On Saturday I went downtown to check out The Last Bookstore. I don’t remember where I first heard about this store, but I had put it on my list of fun, new places to check out. There are many reasons why I wanted to go exploring there. It’s in an old two story building, it’s filled head to toe with brand new & second hand books, vinyl records & comics, it’s downtown and everyone online RAVED about it. But the main reason I wanted to go was because the photos online painted a picture of an Alice In Wonderland kind of place, with dusty old shelves and hidden treasures. Looked pretty rad to me.
I brought my camera with me because I thought it might be a cool place to share on the blog. Now, before I dive into my fun adventure at this treasure trove of a bookstore, I want to talk a bit about a fear of mine...
I LOVE photography. Over the years it has grown from something I occasionally dabbled in, to something I’m incredibly passionate about. I own a growing collection of various cameras, from film to digital to instant to disposable. I’ve photographed a ton of food, a bunch of spontaneous shots of friends, and a few staged photo shoots. I truly love it. But, ironically enough, I have a fear of taking photos in public.
So, cut to me in this whimsical bookstore, my eyes wide with amazement over the winding bookcases, the hidden signs and art installations. All I want to do is take photos of every single nook and cranny, yet I’m paralyzed.
After I nervously walked around the downstairs, my huge camera tucked away in my bag, an employee told me there was a really cool art gallery upstairs. I asked her if I could take photos and she said of course. Instead of being excited about the news, I felt my stomach sink. Now I had no excuse to not take any pictures.
When I got upstairs I was immediately greeted by this fantastic art display. I gathered the courage to pull out my camera and started to take a few shots, when I heard someone coming up the stairs. My heart started racing. I quickly walked away from the installation, hiding my camera. I suddenly felt like I was in the 2nd grade and the 7th graders had caught me playing childish hand-clap games on the playground. What the hell was happening to me? The answer was I felt ashamed. I was embarrassed to be seen taking photos of a bookshelf because maybe someone, some total stranger, might think that it's stupid.
As I was having this “moment” with myself, imagining all these people judging me (which was in the Fantasy section, perhaps not surprisingly), a girl passed me who was TAKING PICTURES! I immediately started to envy this girl, in total awe of her unapologetic confidence. So I did what anyone else would do if they saw their role model/hero … I followed her. Yes, I creepily followed her through the shelves of books watching her do what I so badly wanted to do. (I swear I’m not a stalker!)
It may sound ridiculous, but by following and watching her, I got the courage to pull out my camera again. My thought process behind this was that if people were going to look at me funny for taking pictures, at least I would be bonded with this girl (who obviously had no idea we were now “in this together.”)
It still wasn’t easy, but I found myself taking more photos, and the more photos I took, the less I cared whether people were watching me. I was so engrossed, I lost track of the girl I was following (aka my personal Superwoman) and suddenly realized I was snapping pictures alone. And, shocker, no one was watching me take photos!
I continued to explore the upstairs, snapping away, even gathering the courage to ask some of the artists in the gallery section if I could take their photos.
My favorite was the group of “grannies” knitting at Gather. (Side note: I’m totally coming back to take one of their intro to knitting classes!)
As I drove home, I reflected on my terrifying/exciting experience. We all have different ways of confronting our fears. Some of us tell ourselves to just get over it and do it. And I’ll admit, I’ve gone this route in the past. But, for me, I don’t think that necessarily gets rid of the fear; just because I do it, doesn’t mean I'm not still afraid of it. The missing step is understanding the fear. WHY am I afraid of this? By understanding the root of the fear, I can be more compassionate towards myself, and I can try and work through it instead of beating myself up about it. And truthfully, how are you supposed to get over something that you are afraid of if you don’t understand why you are scared of it in the first place?
Basically this all boils down to me owning who I am. Owning that I am the girl who is inspired to take a photo of a cool book display and not caring what other people think of that. It’s a learning process and, at times, I’m still stumbling along, but instead of avoiding it, I'm facing it. And that makes me happy. That makes me proud. That makes me who I am.
What scares you? How do you overcome it?
PS Thanks to the random girl in the store for taking photos and leading the way, even though you had no idea you were doing that for me.
PPS I realize I didn't really talk that much about The Last Bookstore in this post, but if you live in Los Angeles, I highly recommend you check it out.