Breaking Away from the Paradigm Life

Today I am happy to introduce the first guest post on my blog!

A few months ago I received an email from a reader that almost made me cry! It was from George who said that my writings inspired him and his wife to make a major change in their lives and that now they had a reason for living. He wanted me to know that I made a difference. It really felt good :)

And so I asked George if he would like to write his story for my “I Am Changing My Life” series, which started with the first post where I made my big announcement that led to where I am today.

Here is George’s story along with a few of his photographs.

Follow your passion; strive to make a difference.

In Anne’s July “I Am Changing My Life” blog post titled Metamorphosis, she talks about how to embrace inevitable change by freeing ourselves of expectations, choices, and physical objects. When change happens unexpectedly it helps to free ourselves from the norm. I learned this recently.

My wife and I met in college; she was a adventurous country girl and I a city boy passionate about nature. Every free moment we indulged in outdoor activities like camping, backpacking, whitewater and lake canoeing. Later, when we had kids, we added water skiing and snow skiing. We were living our lives while we were young.

George: Doe and Fawn

Then, 23 years ago, my wife was struck with a horrible debilitating illness, an auto-immune disorder that was actually a syndrome of many debilities. She hung in there, as was her nature, but finally cut back to half-time work and eventually had to take early retirement. I finished my career before my wife’s condition deteriorated to the point that she needed help getting through the day and she had become housebound.

Until recently, our biggest enjoyment has been reminiscing all day about the fun we had before her illness. Those have been on her really good days. Pretty sad really.

We, my wife and I, hope our story will inspire the young to follow Anne’s and Ray’s example and not wait until later to do those things you love doing. But more than that, to encourage all ages to explore less conventional possibilities to living life to your version of the fullest; taking risks if necessary.

Let’s face it, for the first 18 or so years of our lives we were all pretty much programmed not to think too much about our futures. We knew what we would be doing the next year – going to school. Of course we developed interests and engaged in other activities but nothing like what we would face upon graduation.

We were all told to follow our dreams. I believed that stuff and did pursue my passion. But it seems that the tangible encouragement is often lacking. While just beginning that journey, I actually had a friend of my folks, a ferryboat deck hand, ask me “ When are you going to knock off this nonsense and come back home and get a real job?” I was so taken aback that I didn’t think to ask him what kind of job that would be, but I knew it wasn’t something I was meant to enjoy.

George: Bucks Challenge

I recently looked at my high school class’ web site and was surprised by the number of classmates that listed their occupation as “Retired”. Not a vocation that they were passionate about for the past 30 or 40 years. That is just plain sad. But it doesn’t have to be like that.

Early in our life together we made the decision that, while we could pursue careers that would earn us a lot more money, we wanted to maximize our outdoor adventures as much as possible. We were fortunate in carefully picking college majors that led us to careers doing what we loved, mine in the out-of-doors working with Nature and her’s allowing plenty of time off to play “in the woods”. The term “in the woods” is our synonym for anywhere outdoors in nature, be it the desert, beach, forest, or bare mountain top.

To supplement the joy of my career, I developed my skills in other interest, my hobbies, one of which is photography. As our active outdoor life came to a gradual end, I turned more to my photography for gratification. Thanks to wonderful photo forums and blogs like Anne’s I have developed not just my enjoyment in pushing the shutter button, but new, cherished friendships.

George: Blue Jay

I can’t count the number of photographers that, when asked, say that they want their photography to “make a difference”. Six months ago I wrote Anne McKinnell, our blog host, to encourage her to stick with her and Ray’s “experiment”’ and tell her I found her photography inspirational and teaching beyond excellent. I also wanted to let her know that she “made a difference” for me and my wife. Anne’s stories about RVing were motivating and instrumental in pushing us to buy a motorhome so we could get back in nature and the outdoors.

