Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Investing In Experiences Yields Greater Results

“Invest in experiences, not material things.”

Those words in bold letters jumped off my e-mail and seared my heart while I read my street photographer friend’s newsletter in my inbox. 

As I caught up on reading blogs/newsletters on Labor Day weekend, Eric Kim’s entire newsletter radically shifted my mindset.

It seemed as if the universe was confirming the nagging pull to purge myself of my stuff. I’m tired of the clutter in my home including the overcrowded compartments in my head.

And then late evening on Labor Day I answered the phone pleasantly surprised that my sister was calling me. Auntie Ene died, she said, her voice breaking. I remember asking her twice who just died because in those brief moments the deluge of regret was too much to bear. My cousin took my aunt into the emergency room that evening for a minor ailment and within half an hour she went into cardiac arrest.

My Auntie Ene who lived in San Diego has been trying to see my dad since his sickness. He’s homebound and we deemed it too difficult for him to make the two hour drive down to San Diego. Every time my cousins coordinated our schedules and arranged a visit between my aunt and dad, something always happened. One time my mom had shingles and another time she was sick. On and on the year went without a visit between my dad and aunt.

In our arrogance with time we assumed my aunt and dad would finally see each other at my niece’s birthday party on September 12th. We were all looking forward to it. I had a busy photography month in August but now that I retired from shooting weddings I thought okay, September is the month I’d catch up with family.

But my aunt died five days before my niece’s birthday party never seeing my dad again. All I’ve heard since then was how she kept telling my cousins how she had to see my dad before something happened to him. None of us, not even my aunt, expected her to pass away before my dad.

It's emblematic of humans to handle our tomorrows with a careless disregard for its fleeting moments.

All the trite cliches came to mind: tomorrow isn’t promised, life is short, spend time with your loved ones, family first, don’t take time for granted, etc.

Every day since my aunt’s death, Eric Kim’s words have been on constant replay in my mind. They came to a rising crescendo at my niece’s birthday party when the little ones had no idea who I was and forgot my name! It’s been that long since they’ve seen me. The older ones said they haven’t seen me in a long time since I’ve stopped going to the family parties. With full-time work, photography on the weekends, and helping my parents I've missed several get-togethers and shindigs.

The day after my niece’s birthday party my sister and I visited my grieving cousins in San Diego. I had no expectation of my uncle recognizing me since he suffers from Alzheimer’s disease. I walked into the house I used to spend my summer vacations in years ago and my uncle greeted me by name! I raised my hands in the air with a yes, grateful for the Instant recognition in the briefest of moments.

Fissures scarred my heart with the knowledge that I let my busyness rob me of valuable family time. I want my little nieces and nephews to know me. I want to be there for my cousin who is now so lost without my aunt and consumed with caring for my uncle.

What would my life look like if I invested in experiences and not in material things?

That’s where I’m at right now. Struggling to find the rhythmic flow of my life without losing sight of what's important.

A good friend recently inquired on my photography session rate for a family portrait of 14 the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving. Two weeks ago I would have squeezed that portrait shoot in. Now? I politely declined knowing that I would be scheduled to work on Black Friday and celebrating my dad's birthday that Saturday. Who knows how long we have left with him?

On the flip side of this my homie, street photographer Rinzi, begged to differ on Eric's words, telling me sometimes we have to invest in material things to be able to invest in experiences.

I understand where he's coming from. He invested in his camera and gear to experience the success in his street photography.

But for someone like me who fails in managing my life effectively I tend to invest in wayyyyyy too much STUFF. One word: debt. I missed the mark all these years and I plan on changing that. I doubt that once I'm on my deathbed I would lament over not having enough material things.

For now I'll focus on attaining a harmonious balance in my investment of experiences over material things. Maybe, just maybe, my little nieces and nephews will know me by name next year.

Sidenote: You can read Eric Kim's newsletter below by clicking on the link.
8 Life Lessons I Learned After Spending 3 Months On The Road