Don’t let your debt consume your life, certainly a nice thing to say, but you need to try to make it a reality. You see terrible debt, and its consequences are nothing more than one component of your life at this moment. Debt should not define you or limit you from still reaching out to find joy and beauty.
What problem debt does do is it forces us to modify the way we do things. Maybe a special event for you used to be a far-flung vacation on a distant tropical isle. When you are in debt, those excursions are just no longer possible.
But joy, appreciation, and beauty can be found in other, more simple ways. Maybe it is a trip to an art museum, writing as a form of expression, long walks in a beautiful park, or for me, my outlet was and is photography.
When I shoot photos, I still use the pain of the debt that I lived through to capture images. Here is one that I took recently that reminds me of how I felt buried in debt.
The moment and image, to me, felt sad and foreboding. It felt as if trouble and danger were just around the corner. Is that how debt is feeling for you? What do you see in the image?
Photography is something that you can enjoy for little money these days with a digital camera or even a smartphone in your pocket.
With wonderful and free photo sites like Flickr, a site I love and use, you can share your images with others to get positive comments and awards.
By engaging in photography as a distraction and hobby, it has several advantages.
First, it is not related to your debt at all. It is a distraction that can take you far away. When you are shooting pictures of beautiful flowers or sunsets, you forget the burden of your debt.
I can assure you that when you are trying to capture the image, a debt collector is not ringing you, a bill is not landing at your feet, and the only thing in the moment is you and the image you see.
Second, it is something that you can share with others and form your own community that has nothing to do with debt at all. Your Flickr contacts don’t know about your situation. They enjoy seeing your photos. Your photo community does not judge you for what you had and lost or what you live through now. They enjoy the moment that you captured.
Third, it can be very inexpensive. If you buy or borrow a used digital camera, you’ve already got a computer and internet connection if you are reading this, so there, you are good to go.
Finally, in photography, there is no right or wrong. If you capture an image and you like it, well then, that’s all that matters.
You can even sell the photos you take with your phone and maybe make some cash on the side.
So while the image above felt very dark and depressing, by opening your eyes and looking at your surroundings in a new way, you can find commonplace beauty, and yes, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
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Here are some images I shot that I enjoy for no particular reason.
All of the shots above were free to take. It cost me nothing but time and opening my eyes. The three above were all taken within miles of my home, and they did not require massive travel nor investment. And for every moment I was looking for the perfect image, I was not thinking about other things, like debt.
Maybe photography isn’t your thing. But find a thing that you enjoy that allows you to be expressive and takes you out of the house. Maybe it is playing soccer at a local pickup game. It doesn’t really matter what it is; find some commonplace beauty around you, so you don’t forget to live.
Originally published Jan 18, 2009.