I just scrolled through Nik’s most recent blog post about his trip to Los Angeles last weekend, and I must say that this set is perhaps his best yet. Yes, I am biased, but his talent is rapidly progressing, and I love it. He just told me, “I think these are photos that no one else would have taken.” That is the beauty of it. He takes photos of things that we all see, but never think twice about. They aren’t the “money shots”. Well, some are. But he has a way of capturing places and objects that are often decrepid or crumbling, but somehow, he makes them beautiful. The photos he takes are not trying to make anything look better or worse than it is. They are just honest. With that, here are a couple of the 120 photos he has posted. I encourage you to take a look for yourself.
Today, Dave Ramsey would be proud of me. I just paid off my final student loan after making monthly payments for about 5 1/2 years. Honestly, I should have gone ahead and payed it off three years ago, but at the time, it was better for me to invest in my retirement account that was increasing at a rate of 8%. But now, the retirement account is a little flat, and I am sick of making those stinking monthly payments!!!
I also want to tell the story of why I had student loan payments in the first place. You see, my parents and grandparents had a deal with us kids that they would pay for four years of in-state tuition so that we could graduate from college debt free. Even with this golden deal, I still toyed with the idea of going out of state. I was ready to spread my wings and I did not want college to be an extension of high school.
I had my heart set on Auburn University in Alabama. On my tour, I instantly fell in love. Maybe it was the cute sophomore boy that showed us around campus and offered to buy us lemonade, or maybe it was the green lawns and old buildings. I couldn’t say. I know it definitely was not the architecture program because at the time, I wanted to be an engineer. If I had actually looked at schools for architecture, I would have gone to Auburn. I don’t doubt it for a second.
After five or six more campus tours of out-of-state schools, I sent off a handful of scholarship applications, and received nothing. My above average but less than excellent grades and talents apparently did not mean much to scholarship selection committees. I was a middle-of-the road student, and they were looking for top-notch go-getters. They did not care that I was the secretary of four various high school committees, because they knew that I never did anything for those organizations. They saw right through me. They didn’t even care that I was voted “Most Likely to Succeed”. Don’t they want successful people at their schools? I guess not.
As I processed the scholarship rejection, I did some soul searching and decided that going to an out-of-state school was not worth going into significant debt. I was accepted to Auburn and Washington University, but opted for the University of Tennessee instead. Knoxville was still three hours away from my home town, and with over 20,000 students, I figured that I wouldn’t have to see anyone I grew up with if I didn’t want to.
Fast forward three years. As I finished my third year of the five year architecture program, I was faced with another opportunity to go into debt. Study Abroad. The school of architecture encouraged all of its students to study abroad during their forth year, and I did not hesitate. As soon as the time was right, I researched my options and decided that I wanted to go to Copenhagen. I remember making a spreadsheet of my costs for my mom to justify my desire to take out student loans. I mapped out my entire trip and exactly how much money I would need. My calculations showed that it would cost me $10,000 more to spend a semester in Copenhagen instead of Knoxville. I was able to save up about $1000, I think my parents matched my $1000, and that left $8000. Fortunately, I had done well enough in school that I was given a $1000 scholarship without even asking for it! The remaining $7000 was covered by two student loans, and put me into debt for the first time in my life.
It was worth every penny. The six months that I spent in Europe at the age of 21 changed my life in ways that I cannot explain. For the first time, I truly discovered that there was more in the world than America. I loved hearing people speak a different language every day. I loved eating new foods. I loved having foreign professors. Studying abroad was the best decision I made in college, and even though I am no longer paying for it, it will continue to have an impact on my life.
I am posting these photos so that two years from now, when I am in a completely new stage in life, I can look back and see what I was up to in September of 2010. The ironic thing is that after I saved out the photos, I noticed that there were three orange edibles photographed for posterity!!!!
My fascination with documenting my life began in 2003 when I was studying abroad. My roommate, Amanda, and I made a pact to write in our journals every single day while we were there, and for the most part, we stuck to it. Ever since then, I have documented my life in various ways to the extent that I can find some kernal of history within two weeks of every day since January 2003. I do not do this because I think my life is particularly worthy of documentation, but because I think everything in life is worth documenting. Everything is special the second you take a moment to memorialize it, even if it is a pumpkin growing in a compost pile, a fast food cheeseburger you wish you hadn’t eaten, a dog running in the park, a loved one laughing, the frustration of credit card companies filling your mailbox with junk or a house plant sprouting new leaves. The second that you take a photo or write something, you insure that those experiences will not be forgotten.
Also, the way I see it, my life is constantly changing. New technology comes in and out of vogue. I move from place to place. New family members are born. My favorite jeans get a hole in them. Friends and family come to visit. Even the things that seem so routine and boring change over time. For instance, my standard breakfast has been yogurt and granola since I finished college. In Portland, I would buy one box of Simply Almonds Granola, one carton of plain yogurt and one bag of frozen organic blueberries from Trader Joe’s every week. When we were in Thailand, we ate convenient store yogurt with fancy foreigner granola, but we ate it with fresh bananas and mango. When we were in China, the granola was an expensive Sweedish brand, but the yogurt was cheap and didn’t really taste like yogurt. Then when we came back to America, we started buying Trader Joe’s yogurt and granola with frozen blueberries again, and I appreciate it so much more! That is probably not very interesting to you, but when I look back on it in ten years, I will laugh at how much I cared about my breakfast. By then, I will have found some other amazing morning goodness. Or maybe I won’t.
Regardless, I will always appreciate the little things in life.
To prove that I really do have documentation of the past seven years, this can all be found in my archives (not blog archives, but actual journals):
In September of 2003, my mother had a minor stroke that scared me out of my mind. This led to my parents to quit smoking!
In September of 2004, I found the perfect little studio to live in.
In September of 2005, I met my first niece for the first time ever.
In September of 2006, I was not balancing work & life very well.
In September of 2007, I was gushing about how perfect Portland was.
In September of 2008, Nik and I were wandering around the Indian Himalayas.
In September of 2009, we had perfect weather in Shanghai, so we climbed to the top of the Lupu Bridge.