When I was in grammar school, I was one of the five fastest kids in my grade. Not to say I was necessarily fifth, but to say between the five of us, on any given day one of us could beat the other four in a race.
It was just my luck that one day as I rounded a corner during recess at full speed, it was one of the other five fastest kids in our grade coming around that same corner at full speed.
I don’t think I lost consciousness when we collided and both bumped heads, but my first memory after we hit was someone counting off like a boxing announcer and asking the crowd that had gathered around us who did they think would get up first.
I was unable to open my eyes to see if the other kid was getting up, but there was one thing I was sure of…there was no way I was going to lay there in pain and not even try to get up.
It took everything I had, but I rose up to my knees and the announcer raised my hand in victory to cheers and jeers. I still wasn’t able to open my eyes and after ‘winning’, I flopped back down onto the ground.
Both of us needed help getting to the nurse’s office before our parents picked us up to take us to the emergency room to check on the golf ball sized bumps we were starting to sport on our foreheads.
That day comes to mind from the way I was trying to push through the burnout I was suffering from since the beginning of July.
Even though on my best days, my mind was kind of fuzzy and mental intensive tasks required far more effort than normal. My eye was on my upcoming vacation to Maui. There was no time to just lie around in pain though. First, I had to double down on what I wanted done before I left.
Throughout July and August as I kept pushing, part of me felt that effort was much like the effort I put into rising up to my knees knowing there was no way I would be able to actually stand.
Because of this, I debated constantly whether I should bring my camera on the trip or not. Part of me was afraid that I’d merely continue to push when I really needed to rest.
I did bring the camera and when we went snorkeling, I still rented an underwater camera. I managed to convince myself that I could live with bringing no shots home if at any given moment, carrying that camera felt like work or required extra effort.
We snorkeled in a spot that was supposed to be good for seeing sea turtles and naturally, I only saw one and he was hiding under the coral waiting for us to leave.
My decision to be okay if I didn’t get any worthwhile shots was put to the test when no sea turtles bothered to show themselves and we were called back to the boat because it was time to leave.
I was within a couple yards of the boat when the sea turtle in the photo above swam toward the throng of snorkelers and literally swam between me and the boat. I managed to get off a couple shots without having to work so hard for them.
Over the course of the trip, I did manage to not work or feel the need to go out of my way to capture things.
I know I left a lot of untaken shots behind during that week, but the question is, if I had taken them, what would the cost have been?
After that week was a return to the demands at work with no more vacations scheduled for months.
That trip was my last, best chance to turn off completely and even now, I can still feel myself a half-step slower than I should be mentally.
But unlike my nine year old self, I’m not going to rise to my knees only to fall back down again.
This time, I’ll take the shots that come to me and build the things I don’t have to fight blindly for.
At least for awhile.
Those ambitions are still there, but I can’t realize them with my eyes closed from pushing through the pain.