It was August 1991. I had just turned 21 a few months before, and I was dumped right before that by my boyfriend of six years. I was out of college and working two internships so at least I was busy. But I still remember those days as being depressing and confusing. I filled up most of my time hanging out with friends to avoid being alone, sleepwalking through my days.
One weekend, everyone was gone. Literally all of my friends were at weddings, or visiting their family, or on vacation. On Saturday I woke up with absolutely nothing to do, and I was terrified of the chasm of that day. I had to fill the emptiness. After puttering around a bit, I came across my Canon AE-1. I picked it up and the weight of it in my hand felt so familiar and wonderful. I grabbed some film and ran off to my car, not really knowing where I was going.
I headed north from Davis, California, where I was living at the time. I spent the day crisscrossing county roads, soaking in the sun and snapping photos of seemingly bucolic country life. I saw sunflowers with their faces following the path of the sun, mannikins dancing through colorful gardens, and garden gnomes frozen mid-skip around manmade ponds. It was a lovely day, spent all on my own.
A few months later I enrolled in a darkroom course, and we were assigned to take photos to develop in class. I pulled out the camera and took some cursory shots to finish up a roll. Back in class, I was surprised to find the photos from my day trip through Yolo County. I developed the film and immediately felt that same feeling of peacefulness and accomplishment as I studied the black and white negatives laid out on the light table.
I chose my first photo to develop: a telephone pole and street sign for Road 85, one of the countless county roads I had driven that day. That photo became the first of several that I developed and printed on my own. I framed it and put it on my wall, a reminder of that day when I decided to do something with my life instead of just wallowing in self-pity.
I haven’t seen that photo in quite some time. It got packed away with countless other treasures after a flood a few years back. But a few weeks ago I came across it again when I was flipping through photos on my flickr account, and I instantly was taken back to that day 20 years ago, holding my AE-1 and squinting into the sun.
Life comes full-circle I guess, because I am feeling like that scared, helpless person again. After decades of knowing exactly where my life was going, of having plans and hitting goals, life has handed me some doozies in the past year, and I feel… well, I don’t know exactly what I feel. But I know I’m not falling into that woe-is-me trap. So it’s time to start a new project. A new beginning to take control of this messy life.
So I’m going back to my road less traveled. Back to Road 85.