A Life Wasted

So I’ve decided to take a bit of a complete social media break. I’ve already had my Facebook account deactivated a while, and through December I’d been taking time away from Twitter. For January, I decided to add Instagram into the mix. I knew this was going to be a tough last step, as, being a a photographer, Instagram is the one I enjoy using the most (even despite my various gripes with the platform that I’ve blogged about recently). Essentially off social media entirely now (at least the platforms that dominated my time), I’ve come to some conclusions already in just the first handful of days…

  1. I wasted more time than I thought on social media! It’s amazing how many times I’ll pick up my phone/tablet, or login to my PC, etc., only to then discover I don’t know what I really want to do, why I got online in the first place. If it’s later in the day, especially, I’ve already gone through all my news sites, so there’s not much I have to catch up on there. That’s when I’d realize that most of the time in the past, I’d get online and just start checking Instagam, Twitter, Facebook, etc.

  2. We use our phones mostly for social media. The smartphone is truly a wonderful tool, and allows us to do a lot. What I’ve been finding, though, is that - related to #1 above - oft times we pull those things out of our pocket to just mindlessly scroll through social media whenever we’re bored. Now that I’m not using those apps all the time, once I’ve caught up on news, there’s not often a lot of use for it. As such, my battery life has skyrocketed, as I don’t have apps open, draining the battery, all the time anymore.

  3. These social media platforms truly are addicting. It’s amazing how often I have that impulse to open one of those apps/sites to start browsing, post a picture or my opinion about some nonsense, etc. It’s like a crack addict reaching for that pipe, but it’s no longer there….

Will I stay off all social media long term? I don’t know yet. Probably not. However, I definitely plan on curtailing my use and how I use it. I’m not sure what my path forward with Twitter is… I got back on for a couple days as December closed out, and I was taken aback at how negative the environment is there. It was nothing different than it’s always been, but having been away from it for a month, I really noticed it now. I promptly got back off, as I just didn’t find it enjoyable now. Maybe I’m done with it; I don’t know. Either that, or perhaps I just need to change whom I follow to craft a more positive, uplifting experience there. Being that it’s really just a time waster, though, I’m not sure if it’s really worth that effort.

I recently got back on Facebook just briefly for the sole purpose of deleting all my past content on there. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this post, but just let me tell you, it was a real eye opener, seeing how much crap I’ve posted on there over the years. The first year or two weren’t bad, and the last couple years weren’t too bad, as I deactivated for long periods during them, but those middle years…. Thousands upon thousands of status updates, comments, likes, etc. - it was insane! I had an automated script plugin doing a lot of the deletions for me, just leaving me to do manual clean-up on what it couldn’t catch, and it still took me about NINE days to delete it all! Just think about all that time I must have been wasting on it over the years! I think I’m pretty much done for good on that platform now. The only reason I deactivate instead of doing a full delete is so that I can keep my FB Messenger contacts, as that’s my only (or at last most convenient) contact point for some people.

Cheers,
R

Run Down

Over the past couple of months, I’ve had to take two unplanned days off from work because I wasn’t feeling well; today being the second of those days. I’ve noticed that when I have such a day, if I take a good chunk of the day to just rest (sleep if possible, but if not, just rest and sort of not focus on anything), I get to feeling better rather quickly, that my ailment will rarely plague me much beyond that day. This leads me to believe I’m probably just not getting enough rest in general, which is what’s allowing me to succumb (to illness) and get to this point; as in the past, I’ve rarely had to take an actual sick day once in a year, much less two in a matter of months. I think I’ve been charging a little too hard lately: with work, weekend commits with family and otherwise, and on top of it all, not getting enough sleep throughout the week. It’s also been quite some time since I’ve been on a regular exercise routine/schedule, which historically has always made a big difference in my overall health. I think these things all add up until the body finally says “enough!” I’m not really one for New Year’s resolutions, but if I were, I think mine for this coming year would simply be to get back to finding that balance. Work hard, yes, but realize it doesn’t have to occupy all of my time (not just actual work time, but time spent thinking about it when not working). Get back on the treadmill and at those weights. Turn the TV off an hour earlier and go to bed. Eat healthier, drink more water and less alcohol and coffee. Get back on the nightly walk schedule, even though it’s cold out. If I’m going to be of the most value to my family, my employer, and myself, I need to get back to keeping the machine tuned.

Take care of yourselves, all.

