed to the availability of neon clothing.

'90s L

DECADE: 1990s

TITLE: Remember

STORY: The plaid shirt, leggings, and boots are very nineties grunge. The use of a vintage camera and a random blue chair we found discarded in an alleyway of downtown Moscow were perfect props.

2011 L

DECADE: 2000s

TITLE: Give Me My Freedom and I’ll Handle My Chains

STORY: On passing my father’s auto body shop, Lauren spotted a Jaguar and took to it immediately.

I didn’t have any plans of using a sleek car for Lauren’s current-day picture, but the beauty of art is that sometimes the product is better than the original idea.

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Robbers

It took me one listen to decide I needed to buy The 1975’s self-titled debut record, and one viewing of their “Robbers” music video to fall in love with director Tim Mattia’s raw visual and collaborative concept.

Lead vocalist and songwriter Matt Healy’s lyrical poignancy is well-masked by the band’s urban-grunge persona and genre-conflicting instrumentals if one does not take the time to clarify words charmingly disguised by his rounded British accent and analyze each line thoroughly. Once sorted, Healy’s intelligence is astonishingly apparent, especially in the analogically-sound song “Robbers.”

Mattia’s film portrayal of the song sticks closely to The 1975’s idealistically reckless style and original intent behind the song. It depicts a beautifully miserable rag of a story that centers on a dysfunctional but intoxicating relationship shared by a couple who become so consumed with one another that their rationale and perception of the extensive world beyond the one they’ve created becomes severely distorted and, ultimately, forgotten.

The irony of substance abuse is that users become subservient to a substance that makes them believe they are more powerful than, and therefore exempt from, the banks and boundaries of reality. Using startling flashback snippets throughout the main cord of the story, Mattia is able to successfully display this while maintaining the image of a love that is as addicting and seemingly fulfilling as the drugs the characters are ready to risk for.

Memorable images, such Healy’s open-mouthed desperation and worried brows, the curve of his back as he twists against the pain of a gunshot wound, the provision of a cigarette from a friend who is a loss for an alternate solution, the blank stare of a girl out a dank kitchen window, and the honest surrender of Healy as he drops to his knees under the slatted confines of a house not yet built, green wine bottle in one hand and gun dragging through the dust in another…each fragment is intentional and stronger than the characters constructed within it.

Chasers

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                        retrieved from tumblr.com, author unknown

Chasers believe happiness is trapped in a box and only one circumstance can unlock it. They suffocate any possibility of being happy in the present, because they’re convinced happiness lies outside themselves. It’s completely insane and ineffective…. When people chase, they drain the color and joy from their lives. They suffocate happiness in pursuit of a fictitious happiness they think lies in the future, outside of themselves. As a result, they are hollow and starving for connection and relief.
—  Eric Charles during an interview with Marie Claire

I have many goals, because I am many things. I am the hours in between the end and beginning of light, where I am best able to transfer words evaporate from my brain and precipitate onto paper . I am idealistic and free-spirited, anxious and disorganized, a procrastinator, and I cannot decide if I belong in the city or out in the middle of nowhere. Mornings are my favorite, but I hate being forced to wake up early, and if I could wear boots and a dress every day, I would. I know the words to too many songs, I like dark makeup, and I would smoke if it wasn’t like putting death between your lips. I like the idea of football rather than the game itself, and poetry makes sense to me. I don’t drink alcohol, but I like people who do. Hot showers and long walks are where I cultivate the most inspiration. I wish I was more responsible with my money when I don’t have it, yet every time I do, my paychecks inevitably go to concerts and discount albums, thrift stores, organic food, gum, and my gas tank. My car is kind of ugly, but I like that I can sleep in the back of it when I want to. I’m lazy when it comes to paperwork and I like talking about the future because doing so makes it less startling. I have a high pain tolerance. Sometimes I get mad because I want to just pack up and leave but realize I have class in the morning, so I settle for driving halfway to Spokane and back instead. I have been known to cancel a day if I know I’m going to only be running on a few hours of sleep. I have been washed in the water and think that guilt and regret are two of the worst married feelings in the world. Sometimes I catch myself staring, even though it’s rude. I usually drive with my shoes off, and sometimes it just feels comfortable to rest my hand on my heart. My room doesn’t stay clean for more than two days, and I am always rushing out the door, trying to be on time. I almost always remember my dreams, which are rarely good but rarely bad, and my panic is always delayed. I liked high school but wouldn’t go back, I can swing dance, but have trouble trusting my partner and too much spinning makes me motion sick. I have trouble picking which color of board game pawn I want, I like sitting on the roof, fall is my favorite season, I haven’t thrown up since the fifth grade, and I want to be able to write the way music sounds. Louie Zamperini is my hero. I am afraid of wasting my youth. I don’t like being told what to do. I have many careers in mind. I fear obligation and shy away from commitment, because I know I’m a slave to expectation and hate it. I don’t like the idea of reincarnation, because I want my soul to belong to one story, one life.

It’s because of these things, all these things that I am, that makes me want the things that I want, do the things I do, and defy or chase after the results.

