2023.12 : I Choose Sad

San Jose, California U.S.A. Circa 2023

We gotta make a decision
Leave tonight or live and die this way
So remember we were driving, driving in your car
Speed so fast I felt like I was drunk
And your arm felt nice wrapped ’round my shoulder
I had a feeling that I belonged
I had a feeling I could be someone, be someone, be someone

— Tracy Chapman - "Fast Car"

Two years out of college, my childhood friend and I reunited to compare notes on life on our own. We sat in the car and played Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” over and over. Listen to it yourself via the companion video below. Her haunting lyrics and music said all that needed saying about what life on the outside was like.


Decades later, I find myself driving through Silicon Valley, literally the richest valleys in the world. The desperation of those who aren’t in the “winners” circle is palpable, and the tech bros wonder why they’re so despised. As I drove by the scene in this week’s photos, “Fast Car” percolated to the forefront of my mind, just as it had decades before.


While I’m fond of saying that family is a team sport, and that anyone who thinks otherwise is a fool, for far too many people, family life is a source of enduring foolishness, often through no fault of their own. Although my circumstances are different, they are close enough for me to feel deep empathy.


My default state is typically happy, but when I’m surrounded by obligations to loved ones and things beyond my control, I tend to react with indifference and just do what needs to be done. There are times when I’m knocked out of my preferred state of mind, and it’s at those times that I must choose my reaction. Will it be agitation or sadness?


Recently, I’ve realized that I have an intense distaste for being in a state of agitation, despite how easy it is to get there. So, I’ve chosen sadness as my tertiary reaction. What’s sad is how comfortable and familiar sadness is. However, seeing how those I care about benefit from my channeling of my emotions has led me to apply this to other facets of life. After a lifelong struggle not to be so reactive, I have found a way to channel my emotions in a more productive way.


This is not to say that there aren’t times when anger and fight are appropriate and necessary.


As with all of my street photography, nothing is staged. The tricycle was upside down on the side of the road for weeks, not far from a fence with a large “No Trespassing” sign that gave off the seriousness only those in authority can. However, just on the other side of the fence was a large home made of scraps. It was kind of impressive in its size, and it had withstood 100 mile an hour winds when many of the legal and code-compliant homes hadn’t.


Should I be agitated by what my imagination imagines is the story behind the child’s toy of joy? No, I choose to feel sadness instead.


Should I be agitated by authorities more concerned about those who suffer the plight of white collar criminals than ridding society of them? No, I choose to feel sadness instead.


I’ve been homeless, living on the streets, and the dirty little secret is how liberating it can be. It’s in those times that it becomes very clear that what we’re sold as progress is really just a form of serfdom. So, am I agitated by those living in tent cities all across America? No, I’m sad for those who are agitated with great certainty by the outcasts as individuals, and not at the system.


And now … know the photograph.

Tracy Chapman - Fast Car (Official Music Video)

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