For what it's worth, I'm not the sappy type. I don't like to write long flowery posts about how good things are going. I don't like to take people aside and explain what they mean to me. And honestly I'm not really into hearing the same from other people in general.
I've always been a firm believer in living in the moment and that actions speak louder than words. I feel mentally that there is a balance sheet in this world and that I continue to stay on the positive side of things. Not from a fear of religious fate, not from a desire for spiritual reward, and not for an abstract need for self recognition. Do right because it's the right thing to do, etc.
I've had a number of close friends look at the events over the last couple years and ask why I made the decisions that I did. I have an INTJ brain. Generally I can look at an abstract system and realize that I can push on this trigger to cause that result. For example, I used to regularly drive my dad to pick up his fix of heroin and met many shady people. Some people would use those connections to do bad things. I remember when I was about 15, I had it explained to me that an 8-ball of cocaine could either buy a pair of broken knees or a death. It always struck me as odd that human lives are often cheaper than material goods. I could regale you with all sorts of creepy stories but let me continue with my original point. The gist is that I found at a young age that information was always more important to me. I like to know who is connected to who and why. I remember being surprised at the debts that people incur through this network of bad people and the immediate negative things that happen to said people when they default on these debts. I remember my dad's friend C who was always reported as a suicide but definitely was not. These sorts of things. I don't know if C's family ever found out the truth... unfortunate in a way because death is often a noble thing but not my place, I suppose.
I remember also that feeling of obligation and the need to have things completed. I remember feeling guilty when my mom's dog was getting on in years. I mean, I had helped to raise the dog, so theoretically it was my responsibility when it began to get older. It's hard sometimes to remember that you're not responsible for the screwed up situations that people find themselves in, and that just because when you were younger you saw some good means that good is innate and worth your time. Sometimes people are a sewer - a filthy lonely dark and dirty place - and you shouldn't waste your time.
As much as I could speak as coming from a bad place, all things are good in my life. I work at a job that I'm both passionate about and love. I help within the community directly and indirectly through the people that I mentor and support. I continue to make my living as a hobbyist photographer. (Although who would have thought that I would sell things online before I sold things locally!)
Heck, I can even remember the day that I took the set of pictures that were my first online sale, as I had been chased out of my house so that it could be pillaged. I wish I could have made that day last forever. I'll remember always that feeling of freedom as the chains of obligation were released. I am often bound by my word on levels that people don't realize... that when I say something literally (even off hand) I often am obliged to follow through on it. Being released was wonderful.
Nothing will ever feel as good as realizing that I was finally out of it all. Within a month I had my freedom, I had a major raise at work, I made my first major online photo sale (i.e. >$200), and my life was starting down a good path. In the last year alone I've done many speaking engagements... probably be my first year speaking to over 1000+ people. My busty 20-ish photographer Toastmasters g/f was definitely a nice touch too.
So as much for the record as anything else, thank you kindly for the last couple years. Things feel like they get better and better. I can't even start to imagine where I'll be in another couple years. :)
piebald HDR by *pachocanadian on deviantART