Goodbye is the Hardest Word to Say

There are a lot of people that come and go in your life. Your childhood best friend, your first boyfriend or girlfriend, college roommates… You get the idea.

I've done a lot in my short time in existence, which just recently hit the 26 year mark. I've lived all over the place, up and moved across the country three times. I am lucky enough to have friends all over the state, the country and the world. It never fails that I will be in a random city, for a random reason and I bump into someone I know. Just last week my friend slash coworker Amy, aka @adifran, and I went to Blue Springs Missouri for a Think First event.

Amy and I weren't there more than ten minutes before two people came up to me, a classmate from Advanced Photography and a guy who couldn't quite pin down from where exactly he knew me. A little later I bumped into a friend of a friend.  

A couple of years ago Ryan and I were in Chicago, about to hop onto the L when, what do you know, someone who pledged my fraternity recognized me. He and his girlfriend road with us to our stop, we talked old times and parted at the next stop. 

But then there are those really special people in your life. The people you don't expect or don't even realize how much they mean to you until it sneaks up on you. 

As a kid there were these people in my life. My brother Patrick who I looked up to as most little brothers do. I wanted to be just like him for the longest time. I don't think he ever really knew how much I wanted to follow in his footsteps. Even today, when I need that really big life changing type of advice, he's the first on my list. He was the first family member I came out to. Without his support I wouldn't be where I am today.

The next person in my life was my cousin David. David and I were best friends from childhood. We summered on the beach every year together, we went to the Cayman Islands together, we built forts, we did all the things you do with your best friend… breaking into swimming pools, talking shit, camping out, you know the drill. When I decided I was going to move to California David was the first person on my list of people I wanted to live with. A couple of weeks later the two of us were driving to California for an adventure like we'd nothing we'd ever dreamed of.

In high school there was Joseph. I could tell Joseph anything, he could tell me anything. Together we somehow survived uniquely difficult junior and senior years. It seemed like our friendship blossomed overnight. One day we were two parts of a huge clique of friends, the next day we were best friends. Our nights were shared going out to dinner at Chipotle or Macaroni Grill, driving up and down FM 1960 blasting hip hop music, buying music and finding comfort in our shared company. Always kind, always funny, always there for me and up for just about anything.

One way or another I said goodbye to each of these people. Patrick is married to the most amazing person in the world and living off in Houston. David is also married, which is a bit of a shocker, he always was such a heart breaker. Joseph, this was perhaps the most surprising. He's in Korea teaching English, getting a law degree and generally exploring the East in a way that would make Dhani Jones jealous.

I would argue that the hardest part of goodbye is the feeling of emptiness it leaves you. There are these people who have made such a strong impact on your life, they have shown you love, they have taught you about yourself and the world, they have been there for the good and the bad through laughter and tears, love and pain. What they leave behind is a pit, an endless abyss of negativity. You are happy for their ability to move on, move up and move out. You know you'll see them again, that you can talk on the phone or online and that you'll still be friends for life. But your heart fights reason.

Your heart reminds you of everything they were to you, everything that is now lost.

These are holes you are certain can never be filled back in by anyone or anything else.

Enter Chase. 

Chase entered my life after I abruptly moved back to Columbia from California. Little did we know we were dancing around each other nearly our entire lives. From living in the same part of Houston, to the same part of Tulsa. We went to the same concerts, even an obscure Jason Mraz concert my senior year of high school. We both loved the same music, the same obsession with technology, movies and shows. Who would have thought that this total stranger would become like a brother to me?

I have Chase to thank for a lot. Would I have Ryan in my life without Chase? I'm not so sure! He brought so much to my life in a really unexpected way. At the time I didn't really have many straight guy friends. Most of my friends were other gay guys or girls who attracted gay guys like moths to a flame. I have Chase to thank for the next two people on the list. 

Corey, over there on the left eating Dave's bicep.

The first night I met Corey I thought… David? He reminded me so much of my cousin and proved to be just as cool, fun, exciting and generally bad ass. A little over a year ago I realized just how important Corey was in my life. He and chase moved to Blue Springs with their band to do the music thing full time. All of a sudden I felt this emptiness like I hadn't felt in a long time.

When Ryan was in the hospital and with a dangerous prognosis, Corey was the one I went to. He comforted me in a moment of absolute vulnerability. I was emotionally drained, physically shaken and felt like the world was closing in around me. I drove from the hospital to Corey's work. I made it all the way to the counter before I broke down into a sobbing mess. 

Corey brought me the level of comfort, compassion and love I needed so dearly. He held me, dried my tears and absorbed some of my fear and despair.

And in then there is Sam. An incredible photography, a fantastic musician (like Chase and Corey), passionate, funny and ridiculously in touch with his feelings and the feelings of others. There is nothing I couldn't share with Sam. His heart is pure and his mind is open.

It's a little funny how when I think about Sam my words begin to fail me. In place of words are memories, his last night in town at the Snorty Horse, Scouts concerts, bar hopping around town, photography talks, trivia nights, tequila shots at The Artisan… Thinking about these memories literally brings a smile to my face. He shares a heart and humor paralleled by only one other person I've ever had enter my life, my high school best friend, Joseph.

I get lost in the memories of these three guys. A mixture of happiness and sadness overflows me. This time a few months ago we were hanging out and then, one by one they moved away. Sam was the first to go followed by Corey and then Chase. They moved up, on and away in the exact opposite way that they entered my life.

