From the archives of Project 365
“Plans don’t always turn out the exact way you plan. You have to be open to change, and here is the best part. THINGS TURN OUT BETTER.”
By the side of my good friend and photographer Elizabeth (not pictured) she was. Studio manager to Elizabeth, and in Los Angeles from New York, they had stopped by to chat and borrow some photo equipment.
Normally I would have dismissed an interview, telling myself, “Your cheating in finding an absolute stranger.” But Gina’s energy was much too lovely to pass and accepting it was the first time either of us had met, and knowing nothing about each other, she surely qualified as a stranger.
Gina moved with the ease and comfort of a long time friend as I welcomed her and Elizabeth into my home. It was like we had hung out before as she flopped herself down to completely recline across my office couch. Normally, that type of casual behavior at first meeting would have put me off, especially in my own space. But it was not that way with Gina. There was just something about her that was uniquely electric and peaceful at the same time. Even though she was quite bold, she had no ego. It was easy to see she was a people person who meant no contempt.
Midway into our conversation, my daughter entered the room. The fireworks started. Now, my girl is a great judge of character. Eight years old at the time, she already possessed an amazing gift for the discernment of people. A character trait that I never dismiss whenever I observe her withdrawing from a person. For every time she has, a proven reason for her withdrawal came to surface. And in regard to Gina, the second they met it was all fun and games. Like having two teen girls on the loose, they were all over the place.
From that point on, Gina was part of my family. I was smitten by her spirit and resolute that I had to share her spirit in my writing. But first, I sat back to let the girls run down their energy.
All settled; Gina accepted the interview. Quickly opened up with “Never trust anyone.” Words that hung in the air for a minute in what seemed like a test of me. But then she cracked the awkwardness with a huge laugh. She was kidding, but the proclamation did leave me to wonder why someone with her ability to connect with people would make a statement like that?
They say in every joke can be found the truth, and in her jest, what I saw was a person who was using a negative to break down my barriers. A creative she was, and as we chatted, I began to see past her sarcastic remark in seeing the real Gina: She was purely a free spirit.
Gina had the innate ability to literally suck you in with her charm, vitality, and humor. I saw it in the way she played with my daughter and it was confirmed by the way she spoke to me. But where did her personality originate?
“’My father pushed for perfection, ‘you have to always get A’s,’” she laughingly exposed as she revealed a most vulnerable side of herself, “I don’t love myself. We can go there if you really want to get deep.” Again a short moment of silence, although this time it was not awkward. It was moving and human.
I bounced back, If you’re talking about self-esteem, many of us feel that way.
We smiled as my daughter crunched up to Gina’s side. All the while in her eyes a countenance that simply made you want to hug her. I decided not to delve fully into her psyche. Impressed enough with her self-awareness and courage to share something so very personal. The subtext to her cautious message grew a little clearer to me. My guess? Gina had a lot of pressure put on her throughout her life–maybe contributor to her guarded answer: Never trust anyone?
However, the actuality was the polar opposite, for Gina was trusting and well-grounded. It was evident in the level of detail and excitement she put forth in articulating her thoughts. “I love life, open space, air, and everyone. I’ve learned to compartmentalize anger and to open my mind to go outside of my comfort zone. I’m always looking for new things, experiences or people.”
Gina had found balance in life.
She talked to me about pace and how she coped with the energy of Manhattan. “Life moves too fast, you have to slow down and look around.” Perspective Gina had learned from living on both sides of the coin. Admittedly, she had experienced New York’s clubbing scene but said that was in her past.
“I don’t drink or party anymore, there is nothing in it.” It is just trying to escape a mundane life, and that is tragic. Plus, the people you at clubs are not that cool.”
Gina offered wise counsel for us to ponder.
“Before emerging into this artificial world, consider living in the real world.” Another quite pause, then, “I’m happier than ever, living in the real world.”
I asked her, where do you want to be in ten years?
“That is a stupid and annoying question. Let me explain why” she retorted. Her explanation was simple and profound, “Plans don’t always turn out the exact way you plan. You have to be open to change, and here is the best part. THINGS TURN OUT BETTER.”
Like I said, Gina was a free spirit, but the best kind of free spirit, one who looked toward the future with hope and applied that same effort to moving forward.
Gina was not the kind of person who sat back to let life happen. She was part of it. More than an observer, she had an uncanny ability to find the good in it. And not only was she in touch with the world around her, but she was also a participant who took no side path in choosing her works as she advised, “Open your mind, break the cage to structure, explore and be you.”
Gina, Even though you did trust me, you are welcome in my home anytime, and please, keep exploring!