On balance – On presence and Absence – How I learned to „take my time“ again after losing a parent early on.
There is a common saying that one should „take one’s time“. Everything that you want to become good at takes a lot of time and dedication. I am walking around with a camera for most of my life so far. As a kid I was always deeply fascinated, when I joined my mom on a frequent basis to pick up the developed photographs at the local photography store that doesn’t exist anymore. To me even though a photograph is 2 dimensional, it was like the perfect imitation of reality. Looking at a developed photograph seemed like a moment in time was magically frozen within a photograph. When I was around fourteen years old I started to take learning photography seriously. After learning the basic mechanics of a camera, it took a lot of practice and time to learn how to use light in a good way and to figure out what I want to focus on and what I wanted to have in the frame. By the time I entered art school when I was around eighteen years old my photography professor told me that I don’t really need this course. Which was in my opinion not completely true, since I learned how to handle the gradient curve in photoshop and therefore minimized the adjustments/postproduction on photographs. Before art school my photoshop workflow was an unnecessary complicated mess.
Even tough I extended my skills towards photogrammetry and LIDAR scanning, because I became more and more interested in the illusion of depth on screen and switched from a professional camera back to iphone photography in the meantime, my interest for „learning how to see“ the world through different lenses is something I will never get bored with. In the end it’s never really about the camera you have. The camera is just a tool that helps you to see in a different way: A tool that makes you reflect about what is in the focus, in the spotlight and what is left out of the frame. What remains blurry out of focus.
The process of learning how to photograph, how to see, is something that you can not really show, it is work happening out of the spotlight. At some point people started to tell me things like „You are very talented“. Whereas I agree that for example certain traits like being hypersensitive help me to naturally notice a lot by default, a lot of what gets labeled as „talent“ is simply a lot of practice, time and energy investment.
My fascination for „vision“, more precisely „perception“ led me later on towards a fascination for Computer Vision and since an early age I am fascinated by constructed worlds on screen whether it is in Computer Generated movies or Games. To this day I am a fan of certain Pixar movies like Toy story or the short animation story Geri’s Game. Extending my skills in those fields took a lot of additional practice. Learning a lot about linear algebra, matrices and questioning whether I can really learn this (And the answer is yes, never give up when you don’t get a concept the first time you read about it).
This brings me back to the topic of taking ones time. Since November 2018 I was sort of in a rush. I felt like I was running out of time. I was 21 and a half at that time. Those who know me in person know what happened in November 2018, those who don’t can read about it now.
There are moments in everyones life that divide ones life in a before and after. They turn ones inner world upside down and put one on a roller coaster that doesn’t seem to slow down. These moments are the most challenging one will ever encounter, making one aware with all their intensity that the only resource everyone of us on earth has the same amount of 24hours per day is limited. It’s not that I haven’t experienced grief before, yet in November 2018 I was faced with the most intense grief possible: The grief caused by the sudden loss of a parent.
When I was faced with that reality I had to accept it. I had to say yes to my new life, since I didn’t have a choice. The absence of a choice is hard to handle, yet I decided to accept the challenge.
My father was always incredibly aware of the fact that time is a limited resource. He often said „Doing this would be a waste of ones lifetime“ or „one only has a limited amount of kilometers in ones life“. He once told me that he only replied to emails at work when the sender stated clearly in the header what the emails purpose is about.
When people learn about the fact that my father is no longer alive: I often hear people saying things like: „but dying in your mid sixties is quite early.“ As if how long you live tells anything about the quality of your life.
As a little anecdote: When I was fourteen years old, stuck in Gymnasium I once went to the career counseling, because all I wanted is to go to art school and I was looking for possible paths. And this career advice guy whom I really couldn’t stand. He asked me to take an online test to figure out what job would be fitting for me: I told him I want to go to art school, he insisted on me taking the test and surprise surprise the result was artist or computer scientist. A third result was Baker (I mean there was a question in the survey whether I enjoy baking cakes or not, I mean who doesn’t…). Well at some point during the conversation he was like „you have all the time in the world“ (additionally he clearly had zero sense for art) and said nowadays humans die on average at the age of 85. What is the point of turning 85, if most of your lifetime is wasted?
The day my father died I became painfully aware of the fact that my time is limited, too. I started to live a bit in a rush since then. And only recently I came back to a state of relaxation, relearning to enjoy the here and now again and to go with the flow at my speed.
Ever since I was a kid I joined my dad for sessions at the Driving Range once in a while. Even though Golf never became a sport, which I was actively pursuing I remember something important that he once said, when I was in a rush to use up the golf balls as fast as possible: „Take your time, focus and slow down.“ I decided to apply what he said to every aspect in my life.
In January 2023 I have flown to the States to participate in the MIT Reality Hack, which was held under the motto of „presence“. And I have to say I learned to be present again in the recent times. I learned to be balanced again: My flight from Boston back to Zurich was not booked out and the pilot announced at the beginning that everyone should please sit down on the place indicated on ones ticket to keep the weight distribution balanced as calculated in advance. And balance is what I comes down to in the end.
Over the course of 2022 I learned to take my time with certain complex topics in Computer Science and implement resting sessions, such as going for walks, bouldering and Swimming to implement a healthy balance. Swimming has always been a passion of mine. I like the moment when you dive below the surface, or being in this flow state surrounded by water in genreal. Being surrounded by water has healing energy. I found a strategy over the years to handle the day of the year that he died, I try to be at the sea and stare at the water, while walking along a coastline. The sea has a way of letting you know that the earth keeps spinning and that you are just a small puzzle piece in the universe and like waves show after downs there are ups again.