It is hard to believe that it has been just about three years since I started this blog. It has given me so much at this point. Engaging conversations and lasting friendships from people all over the world. For me, the blogosphere continues to be the place for the sort of rational discourse we used to engage in with one another and a place still open to ideas. You can make people laugh or cry on these pages. Educate and inform. The other side of that is that I continue to learn so much from so many talented people writing their own blogs.
On each of my anniversaries, or blogoversaries as us bloggers call them, I have tried to do something a little special to mark the occasion. For my first one, I took a trip over the Manhattan Bridge on foot, focusing on the actual sounds of the bridge. For the second, I imagined sitting in the editing room of a film, directing the way the opening shots for a movie in my mind would look. So for this blogoversary, I knew I had to come up with something new yet again. Like many artists, the basis of an idea can be one that lingers around for awhile. The mere wisp of a thought jotted down but not fully realized. Months ago I had such a thought, recorded in my notebook in the hopes that it might see the light of day sometime. Well that time is now, and the idea quite simply is that of a Self-Portrait.
Artists have used this concept for a long time of course. Partly as an exploration of new ideas, and partly as an expression of their state of mind at a given time. My hesitation in using this idea is because from my very first post, I have struggled with this concept of calling myself any sort of artist in comparison with so many other talented individuals. Yes I know people respond to my photographs, as they have over time for my writing. But I never have been able to comfortably sell myself on the idea. Part of the dilemma is because this venture is not just one thing. It is not just a writing blog, or a photography blog. In my mind it is something else entirely and undefinable in some ways, and it is up to me to make it work. But rather than making a case for this by citing examples, I imagined instead a letter, written to the younger ‘me’ by the older ‘me’. Guiding me towards this path I am on now, which feels so right to me. Which makes me feel like I have a valid contribution. That makes me feel like an artist.
At the bottom of the letter are a few self-portraits taken with my camera on a timer setting. By way of the selfie, the one thing not lacking in our society today are self-portraits of course. But instead of the smiling, ‘Hey look at me in front of (insert place of interest)’ type, with arm stretched out, I played around with some different expressions while the camera snapped away and I thought about the words I have written.
I am writing this letter to you from the future to tell you about…well, you! See, although much will change in this crazy old world of ours as you will soon find out, there are many more things that stay the same. Sure, things may go by a different name, or be smaller and faster than they once were, but we still need and thrive on them in my time. So I want to be sure you understand that the things that make you who you are, despite what others may say about them, is important. In fact, it is probably the most important thing to realize as you get older. In other words, do not ever give in to self-doubt or embarrassment about the things you have enjoyed at any time in your life. I know you feel a little aimless now that you are a young man. Feeling lost because you don’t know what you want to do while around you others may be telling you what you should be doing or have it figured out for themselves. Those people truly are doing it with the best of intentions and concern for you, but they probably do not really know what is going on in your head. I’m going to warn you…there may be a few lean years. You may feel like you are happy and content, but looking back you will regret things. But that’s okay. Don’t let those feelings get to you because I promise you, your time will come.
I’m here to tell you that every experience, every childhood memory, every discussion, every argument, every baseball game you ever watch, every TV show you sit staring at, every concert you ever go to, every book you will ever read, every job you will ever have, every country you ever travel in, every mile that passes by in every car you ever sit in matters. You see young Robert, these are the experiences and memories you will use in the future to do some unique and special things. To use a phrase from poker (which I am sorry to say you will never master), they will allow you to go ‘all in’. It may feel like a meandering and circuitous path now, but all those things have a connection for you. Why? Because YOU chose them!
When you were growing up do you remember how you relished in the fantasy world you built in your mind, playing with toy cars and building little toy buildings? You would beam with pride as you imagined your designs to be unique and creative. I’m here to tell you that its okay if you kept those toys out later than most other kids did. Do you remember when you would pore over maps, tracing the world with your finger-East to West, North to South? You dreamed about the people that lived in those far away places-what they looked like, what they ate, what the culture was like. Despite the usual schoolyard scoffing at such pursuits, I will tell you that you will remain fascinated by such things and your unique understanding and perspective will be shared in time. What’s more is that people will respond to your thoughts in a positive way. So those feelings you have now of no one listening to you will disappear.
