I was the teen who secretly created competitions with herself in her head to speed up her productivity and set new personal records.
I grew into an adult who became a restless traveler, always looking to fill my heart and notebooks with feelings and experiences.
And throughout my unconventional life, I maintained an uneasy relationship with Time. Possibly like many of you, I constantly felt like I didn't have enough of it. I had trouble imagining myself in the future, as though I wouldn't get there, and this subconsciously propelled me to fill each day past the brim. I never wanted to finish books; I'd read them up to the last couple of chapters and stop, almost defiantly, not wanting the story to end. I always negotiated extra time before bedtime, before school, before supper, or while at a friend's house. I refused to keep countdowns, even if my friends would be counting down to something fun in our lives, like prom or graduation. Whenever I traveled, I hated the question, "When are you back?" and, to this day, I always need to have cancellation insurance because I'm notorious for changing my return date on tickets to prolong my stay. My watch has been on Italian time since my teens, since my first trip to my happy place. Every New Year's Eve, when the ball begins to drop over Times Square, my feeling of anxiety outweighs my excitement.
When I think about all these insecurities around Time, it amuses me to think that I am so passionate about writing and photography, two ways of cheating it. Both have been my allies in pausing time and revisiting it at my heart’s whim.
Photography came to me at a time when I was finding my wings, stretching my legs and testing my creative voice.
When I started dabbling in photography back in 2007, way before highly visual platforms like Instagram changed our way of seeing the world, I did a couple of 365-day challenges to commit to practicing my skills every day. If you've ever done one of these challenges, you'll know how difficult it can seem (initially) to find something worth photographing, especially on the dullest of days. I mean, if you're on vacation in the Greek islands, you'll have no shortage of inspiration, but if you're home doing laundry, capturing mismatched colorful socks sitting on a drying rack doesn't quite have the same appeal, does it?!
But photography was the perfect antidote for my hurried step and my busy mind. It was the perfect relief from my scientific career and the most natural complement to my writing.
Whether I was exploring a new neighborhood, recovering from surgeries, or falling in love with another faraway place, I could always count on photography to allow me to look around, look back and look within. Photography was always there to inspire me take it all in, and to feel gratitude - a powerful emotion that only invites more blessings into your life.
But I think there is room for mindfulness, even in a full schedule and a passionate existence. The trick is to be in tune with your surroundings and your own self, and to know when there is a disconnect between them. Photography is an outlet that helps me create the space and time for observation and feeling. It's not about rapidly collecting images on a memory card. It's about looking with the eyes first, feeling something, and holding onto that micromoment of inspiration and gratitude.
My instinct, as that restless little girl who wants to know and do and be everything, is to fear that if I don't hurry, I will miss out.
But photography has been diligently teaching me that urgency is an illusion.
To read road signs, one can’t be whizzing past. To notice, we must slow our step. To take sharp pictures, we must stand still. To heal, we must rest. To savor our wine, we must breathe deeply. To have new creative ideas, we must take a step back.
And so, to me, this is what living mindfully means. And my photography, which was started only because my parents gifted me a camera when I moved to Europe, helps me tune into what matters and to freeze it in time.