Not going to lie. The night Sam left, signifying the inevitable end of one of the best periods of my life, I was a big ol' mess. Cried my freaking eyes out. 

A lot of people have entered my life. These people came and went, they made their impact. They were friends, roommates, classmates, boyfriends… They were for me the most important people in my life at the time.

Things were different with Chase, Corey and Sam. For the second time in my life I felt an endless sense of loss. There was something unique to these three people that affected me in a way only my brother, my cousin David and my best friend Joseph had before. It was in the night that I said goodbye to Sam that I realized something. That whole left ages ago had somehow been filled by these three guys. I realized that there are people put into your life to fill a certain purpose. To help you grow, learn and love.

Twice in my life I've had this experience. Who could ever expect to be so lucky?

I put off writing this blog post for quite a while. June 22 I started writing and over a month later I'm here to finish it. Why am I finishing it now? Well I got some other big news late last month. Ryan, arguably the most important person in my life will also be leaving. We're both excited, scared, nervous and happy about the big change we're both about to experience. In a few weeks Ryan will be living in San Francisco and I will have to say goodbye, temporarily as I stay here in Columbia.

But that's another day and another post.

Sam, Corey and Chase moving away was incredibly hard on me. I felt that familiar emptiness. But today I smile at the prospect of visiting Sam in Seattle, Corey in Florida and the incredible excitement at Chase's wedding in December. They will be a part of my life for the rest of my life and I can't wait to see where we all end up. Who knows, we might some day find ourselves back in the same city together, drinking PBRs and grilling some burgers.

I can't wait to see what happens next!

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Sessions with Joey L

Sessions with Joey L

Sessions with Joey L

Wow, he’s everyone I want to be.  Smart, funny, talented, adorable, successful and a photographer doing what he loves and inspiring the pros around him.

Did I mention he’s like 19 years old?  Did I mention he’s the guy that shot the infamous and oft impersonated Twilight poster?

Sessions With Joey L – Tutorial Preview from Joey L on Vimeo.

Joey has a couple of DVDs out with his tips, tricks and techniques and as with most photography tools, these videos are incredibly expensive.  And yet, I’m tempted to scrounge around for the money to buy them.  The two DVDs together will cost around $500!  That’s pretty incredible.

Imagine an Annie Leibovitz that’s guy, that’s 19 years old but nearly every bit as important and successful in his field of photography.  His is the style I’ve wanted to do since I got into art photography.  Real winners are rare between while the market is flooded with fluff photographers not work the equipment they are carrying.

I hope to someday do the work of Joey, to be as successful, humble and passionate.  I also hope that my current trip into architectural fine art photography isn’t a mistake.  That my critique of educational institution isn’t a handicap for my art’s success.

Click photo to visit my photography site

Click photo to visit my photography site

I hope my love for the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf style of photography such as the works of Candida Höfer and Andreas Gursky can actively be incorporated with my adoration of Joey’s and Annie’s works.

This post started as a small plea for things to come together for me to arrive at having a set of Joey’s DVDs and wouldn’t you know it, now I’m questioning my recent vein of photography for the bigger picture.

On the internet and in business I market myself as a social media/marketing/PR guy.  It’s what I do to pay the bills while simultaneously teaching photography both at the University and in my spare time at coffee shops, photo studios and over the Internet.  But perhaps I’m not so off base.  Joey does something similar.  Perhaps I should look towards him as my inspiration in both my business and creative energies.

Would love your thoughts on all this, any of this.  This blog is as much a teaching engine for me, as a vent for the good and bad and a tool for me to learn from my readers and contributors.  Thanks for all you do for me.

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School’s Almost Out, Life Goes On

Oh how I can’t wait for school to be over, for good.  Alas, we all know Justin will never be graduating from college… well a least not this year, which is incredibly annoying/depressing/etc.  I’ve been in school for ages now, way longer than I should have been in school.

Of course, lots of great things have happened because of my extended college career.  I made so many incredible friends, realized engineering wasn’t for me.  Neither was psychology, pre-law, sociology, philosophy… you get the point.

I’ve “settled” on a sort of triple major.  I get one degree with an emphasis on three topics.  For me it’s Political Science, Gender Studies and Photography.  I love all three of those and it opens a lot of doors for me, especially with the PoliSci and Photography portions.

But first I’ve gotta get out of school right?

This summer I have the options of summer school, internships or traveling.  I want to do an internship in Europe but my parents moving to Saudi Arabia makes me want to see them a lot this summer, so maybe an internship in Houston… but then I’d like to get some classes out of the way so summer school?

Hate living like this!

Oh yeah, then there’s being away from Ryan.  I really don’t want to spend the summer states, much less oceans, away from him.  But I guess we can’t put our future together on the back burner so we can spend the present together.  The sooner I graduate, the sooner we can move on with our life together.

Get out of school and then let’s move back to California where I can be with so many of my amazing friends… Sean, Kevin, Mark, David, Kayla, Matt…

Until then, here I am, one class at a time.  I now live through another graduation season where I lose more of my friends.  This year I’m going to miss most Chase and Corey, moving to Kansas City.  Congratulations on them for moving on with their band, Scouts, which is awesome.  But going to miss my boys.

And worse yet, Karen is moving to St. Louis. Major sadness over that, first Micheal and now Karen. Blurg. What’s this city going to?

Luckily Phoebe, Joshua, Laura and Eric Cox etc etc are still here.  Ryan and I will stay sane for a bit longer.