Peace with the Unknown

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I’ve recently found that when people ask me what my summer plans look like, I have a monologue prepared: I’m shooting eight weddings, going to Montana with my dearest friends, and studying abroad in Spain and Morocco. People’s reactions range from general excitement to fascination, sometimes paralleled with an overwhelmed look in their eyes. I can watch as some people try to find Morocco on their mental map, eventually placing it in that general middle-eastern-African-eastern-Europe region. When people ask what I’m studying, I typically have to take a deep breath before jumping into my mini lecture on what my honors project will look like, and halfway through I hastily finish up so as not to take up too much of their time.

I’m going to Morocco. What a strange and wonderful daily re-realization. I picture myself in the markets, camera in hand, eyes wide, surrounded by language different than my own and my white skin feeling awkwardly bright in the African sun. How out of place I will feel, yet how I almost expect to feel a sense of homecoming when I enter that land. Living in transition and the unknown almost always feels safer to me than living in complacency and monotony; feeling fully alive and outside of my comfort zone is where I tend to thrive. So when I picture my 21-year-old, Orange County raised self in Morocco, although I cringe at my own ignorance and Western mentality, I also feel relief at the prospect at experiencing the world in a way that I cannot even visualize right now.

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An important part of the trip for me will be the process of formulating my University Scholars honors project from theory and outline into an actual thesis and photo series that will help define my undergraduate career. Critically thinking about images of Islamic men and women and how Western media has portrayed them will be one challenge of the project, but in Morocco, I will face the challenge of photographing these people and creating portraits that revert the stories we’ve been told since 9/11. Sometimes I try to prepare my heart for this task, but I have no idea where to begin. Scenarios run through my head of coffee shop conversations with locals or bartering with vendors at the market. I eventually come to the conclusion that there will be no way to know the right way to approach these portraits until I’m in the moment with someone and realize that I have an opportunity to capture the face and soul that I am experiencing.

I am not used to feeling unprepared. Although I thrive in spontaneity, if I do not have everything I need to survive or feel out of control in any way, I tend to shut down. It’s new and interesting for me to be preparing for this trip and realize how I cannot anticipate what is ahead of me, I have to just let it happen. It is the most unknown experience I’ve had up to this point in my life, and although I am filled with every possible emotion, I am ready.

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