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Writing My Future

2010 August 8
by shana

Robert Frank Image

I believe the year was 2000. I was a wide-eyed college student working on my Graphic Design thesis. When I should have been dreaming of pixels and pantone books, color combinations and white space, I was dreaming of driving around the country taking pictures and writing about the trip and my experiences.

The graphic design program is actually what drove me to take more than the Intro to Photography class in college. There was a competitive portfolio review to get into the program, and although my grades were good enough and I felt good about my work, I started to entertain “what-if?’s” What if I didn’t pass portfolio review? What am I going to do if I don’t do graphic design? I know! Photography. I made it through portfolio review, but was so excited about the idea of photography that I decided to double major.

I was in a history of photography class when I first heard of Robert Frank, the Swiss photographer who traveled around the States in 1955 on a Guggenheim fellowship taking pictures. Not beautiful landscapes, not high society portraits, not popular culture of the time… but the everyday scenes that met his lens as he traversed the country. I was fascinated!

When we were required to write a paper about an American photographer, I was given permission to write about Frank because of his subject matter. I delved in with what little I could get my hands on. The seed was planted. I wrote my paper in the present tense, but set in the future. I had idealistically planned on going approximately 50 years after Frank set about the country. I wanted to provide the contrast of a half a century and a woman’s perspective. Well, life has a way of taking over.

After I finished my Graphic Design degree, I was starting to get burned out from the class load of a double major and a minor, so I decided to just wrap it up. Not to mention the tuition fees which I am still paying off…. I am not going to get into the gritty details here, but to summarize: I ended up going through several jobs that were not a good fit for different reasons. I found myself turning 30 and wondering, really?

Really? This is what I have been working so many hours and so hard for? For what? Surmounting debt due to medical bills and barely making it month to month? What do I have to show for the hours, the stress, the ill health? A retirement account? What good is that if I am slowly becoming a shell of my former self? Am I willing to let my passions and dreams die, to wither away in this office – in this job that is not a good fit for me? Am I denying someone else of a job that may be a good fit for them?

Instead of writing New Year’s Resolutions, I had decided to declare this the year of adventure, not knowing at all that in just a few months I would be figuring out how to start traveling through the country. In fact, it is kind of a funny story how that happened, but considering how long this is already, I think I will save it for a future post. I started saying that now was the time – the best time. After all, I am not married and do not have kids to take care of like I thought I would by now. I joked that my only responsibilities were my dog and my bills, and they would follow me wherever I go. So, I jumped. I took the leap of faith, and here I am realizing a dream that was seeded ten years ago. I realized it was now or never.

I knew I had kept this paper. I had come across it a few years ago, and then tucked it away again. It had popped into my mind a few times, but I didn’t know where it was or if maybe I had thrown it away after all. I found it the weekend before I left on this trip as I was going through my art studio. I read it and couldn’t help but chuckle a little… in part because of my optimistic and idealistic youth, in part because it is just funny to read something you wrote ten years ago, and also because of how ridiculously dead on it is in parts. I thought I would save it and post it two weeks into my trip, since I wrote it two weeks into my trip in the paper. I am a couple days behind on that plan since I was at campgrounds without internet access, but then again, I am a few days ahead since I titled the paper August 12th.

To view a PDF of the paper, click on the image above or here. It is a scanned version of the paper that I had turned in for my class. The pictures are muddy, but you can view some of Frank’s work online if you are interested, or find the book, The Americans, on Amazon.

So, I may be a few days and years behind schedule, but then again… maybe I am right on time. Life has a funny way of putting us exactly where we need to be.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. August 23, 2010

    Shana – I love this. Your spirit lifted me today. I am so excited about your adventure and I can’t wait to hear more. You are a brave and courageous inspiration!

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