To say that the last few months (heck, year or more really) has been a shitshow would be an understatement. In a world where abiding by the expectation of others has been the overarching presence throughout my life, I’ve come to a realisation that it’s time for me to take stock of who I am. What makes me, me.

Be a good person. Be selfless. Study hard. Get into a good school. Start a career. Earn that six-figure salary.

Follow the path.

I’ve always been one to go against the grain. Fought the things that were expected of me. Trying to overcome the weight of well-intentioned advice despite the nagging feeling deep inside I wanted something else. But I was not strong enough.

Fighting that fight is tiring.

I ended up doing all those things. I am, by nature, a high-achiever. Doing those things were easy for me. But the rebellious side of me that wanted to challenge the status quo was always there. For a while, during my teens, I was able to do both.

In the end, I caved.

I can almost pinpoint the moment when I did. I was, arguably, on a path that I shouldn’t have been. But that one moment was enough to shock the hell out of me. To make me realise that if I had continued on this path I would have found myself in a place I didn’t want to be. I could have screwed up my life with no recourse.

I over corrected. I gave in to all the societal and cultural expectations of me. I did all the things that were expected of me. Life, career, success. I ticked all the boxes. From the perception of others, I did and had it all.

But I wasn’t happy.

In caving, I lost an essential part of myself. Without knowing it, becoming one of the cookie-cutter cogs of society killed me a little inside every day. Like the frog in slowly heated up water doesn’t realise that he’s slowly being boiled alive.

And it all fell apart.

It’s been hard. It’s been raw. It’s been confronting. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

This is where the story of my life changes direction once again. I’m reassessing myself, my life, my priorities. A big part of that is thinking for myself again. Being the real me again. Balancing the high achiever with the free spirit in me that treasures creativity and impulsivity.

This is where my recent solo trip to the Daintree comes in. Call it escapism but for me it was about removing the noise, getting back into nature and doing something that was purely focused on myself. It was about centring myself and #findingmyzen (ba dum tssssshhh 😜).

On a whim, I booked three nights in a room set in the canopy of the rainforest. A bit of an indulgent and luxurious choice, but my intention with going away for the weekend was to play things by ear, and I wanted somewhere where I could be happy staying in the whole time while experiencing the Daintree at the same time.

On my way to the airport, I was given an assignment of sorts – take photos for Finding Space, a new spiritual and wholesomeness community currently in development by a friend. Challenge accepted.

I started off doing photography on film. While I love the opportunities that digital photography has afforded, there’s something missing. There isn’t the preciousness that you have from film photography where you know you have a limited number of shots on the roll of film. The romanticism of not knowing how your photos turn up until much later.

So I gave myself those constraints again. Look through the viewfinder and frame the photo before clicking the button. Do not look at the resultant shot until the end of the day.

I hadn’t thought much of the constraints until I was in the moment.

Mindfulness. It’s harped on over and over again as the key to inner happiness and what not. My cynicism had always disregarded it as frou-frou bs spouted by wannabe spiritual guides with an ulterior motive to sell you on their latest ‘mindfulness retreat’ to teach you the “secret”.

However, in taking the time to look at the picture I was taking, framing it without the assumption that the cropping tool on the computer could fix all flaws, composing the photo to show the dichotomy between shadow and light before I’d even touched the shutter button. I found my own form of mindfulness.

This has been a long piece, so thank you for reading to the end.

It’s been raw. There have been tears in the course of writing this (and there’s nothing wrong with that). Most might find the things I wrote in the first half of the piece a bit too personal. Maybe you can’t relate, but this piece is more for me than anything else. Perhaps it may mean nothing to you now but maybe when you find yourself in a similar self-reflective situation in the future and this piece may come to mind.

In honour of the rawness of this piece, I’ve made the conscious decision to publish the photos from the trip as is. Raw unedited JPGs straight from the camera. Sure, some of these could have been levelled, some of these could have been cropped to better showcase the subject, some could have been colour corrected. But hey, there is perfection in imperfection.

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