Do you remember when you would drive for hours on a day off, staving off loneliness because you had few friends? You would roll the windows down and crank the stereo, singing badly (which I’m sorry to say never got better) along with every word, listening to the nuances of every instrument. The music became your friends, but don’t worry, you will make some great ones in the future. I promise you. Do you remember spending hours in record stores, exploring every bit of music you could get your hands on? Switching between styles from Dublin to Delhi to the Delta and excitedly clutching a rare treasure from the racks as if it were an ancient artifact? All of that will be time well spent, believe me. Do you remember your first trip to Ireland in 1983, when you snapped your own photos on the families trusty old Kodak Ektralite camera? How about two years later when you were in Switzerland, Germany and France? The truth is, you had a pretty good eye for photography way back then. You just did not realize it yet. But again, that’s okay…you will realize it one day.
Do you remember all the tales of adventure you read, wishing it was you on Tintin’s escapades, crossing Antarctica with Shackleton, or climbing Everest with Sir Edmund Hilary? Do you recall sailing with Captain Aubrey around Cape Horn, riding the rails with Woody Guthrie, or rocketing into space with the astronauts in the pages of a book? Do you remember having cocktails at the Drones Club with Bertie Wooster, or solving a mystery with Hercule Poirot? Can you remember crushing a 3/2 fastball with Joe DiMaggio or striking out Ted Williams? Or standing on a battlefield directing the action while all around you was chaos? How about that phase when you were fascinated with how things were built and you read about skyscrapers and cathedrals, bridges and infastructure? See kiddo, just like with the music you explored you found a lot of things to interest you. Some people might become so engrossed with one particular topic that they spend their entire lives studying it. Yours is a different approach, so don’t feel bad about exploring anything you can get your hands on, be it technical manual or a comic book. It will all come together.
I also want to tell you to not let other people bring you down with the labels they will put on you for your pursuits. Shy, loner, introvert, anti-social, whatever it is. Quite frankly, those who put those labels on you have their own problems, so don’t think for a second that all is so rosy in their worlds. I don’t want to reveal too much, but you will find your way around most of these issues from someone very special. Oh damn, I said too much! Well, you’ll just have to take my word for it that it will happen one day and you will be very happy. But more importantly, here is the thing. You will find a way to get all these seemingly disparate elements out in a way that is uniquely Robert. A way that has never quite been done before. It will happen when you decide that after many years, you are not content to keep all those elements trapped inside your head. It will happen when you realize that you have had inside you for a long time, a gift to share with people. It will reveal itself to you gradually, and it will not always be easy. But it will be worth it, I promise you.
I can say this, all these years later, because I know what you always wanted to be. I know the thoughts you had-the outside looking in feel you had when it came to anything creative. You yearned for it for years. You wanted to write, to make art, to be a photographer, to be a musician. It may not all happen, or it may still come in stages, but that secret you kept hidden inside you for years will be revealed one day. And when it happens Robert, I want you to hold your head high and say proudly-‘I’m an artist’. You will no longer say my stuff is not good enough. Or its only a hobby. Or I have no formal training. None of that matters. You have thoughts and ideas. You will find ways to share those things with the world in YOUR own way. You will find a way to join those fractured thoughts into something your own. You have a talent, believe me! Will it make you rich? Will it make you famous? You will have to experience that on your own. What I can tell you is that once you hold your head up high and say those words, you will truly feel like you are an artist because what you do IS art.
Just remember-stay who you are. You will make mistakes, but you will also do a lot of good things. Keep going.
Yours Truly From The Future, Robert Patrick Doyle-Artist
P.S. I know you have watched a lot of sci-fi in your day, and no doubt remember those story lines where a character goes into the future or the past, and is warned to beware of their actions so as not to upset the space-time continuum. Well all I can say is, it is true, but I checked with my buddy Neil DeGrasse Tyson about this just now and he said that I can at least tell you this with no fear of harming humanity. Once you get to that realization about yourself, then it is time to get cracking on that book Robert!
Now I’m sure you have been wondering where the song has been in this post. Despite having this idea I struggled until the eleventh hour to find the right sort of song. I was beginning to worry but then the other day while coming home from work I put an album on by Irish singer Jack Lukeman (aka Jack L) called Broken Songs. When the song You Can’t Get Bitter came on I knew it was the right fit for this post. But rather than spend another 2000 words going on about yet another one of my favorite singers, I will let you figure out for yourselves why I chose it!
Thank you to all of you who continue to read and comment on my posts. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again-as long as there are photographs to take, and new songs to hear, this project will continue!
You Can’t Get Bitter-Written By Jack Lukeman
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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle
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