TIAA #26: “Oddball Outlier in Orbit”

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.

Riverview Park / Renton, Washington, USA / May 16, 2021
“The Oddball Outlier” / Riverview Park / Renton, Washington, USA / May 16, 2021

What can I say about the photograph above?

This week’s photo is a self-portrait of myself and Melbourne (my Raleigh city bike of seven years) that Ananda (my Sony Alpha 99 digital single lens reflex camera of nine years) captured from the trunk of Sydney (my Subaru Forester of a decade). There’s no spectacular story behind this image. It was taken at the conclusion of a very pleasant bike ride along the Cedar River Valley southeast of Seattle.

However, the portrait I selected was deliberate. This will make more sense if you read further.

I’m trying to address the “Perception vs. Reality” phenomenon. Often, we might see an individual who we don’t know in public or other setting. Based on appearances alone, we might formulate some assumptions and/or biases about that person. These assumptions usually tend to be false due to the lack of factual information required to transform those assumptions into facts or researched hypotheses.

I view myself as a bit of an oddball in society. I always have. That’s not a negative thing but I am positive that it causes some levels of disconnect with plenty of individuals. This used to bother me when I was younger in school and in my first years working in Corporate America, but not so much today. Like most human beings — if not all of them — I’m simply another “work in progress” and trying as hard as I can to accept the package in which my soul and psyche abide and mingle.

Seven random bits of trivia about me in random order which may counter your perception:

  1. I’m a middle-aged man but I have never viewed myself as “old” as our society does with anyone who has reached a certain age. It’s unfortunate because of its implications, which seem to suggest that an individual is no longer capable of doing an entire list of activities just because she or he has circled the sun a certain number of times. It’s a myopic perspective that appears to cripple people (figuratively) who subscribe to this point of view. I also think it’s rude when an individual expresses herself or himself as “so old” when the same person is surrounded by many other people who are older than that person. (I was raised to have manners, which appear to be an optional or deficient trait in personality nowadays).

  1. I have a terrible inferiority complex about my physical appearance. It started during childhood based on comments from family and friends and continued well into adulthood. I was an obese child and overweight teenager. I also believe media of all types (specifically in Western cultures) constantly deliver and ingrain harmful notions regarding what’s considered desirable or attractive in not only women’s bodies, but men’s bodies as well. Years ago, I remember when a former coworker (a “conventionally handsome” guy) and I got into this topic somehow. He just shook his head at me and said, “Tosin, you need to stop reading all those entertainment magazines. They’re trash.” Even though I understood his opinion (and still thought it was easy for him to say, given his extensive dating experience), it has never terminated my complex (to my own detriment). I’m still working on how to correct this about myself to this day. “Work in progress” for life.

  1. My parents never raised me to hate, resent, or fear people of different races, ethnicities, religions, or orientation. As a result, I have no sympathy or comprehension for people who espouse any form of racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, or fascism. These are the things that darken my perspective about people as well as my life on this planet. I challenge myself daily to stay positive because there are plenty of decent and compassionate people who don’t practice these things, but it seems we never hear about them. We reward abominable behavior with such indifference or complacence that I’m appalled at how desensitized many people have become when we witness it.

  1. I’m an extremely shy and introverted individual. I own this. I am not ashamed of it. However, it can lend to some awkward interactions if I’m uncertain where another individual is going with her or his conversation or approach. I’m quiet by nature and don’t need constant conversation to engage. The negative aspect of this trait is that I can be in the company of others in a social situation and they can dominate a conversation without a chance for me to get a word in edgewise. With experience, this has led me to either interject if I absolutely must, or just find a clever way to ditch the scene. I dislike pompous, self-absorbed individuals. I once had a photo shoot with a photographer contact in New York. I will never forget that, in the two hours of walking around Manhattan and Brooklyn, he carried on and on about himself and never once asked me a question. Even worse, I don’t think he ever realized it. I went away knowing too much about him and he left knowing absolutely nothing about me, other than knowing I could say: “Oh”, “Yeah, “Really”, and “Right.”

  1. I have never smoked, drank, or consumed any drugs in my life. I do not know what it feels like to be drunk. None of those activities have ever interested me. My parents would have the very occasional drink on a holiday, but I never saw them intoxicated or consume drugs in my presence. On my 29th birthday, I remember a friend coaxed me to humor her by taking a sip of beer (for the first time) just out of sheer curiosity to ascertain if I would like it. I took a sip. It was nasty. I have never tasted beer since. I don’t begrudge my friends who do enjoy smoking and drinking. My only request is to respect the fact that I don’t. I think this particular point has caused rifts throughout my life because the assumption is that “everyone drinks”, right? Something must be wrong with you if you don’t drink.

  1. Despite my physical size, which many have called “imposing” or “intimidating”, I’m what my mother often calls a “gentle soul”. I’m the guy who would happily run or trot with unicorns alongside both real and mythical animals in an enchanted forest. (I adore animals, by the way. We share the planet with them. Very little not to love). What did one friend say once? “Tosin is essentially Snow White in the form of a black guy in real life”. In popular culture, this might be synonymic with “nice guy” — another lovely classification that I’ll skip for now. (Yes, that was sarcasm). I prefer “gentle soul” any day, since that’s more accurate. I don’t believe I’m a pushover. I am diplomatic to a fault and I think that can be misinterpreted as either “nice” or “weak” or some other gravely mistaken adjective. I’m trying to be tactful and considerate because you’re another human being like me. Everyone deserves that — until they prove they do not.

  1. I share a birthday with the 45th President of the United States — a fact that often gives people a moment of pause upon revelation. A few years ago, a family member remarked that this coincidence is “empirical evidence that astrology and horoscopes are completely meaningless.”

Well, now you know a little bit more about me as a person in addition to being a photographer and cyclist. Another more personal article than I had anticipated, but I’m content with my confidence to have this written down.

27 articles down for the TIAA challenge. 25 remain!

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