Cheers,
R

Calm

I find myself consumed with work lately. If I’m not actively working, I’m thinking about it. This isn’t by choice, as I’m certainly not some workaholic that doesn’t know how to have a life. It’s just that we’re that busy at work. It’s fairly stressful at times, to be honest. At times like these is when I really enjoy simple, peaceful images like the one above. I just find it very calming; clears the mind a bit. What I really need, though, is another hike like the one on which I snapped this image. Nothing is more peaceful than a good hike in the Fall! I shot this on a hike around Dry Lake, just outside Ely, MN, back in late September. It was absolutely beautiful, and I’ll definitely be going back sometime.

This image is now posted over in the Autumn gallery, along with another image or two that might be new since the last time you visited. Go check ‘em out. I’ve also posted some new images, both color and black & white, over in the Minnesota Landscapes gallery. I hope you’ll enjoy.

Once again, thanks for stopping by. I appreciate all of you that choose to follow my work.

Cheers,
Ryan

The Desert-Island Album List, Vol. 1

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I've been talking music a lot lately with family & friends; I think partly because I just started stepping back into vinyl recently, and also because I find I always fall into my music more when life sometimes gets a little more stressful, as it helps keep the balance. As such, for my own amusement, I've decided to come up with my own "top 10 records I'd want if stranded on a desert island" list.

Here's the catch: I'm only allowing myself one album from any individual artist/band. Otherwise it'd be too easy to fill up 70% of my list with three bands and not really think about all the varied musical artists that have had an impact on me over the years. I want to force myself to stretch and step outside the albums I play the most.

Given this limitation, it's going to take me some time to develop the full list; thus why this post was labeled "volume 1." So I'm starting with the three albums you see pictured above, in no particular order: 

  1. Sleater-Kinney's "The Woods"
  2. Tom Petty's "Wildflowers" 
  3. R.E.M.'s "Life's Rich Pageant"

Now, those who know me well might be shocked that I didn't also post Beatles, Stone's, Bowie, and Pearl Jam albums right away. Yes, those are also among my very favorite bands, and that's why they're so tricky: choosing just one album isn't easy! So some deliberation is required...

Now, back to the albums that are already chosen for today... Why these?  

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The Woods, Sleater-Kinney

If you're a Sleater-Kinney fan, you get it. Released in 2005, this was presumably their last album, as they essentially broke up after this album. And man, did they go out with a bang! They went darker, deeper, and more powerful in every way on this one. They employed a new producer on this one, and he really brought out the best in them here. Corin's vocals are more powerful than ever on this album, and that's really saying something. Her voice just grabs you and shakes you this one - it's captivating and awesome. I feel like Carrie Brownstein was also finally let loose on this album, showing us what she can really do with that guitar. Her work on this album is epic.  Janet Weiss, their drummer, is just awesome as always. I feel like she's one of the few drummers in rock that you really notice - you'd definitely notice if they tried replacing her with anyone else.

Lyrically, the album is easily their best, IMO. They put some work in on this one, and it shows. This is an album that makes you think, makes you feel. When they reunited and released their new album, "No Cities to Love", in 2015, it rocked, of course, but couldnt quite live up the level of "The Woods".

If I allowed myself a second pick from this band, it'd be their 1997 release, "Dig Me Out". That album is such a perfect marriage of punk and pop, light-hearted and yet rocking and lyrically strong at the same time. You hear influences of old-school punk, modern alt-rock, and the Go-Go's all at the same time.

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Wildflowers, Tom Petty

Overall, I won't be ranking albums on this list - with the exception of this one. This album I have no problem calling my favorite album by anyone, ever. Released in 1994, I picked this up when I was a junior in college, and it immediately spoke to me more than any previous album of his had, and I was already a HUGE Tom Petty fan. As I've gotten older, it's only spoken to me even more, as I think Tom's storytelling style tends to hit on a lot of themes that speak to us as we get more into mid-life; and this one does that in spades.

Also, I think the last three tracks of this album provide the best multi-track closing to any album ever. Any one of those three songs is beautiful and strong on their own, but played in succession, they're pure magic.  The last track, "Wake Up Time", is my favorite song in his catalog, and still tugs at the heartstrings every time.

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Life's Rich Pageant, R.E.M.

It's hard for me to articulate why this album speaks to me the way it does, but it just does. R.E.M. has been one of my favorite bands ever since I became old enough to start developing my own taste in music; I started with "Document", which was the popular album at the time (and the one that finally really broke them into the mainstream), and kept moving on with them from there. 