And now that I have a name–“chaser”–and understand the meaning behind it, my newest escapade is chasing after a solution. Because being motivated toward your goals is great; being a chaser is not.

As Eric Charles, relationship writer and entrepreneur, stated above, to be a Chaser is to be someone who sees obtaining a goal or desire as the ultimate license to be happy. While in pursuit of the ‘next thing,’ chasers become less sensitive to smaller, more enjoyable things as the image of their goal builds up and begins to consume them.

For the longest time, I believed that leaving my hometown would make me happy. Freshman year, I would sit in my dorm room as the snow fell cold and wet on the concrete outside, and mourn the fact that I wasn’t anywhere special. In my mind, being there felt like a failure. I felt like I should have been seeing new sights and enriching my life with culture, because from the swivel chair from which I sat, northern Idaho looked pointless.

Despite the fact that I knew I couldn’t pack my bags and leave in the near future, the image of ancient streets and the music of foreign language clouding my ears became my idol. I stopped seeking contentment in a situation I could not change, and the landslide of winter became more miserable because of it.

Two years later, I finally got the chance to spend ten weeks living elsewhere. As I settled into my temporary home and began to live real life there, an understanding touched me. I realized that running away from one place to the next does not allow you to deposit your problems and flaws in one city and be free of it in the next. I realized that you are who you are, despite shift of time and place. I appreciated my home for all it had supplied me with, and left the airport ten weeks later with new eyes.

I was also at one time convinced that pursuing a high-end job as opposed to going to school would make me happy. As I Googled various internship opportunities and imagined what it might be like to capture my dream early on, I started to see the work I was assigned as needless and time-consuming instead of an important step toward achieving my dream. I was living in a possible future and instead of immediacy, and my school work suffered for it.

Other things most people chase after include purchases, relationships, physical appearance, and social status.  We feel all of this will fully flesh out our images, prove our identities and further embellish them.

Hate to break it to you, fellow chasers, but I have been there and back. I have lost money and wasted time, gotten sick and then healthy again, and had to mourn the broken pieces of people and things that were never mine in the first place.

Being a chaser is a character flaw that I must defy, because it doesn’t beget life. It takes it.

Have dreams. Roughly sketch out what you want in life instead of drawing hard lines with a permanent marker and being upset when the lines don’t match up perfectly. Take steps toward achieving your goals, but don’t let a possible end result blind you from the spontaneous and tangible present.

Because if you let one thing beautiful crowd out the equally beautiful extensions of your pursuit, you will ultimately be left with nothing to chase.

Laughter

Artist Unknown Source: tumblr.com

Artist Unknown
Source: tumblr.com

People are beautiful when they laugh.

There was once a girl in high school, whose laugh started high in her throat. She would omit a quick-paced, tall-pitched cackle, and push backward from her desk,as if she simply couldn’t handle it. The sound was loud and startling, and always ended with her squeezing her eyes tightly shut.

Lots of people would take advantage of her eyes being shut to give one another embarrassed looks. They found her laugh too colorful, too out-there, to be approved. 

I found that very unfair.

***

 

Last autumn, I lost my voice. My usual medium tone faded into a ragged, husky sound. 

Singing in my car became impossible. I would laugh weakly every time I tried to hit a note and it would spin out of control, like a violin string rubbed the wrong way. 

I panicked. I was meant to go to the Marine Birthday Ball at the University of Washington, and I was afraid my wear-and-tear voice would make it difficult to communicate with all the strangers, which at the time included my date.

Luckily, my voice muscled up a few days beforehand. And at that ball, in my dress, I laughed a lot.

That weekend I laughed a lot.

But it wasn’t the same laugh I had before. It was drier, throaty. Sincere, but clutched tightly by my throat.

And it hasn’t been the same since.

***

 

My sister has a special laugh for me. Her eyes close, her chest heaves quickly, and she puts a hand to her face before throwing it out in front of her as she comments on the thing that happened, or the words that were said. It is a laugh so true and so eager to bubble out of her that it spills at my feet and reflects every string that connects us.

 

***

 

I used to feel accomplished when I made my dad laugh. 

Making him laugh seemed only slightly harder than rounding a corner and making him jump in fright. Not because he was rigid, or scary, but because in my mind, male adults laughed mostly with other men and not at their young daughters. I didn’t think of myself as funny, let alone believed I possessed a seasoned-enough sense of humor that would make my father fall over the edge of a grin.

As I got older, I believed my father laughed more than he used to.

Looking back, I believe he laughed more than I assumed.

 

***

 

Don’t look before you laugh.

Look ugly in a photograph.

-U2

***

The other night, I was in an apartment dense with people.

There were games being played. There was talking. There was cigarette smoking over the balcony. There was laughter.

Sometimes people can go from winter to summer with a single inhale, smile, and staccato noise that comes from their stomach, their throat, their chest. A once frightening face is now friendly. Today’s sadness becomes yesterday’s.

People are transformed.

Flowers bloom, the moon rolls forward, and kings fall.