November 8, 2013

Angelo Merendino

If you have never looked at the collection My Wife's Fight With Breast Cancer I would highly recommend it. Here is a link to his website. Go check it out! This past Friday and Tuesday I had the privilege to listen to the photographer Angelo Merendino. He spoke about his work and how it has helped him cope with the tragic death of his wife, Jennifer. What a strong man! He relives his pain on a regular basis to help lift those around him. He speaks about her often because of the popularity of his collection of photographs documenting her fight against cancer. I can't imagine the heartache that must accompany that. Something that has surprised me is his willingness and joy to have such an opportunity. He views it as a great way for him to come to terms with her passing, as well as an aide for others who have or are currently battling breast cancer. Angelo was a huge example to me, as I am just starting out my photography career. He was able to bring life and meaning to his work by sharing something that was a part of his life. What's more than that, it was something that was tearing at him emotionally. Photographers are artists. Honesty, in the arts, is what allows us to empathize with the work and the emotions it is expressing. Without honesty in your work intentional meaning is diluted or lost. Reflecting on my life, I find this very evident in the people I choose to associate with. No one enjoys to be around others who are "fake." This is also true with art. We want something that is unedited, real expression. We can make a large difference when we put ourselves out there and are honest. I believe we get caught up in this stigma of making everything in our lives seem perfect. We all aspire to perfection. What if instead we embrace our imperfections? Love yourself the way you are and don't be afraid to let others see the true you. Vulnerability makes you strong. You are able to impact so many more people when you are honest and true to yourself. This is not only true in the arts, but in our commonplace, social interactions. I know that I'm guilty of insisting that I'm fine even when I'm on the verge of tears. How sad is it that our world has evolved to a place where we are afraid to share the most basic emotions like sadness, frustration, and grief? No wonder we have so many problems. We have a deteriorated communication in our society. Striving for happiness is very important, but in order to achieve that we need the help of others. We need those words of encouragement and the comforting hug as much, if not more, than the congratulations for success. We are social creatures. We need each other. Others need us. If you see someone struggling, help them; even if they don't ask for it. When Angelo told the story of his wife's cancer returning he said that he felt like their support group was dwindling. They felt alone and helpless. That only added to the burden of the hardship they were already facing. Please, just go and make someone's burden a little lighter today. I believe that we were all put on this earth to help each other so let's do it. post signature

Bobby McMullen: A Great Guy and Example

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby McMullen. He is a talented competitor in skiing and mountain biking. Mountain biking is his passion and he has achieved a level of skill that I can never even aspire to achieve. Though this may seem like it is not much of an accomplishment, there are many professional mountain bikers, it is because Bobby is also legally blind. He rides every trail with a guide in front of him calling out obstacles as they ride down a trail. What a huge amount of trust that must take! I was lucky enough to have brunch with Bobby and a few other students before he gave a lecture for the common hour at my university. During brunch I asked him how he was able to build such trust with another individual. He told me that he built it like any other person would. He would speak with them to get to know them then do some rides. He reiterated several times that it takes such a large amount of trust, but that if he never pushed himself past the anxiety he would never be able to do the thing that he loved. Bobby's blindness is just one out of many physical trials that he has had to overcome. He has broken bones, fought cancer, and everything in between. What is surprising is that, though he has experienced all of these trails in his life, Bobby is still very energetic and fun to be around. The whole time I spent with him he was constantly smiling, cracking jokes, and laughing along with everyone. He was also very curious to get to know the others around him. He was so humble and selfless even while he was in a position that I'm sure most would not have been. I also asked Bobby what was the one piece of advice that he would give that he believes is the most important. His firm answer was that you need to remain true to yourself. Things happen in our lives that we cannot control, but we can control how we receive them. He thought that the best compliment that he has ever gotten from anyone is that he is the same guy that he has always been. All the adversity in his life has not changed him. This experience made me reflect on my life and how I have been using the time that I have. Bobby told of how he wishes everyone would live every day like it was their last. Don't waste time on things that don't make you happy or that do not help you achieve your goals. Of course we have all heard the tired advice that we should live everyday to its fullest, but Bobby brought new meaning to it. We have no idea when hardships will come our way. I don't want to look back on my life with regret. Just be happy and do what you love! post signature
Images by Freepik