Extraordinary Ordinary

[written in Nottingham, England, while in graduate school]

I wanted to be a photographer when I was a kid. I still do. The difference is that now I have reason to think I won’t be: I doubt that I have the patience or even the capacity to learn the jargon and techniques required to consistently take high quality photographs. Instead, I will just continue to waltz around with my digital camera that I know next to nothing about and do my amateur’s best. Taking mediocre to decent pictures hasn’t been too difficult, especially given some of the breathtaking places I have been blessed enough to visit. Some things just have a raw beauty that cannot not be captured.

The thing is, I don’t just feel this way about awe-inspiring landscapes, or world-renowned tourist attractions. I see innate beauty in so much of this world: in the crinkles on the face of a smiling person, in the weaving of a bird’s nest (and I even loathe birds!), in the quiet solitude of a lone tree. An extraordinary beauty in the ordinary, something so understated and subtly stunning that I yearn to immortalize but that I simply cannot do justice to. I encounter instances of the extraordinary ordinary nearly everywhere I go; home, St. Mary’s and here in Nottingham all boast such scenes. If I actually were a photographer, I would have an infinite amount of material to work with.

One thing I truly wish I could capture, actually, is the look of someone loving, someone caring about/for, someone showing compassion to someone else. This, humanity at its purest, is another instance of the extraordinary ordinary that I witness everywhere I go. The fact that I just bought my plane ticket home (for Wednesday, September 19th, a full year after I arrived in Notts) reminds me of this fact; I have people eagerly awaiting my return on one side of the Atlantic, just as I have people on the other side equally dreading my departure. (Incidentally, I feel so completely egotistical saying that, but I’m relaying what my loved ones have told me. I’m also raising a point that saddens me:) the juxtaposition of the love I feel worldwide with the fact that so many feel they cannot find love in all the world. The words a Doctors Without Borders nurse spoke at an awareness meeting about Darfur that my friend Marky and I attended recently remain restless in my tear ducts: “They just need people to remind them the world hasn’t forgotten them.”

What a profound loneliness that must be. It’s a loneliness I cannot truly fathom because I am surrounded by so much love, and it’s a loneliness that I resent anyone has to endure. It’s a loneliness that I want to remedy, to eradicate. I don’t want anyone to feel as though the world has forgotten them, regardless of who they are or where they’re from; I want everybody to feel like at least somebody will show them compassion, care, and love. Especially in the case of those downtrodden with poverty and war, sweeping efforts in infrastructure, policy, negotiations and relief work are necessary to truly prove that such people have not been forgotten. But I think (well, I hope) that the humanitarian effort I am equipped to bestow–love–can also serve as such a reminder. It’s extraordinarily ordinary, but it’s the best I’ve got.


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