As I got more into adulthood, I found this was the album I kept coming back to when I just wanted to feel "free", if that makes sense. As such, this has become one of my favorite road trip albums over the years. In fact, my kids now just expect they're going to hear this one a couple times when we go on long road trips. :) 

So there's my initial three for the list. Stay tuned for more to come...

Youth, the Big Decisions, and the "Midlife Crisis"

I know I usually just post about photo and outdoor stuff here, but I need to shift gears here for a bit, write about some other stuff that’s been on my mind lately. To that end…

Youthful Decisions, Mid-life Effects
Not far back, I was having a conversation with a good friend of mine, the kind where you talk about stuff you’re going through, stuff other friends/family/coworkers are going though, etc. Being men in our mid-40’s, it centers around a lot of the typical mid-life stuff: work stuff, marriage/relationship issues, various life goals achieved or missed, etc. As I was reflecting back on this conversation, I came to a conclusion…

It’s insane how many life-long decisions we make when we’re still young and stupid! Think about it: marriage, career, kids, perhaps place of residence - how many of these decisions are we making that we tie ourselves to for our ENTIRE LIVES when we’re in our early twenties, when we’re essentially still adolescents?

Marriage
Many of the marriages that dissolve these days are happening at the mid-life stage and beyond, when couples get into their 40’s or even 50’s. Sometimes it’s because of a dramatic event like infidelity, but often it’s just because the couple “grew apart”. When many of these couples had made the decision to get married back when they were college-age, is it really surprising? How many of us are the same people at 40+ that we were at 20 or 25? Hell, looking at myself, I hardly recognize the guy I was back at the age when I got married. People grow and change; sometimes this growth/change for each member of the marriage happens in a complementary way so that the couple actually grows stronger, but what happens when they grow in divergent ways? Is it surprising that the splits happen then? So then, why do we make it so easy for people at such early ages enter into a legally binding contract that is meant to last FOR LIFE? Then, when it doesn’t work out, we make it incredibly hard to get out of. It seems crazy.

Career
Career choice is another interesting area where we make a seemingly lifelong decision when we’re incredibly young. Is it really expected that we should only have a professional passion for ONE THING for the entirely of our working lives? And that we should really know with certainty what that lifelong passion will be at 22? Now, one can ostensibly change careers at any point during their lives, but let’s admit that it’s not easy, particularly the further along the you get, and especially if you get established in a field that you’re experienced in and pays you well. Money doesn’t equal interest or passion, though. I love tacos, but I wouldn’t want to have tacos for dinner EVERY night for the rest of my life. We make such a decision about our work lives, though, and then we act incredulous when someone complains about their “great career” when they’re seemingly at the height of it: “How can they be burned out? They have everything!” (“they’ve got tacos!”)

Residence
I don’t think this issue is quite as prevalent as others, but it definitely comes up for many, and it’s usually tied to the other two issues I mentioned above. Often people have to make a choice on where they live very early on in adulthood, usually tied to the choices they made related to marriage or career, or perhaps just to be close to other family. Then they get tied into a mortgage… Later, perhaps they think, “this place doesn’t work for me anymore,” but then they’re stuck because their employer requires them to stay at their current location, or the spouse doesn’t want to move, etc. Again, tied to the choices of youth…

Why?
So the question is, why do we setup our society this way? Why do we suggest to everyone that they should lay out the plan for their entire life at 22, and if they deviate from that, there’s something wrong with them? “How dare you not still be in love with that person you committed to at 22, even though you’re both completely different now?” “No, don’t change careers after 20 years! You’re all set! So stick to that profession that you’re no longer interested in, because you should still be passionate about the same things you were at 22!” Etc., etc…. Does it not seem a bit ridiculous? It’s no wonder so many people have what’s commonly, dismissively referred to as a “mid-life crisis”. It’s no fucking mystery what’s happening with these people: they’re finding themselves stuck in these decisions they made when they were essentially still kids. Maybe the marriage doesn’t work for them anymore, but now they’ve got the kids, mortgage, etc., so it’s not so easy to get out. Maybe they’ve lost all interest in their career, but it pays the salary to support the kids, mortgage, etc. Is it any wonder they feel trapped?

Now, I’m not suggesting any of these things is a problem for all. As I said early on, many people get married young and grow together stronger throughout their marriages, more in love at 80 than they were at 20. Likewise, some people face retirement at 65 and still can’t imagine giving up the careers they’ve been working for over 40 years. However, all I’m suggesting is that, when they don’t, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised or demonize them. People can change a lot over the course of becoming fully realized adults, and if those changes require a change of course, why try to stop it?