TIAA #14: “Reality is Relative”

Tosin’s Images & Anecdotes (TIAA) is my self-assigned photography challenge of 2022. The immediate objective is to select one image from my inventory (a cityscape, landscape, portrait, oddity, etc.) each week and write something about it. This “something” could be the story behind the photo, a triggered memory in relation to the photo, or simply a reaction or reflection based on the subject matter featured. The long-term objective is to encourage myself to add more content to “La Vue Atypique”, which celebrates its first decade in publication this year.

Seattle, Washington, USA / April 14, 2021
“Reality is Relative” / Evening in Seattle, Washington, USA / April 14, 2022

What can I say about the photograph above?

This week’s entry was literally captured less than 12 hours before I started to write this article. It’s a photograph of my city of residence, Seattle, on a Thursday of what’s been an unusually chilly week in Seattle for this time of year.

For the past couple of days, I’ve heard people make a similar statement that can be summarized as “Winter isn’t really done with us yet.” Another fellow, a cashier at a grocery store, testified on Wednesday afternoon that “If it continues like this, I’m getting the kids and we’re all going skiing this weekend.” It was a hilarious comment in two ways: 1) the way he blurted his statement with determination (or maybe defiance?) was reminiscent of a sudden and shameless confession or divulgence that had been premeditated; and 2) talking about skiing in the middle of April sounded so odd that one could only laugh.

Early Thursday morning, I was on a virtual teleconference call with a coworker who was located in Minneapolis. The call began with her showing me the snow and slush raining upon her vicinity — also in the middle of April. She had expressed, after a deep sigh, “I wish we were all done with this already. I’m ready for it to be gone.” (Coincidentally, I will be traveling to Minneapolis for my daytime job for two weeks starting next weekend. I lived in the City of Lakes in the mid-90s and I do remember one instance when it snowed for half an hour in early May).

On Tuesday morning, I interacted with an individual who had to deliver a number of items to the office of my daytime job and had to be escorted for the entire delivery. This delivery took 90 minutes, so I got to know this person as it seemed inevitable under the circumstances. He was a very humble and friendly fellow so the conversation was not terse or awkward, as can be the case among strangers sometimes. During my conversation with him, I learned he had been with the same employer for exactly 27 years, his wife had been with her employer for 26 years, and he was once a soldier who served in the Gulf War of 1991. He was a native Seattleite who was very sad about the level of abject homelessness that has struck his neighborhood of Ballard which he claimed is now unrecognizable to the domicile in which he grew up. By the end of our conversation, I had developed a respect for this guy and the life he has lived.

This week, I also volunteered my photography services for an event hosted by the Downtown Emergency Services Center (DESC), an organization that I believe is doing its damnedest to alleviate homelessness in Seattle. The pandemic had previously precluded me from offering my services for DESC many times since I started volunteering, but that did not occur this week. The number of staff people who sincerely thanked me for capturing photos of the event — and for simply being available — was unexpected to me because they were so genuine and gracious. For me, it was truly an honor and pleasure because I respect the DESC’s work and efforts so much.

As much as I do cherish and value my residency in Seattle, I admit that I dislike the populace’s talent to constantly, chronically complain about Seattle’s social issues (which, arguably, are getting more pronounced and challenging). People around the Emerald City (vote for and) blame every relevant politician or government official without seeming to act on their own complaints or take any responsibility or initiative to counter what they’re decrying so critically — even if their arguments are valid. There’s nothing wrong with complaining and identifying a city’s problems, but there’s also nothing wrong with acknowledging its advantages and improvements while sharing solutions for its social dilemmas.

When I learn about the lives of the homeless, and the very different state of their lives just a few months or years prior to becoming homeless, it makes me eternally grateful to be in the position I am in at this stage of my career and life, even if I lament them sometimes.

This week, in addition to reading news articles, I streamed a number of news events as I was curious about what we’re dealing with in America as well as abroad — specifically Russia and Ukraine. Learning what life was like in those two countries before and after February 24th has been simultaneously astonishing, mystifying, and flummoxing. Reading about the Russian leader’s biography and mindset alongside what he has done to silence his country and completely distort his nation’s reality makes me seriously wonder how certain constituencies and political groups in Western democracies could actually praise any aspect of what the Russian dictator has been able to achieve during his regime.

All these musings are just brief episodes from my life this week that supports my title for this week’s article. Reality is relative to the person, which is indisputable human nature. It may not necessarily be my reality, but taking the time to look, listen, and learn from everyone I interacted with this week makes me appreciate the different lives we live under our corresponding circumstances. I remain optimistic for Seattle, partially because I’ve lived in cities in which the government doesn’t have the resources to address its residents complaints because there are too many people and not enough time to feasibly address them, collectively or otherwise. This is significant given Seattle is (as of this writing) the 18th largest city in America by population. When I first moved here, Seattle was the 25th largest city — but the city government does listen to its residents. They do not shun their residents’ remarks. There are a number of American cities that have reputations for not giving a damn about their populace’s concerns — a different, albeit disconcerting, reality.

I’ll stop because there are countless examples of the point I’m trying to make.

Until next time…thanks for following along with this project.

15 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 37 remain!

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