My photography has expanded from the backyard to the out-in-nature sites we now enjoy. We don’t go far, but by taking our “home” with us we can do it. My wife’s health has actually improved a little. It has been a bit like returning to our youth. We have great memories from “back then” but now we are making new ones. John Burroughs’ quote comes to mind: “I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”

We all have something we are passionate about and we all want to make a difference.

Don’t put it off! Take the risk.

If you are still young do it now; at least open the door so when the opportunity comes you can grasp it. When the sun of your life is over in the west, trust me, you want to be able to look back and know you achieved your passion and made a difference. Don’t be one of those who puts “Retired” next to “Occupation”. If you are challenged by the deck of cards life has thrown at you, don’t fold, play the hand to the fullest you can. And if you are in your Golden Years and slowing down a bit, just remind yourself that, like photography, the Golden Hours can be the best; don’t miss the opportunity. My wife and I almost did.

George: Lassen Meadows Pan

Encourage others to engage in whatever it is that they are passionate about. Try to never miss an opportunity to tell those who have affected you that they have made a difference.

About the Author

Following a dream of working in and with nature I moved to northeastern California after high school. My career in natural resource oriented jobs was diverse but can probably be encapsulated as a Watershed Ecologist with emphasis in the base resources, soil and water. We lived, worked and played in the Redwood north coast; lived in the Willamette Valley of Oregon and worked and played all over Oregon and some of Washington. Lived most of our lives in the Sierra Nevadas, Cascades, and Great Basin.
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  1. says

    George’s photos are marvelous, and his beautifully written post is very moving. I wish both of them good light and happy adventures in their new motor home and on their new pathways. May his wife’s health continue to improve.

  2. says

    An inspiring story, well told by George with some beautiful images. Thank you Anne for bringing it to a far wider audience – that is well deserved indeed. We never know what life is going to throw at us, or when a life changing event will ‘happen’ to us. We have to live in the moment, it is the only way to live, otherwise we will live with regrets.
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  3. says

    What a great inspirational story. Thanks George for sharing with us and thanks Anne for giving George a forum for reaching a wider audience. The world has been made a better place because of these words.

    I’m resharing on my facebook page.

  4. William says

    I say AMEN to all of the comments and wish George and his wife many good times in their motorhome.
    I have a wife, a camera, a 5ver, and a truck to pull it with.
    We go as often as we can. I don’t have an occupation any more but we do have grandchildren that we help with so we can’t travel like Anne and Ray. Just hoping we can enjoy our great outdoors for many more years.
    I have been inspired by Anne and Rays adventures.

  5. George says

    William, Edith, Charlie, Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Made it out last week and are meeting friends again soon.


  6. YSRK Prasad says

    Such a lovely post. I’m passionate about photography. Now, I think I must seriously pursue my passion. Anne’s writings are real boosters to someone like me in India, where photography is about weddings and other ceremonies. I feel there is something beyond for photography.

    • says

      Hi Yesu, yes I agree, there is a lot more photography has to offer than just weddings and ceremonies. Thank you very much for the compliment on my writing, I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. Thanks for your visit and comments.

  7. Lanna says

    Wonderful story!

    I once wrote to Anne about how much this blog has inspired me as well.
    Now your story.
    I really find it so nice that some people run out of the “standards” of going to university, get a corporate job, spend 35 years waking up at the same time, doing the same thing, and going back home the same time again, and just go out and live a worthy life =)

    I, myself, quit my job to work as a photographer. This was certainly not easy, I had to change my life a lot, run out of money, etc. but it’s all worthy! =)

    • says

      Hi Lanna, thank you very much for your visit and comments. It’s great to hear from another person who has changed their life for photography and I’m so glad you are happy doing it.

  8. Robin says

    i have known George online for a little over a year. He started out as my mentor and we have become friends. He inspires and instructs me daily and am overjoyed that he shared his story and photos! He introduced me to Anne’s work and her photos and books have helped me become a better photog. i am so very grateful.

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