Last year at precisely this time, I spent a couple of days reflecting on the year that had passed – a big year that held many happy moments, opportunities seized, travels to brand new corners of the world, but also many challenging obstacles and lessons learned. Then, looking forward, I conjured up a list of all I hoped 2012 would bring – kind of like New Year’s Resolutions but, errr, 21 of them (ambitious, aren’t I?). I shared these with you in a post at the start of the year: http://blogs.mcgill.ca/gradlife/2012/01/12/a-year-that%E2%80%99s-new-4-thoughts-moments-lessons-hopes/.
Although I kept these wishes or resolutions in mind throughout the last twelve months, I actually didn’t re-read the post until just a couple of days ago. When I did, I was happily surprised that I could indeed check off all of these bullets, and that what had seemed to be a random list of wishes actually turned out to be a recipe for a successful, balanced and wonderful year.
One of the common themes in my list of hopes was the need to make room in my days for balance and creativity, with the aim of achieving (or holding onto) carefreeness, peace of mind, and stable health. Every day of the year, I made a conscious effort to make time for my hobbies, make time for my friends and family, make time for ME, for the joys and inspirations of daily life, even if this meant that I devoted several hours to something other than my complex and time-consuming PhD work.
I read books for pleasure, watched movies and weird TV shows with my sci-fi-loving husband, spent weekends playing with my nephew, called my grandmothers more often, tagged on some extra days to conference-related trips so that I could have some time to unwind and explore, often doubled the time that making supper normally takes just so I experiment in my cooking, and took pictures – lots and lots of pictures – so that I would get into the habit of always searching for beauty and inspiration, even on the most ordinary days.
This photo project was one of my favorite resolutions for 2012. I created an album called “My 366 for 2012” and snapped at least one photo every day of this leap year. Some are not particularly good. Some are downright boring. Some days I was home and could not for the life of me find something worth photographing. But, in the end, this collection of snapshots helps me look back on all the moments that were captured, as well as all the moments in between.
Only one snapshot is enough to remember the light that day, the temperature, why I took that picture, and how I happened to be feeling – in a rush or carefree, feeling happy or feeling stress, in love with the heat of the summer or freezing my unmittened fingers off while I fiddled with my camera to snap a picture in the snow. Although these details do not physically show up in the photo, they do remain captured in it all the same.
It’s fun to look back at what I filled my days with, where my camera travelled to this year, how the seasons changed, how my technique might have improved with practice, how my technique could still improve, and especially how my perspective gradually changed, after so much time spent looking through my lens. For one, I now catch myself looking up and around for something interesting to photograph. I am more conscious of the kinds of pictures I like to take, and the kinds of pictures I know I am not so good at taking (but hopefully one day will be). I have grown to love patterns and lines, textures and contrasts, light play and reflections, water droplets and lens flares. I have fallen deeply curious about how good food photography is achieved, how to take better photos in low light, and how to photograph things slightly off-center to render the photo more interesting. But, photography aside, this project allowed me to grow more aware of each passing day, and to make it count somehow. It was challenging and admittedly a burden at times to keep up with my resolution, but it allowed me to try and think creatively every day.
This album is really what a year is – a collection of days and moments, extraordinary and mundane, that we look back on, reflect on and either cherish or feel glad to have moved beyond. It is also a collection of lessons, in this case of photography, and a collection of travels – to places near or far – that have shaped our perspective in some way. Lastly, it is also indirectly a collection of wishes – ways in which I hope the new year will be different and better that this one, and ways in which I hope it’ll be the same and just as good.
Below are some of my favorite snapshots from my366 project. I hope the new year will be one of creativity, productivity, balance and joy, for all of you.