The Creation of WIJ - Humans of SLC
My eyes have grown blood shot. Lately, they are red and sting and water up much too fast. I believe it’s from lack of sleep and being on my computer so much looking for jobs. I’ve filled out countless applications and spent far too much time scrolling through job listings. It had been keeping me from my writing - I haven’t updated my blog as much as I have wanted to the last few days.
I finally accepted a dark looming fact: My lack of time for the blog wasn’t going to change much after finding a second job. I very much do not like that fact.
Unless I started putting ads on it and somehow made money off of that. (I couldn’t even figure out Google Adsense. I gave up. It just wasn't meant to be.)
Or I charged a monthly membership to those who read my blog. (Who am I kidding? I’m no Netflix.)
I just can’t put in the hours I want to on my blog to make ends meet financially (for a while at least).
Sadly, I decided to finally listen to the burning of my eyes and head for the park. I hadn’t found a second job yet, and I figured my days of being able to just go to the park and read were going to be limited very soon. It was a beautiful day, and it was time to let the day know I appreciated it.
My noon walk to the park was more like some strange mopey “just put one foot in front of the other,” movement in cycle despite the sunshine. I quickly found a bench under the shade and threw my purse onto the ground. The first book of Game of Thrones ripped me out of my misery and, instead, placed me into the chill of Winterfell.
I had had no idea at the time that I had been reading about the frosty Winterfell family for four hours straight when a shaky bird-like voice cut through the air, “I don’t mean to interrupt, but could you please tell me where you are from?” I looked up and set my book down. I explained to him that I was actually from Utah, but I had lived in many places…and then I told him what he really wanted to know: my mother was from South Korea. He had asked to know where I was from, but what he really wanted was to tell me about his life—wholly and completely. So we talked for another hour on the park bench.
He talked about his wife first:
"We just celebrated our 65th anniversary. Marrying my wife was the best thing that ever happened to me. Sometimes I forget that...but most of the time I remember!"
He talked about America and its youth:
“Now, I was born in 1930. Now, America just has too much stuff.”
He talked about religion:
“My son is not an active LDS member anymore. I don’t love him any less, but I sure feel bad about all that he is missing out on.”
He talked about dating and women and men:
“With a girl as pretty as yourself, why a man hasn’t scooped you up yet…it sure doesn’t make any sense! But you know, it’s not your prettiness. It’s how approachable you are. A kind face. That’s what’s important. A kind face.”
At the end of our conversation, he gave me his card and said, “Well, I sure can’t do the things I used to do. Even walking to the park is difficult most days, but meeting you made this walk so worth it. Contact me if you need anything. Welcome to Salt Lake City.”
Spontaneously, although this thought had been deep inside of me for a while now, I asked him for a favor. I asked if he would mind if I took his picture. I had already talked about writing and explained to him that I had this blog that I wrote in. I talked to him about Humans of New York. I asked him if he would be my first portrait, and he said he would be honored. So I stood up, captured his photo and that bright smile of his, and shook his hand.
I walked back home from the park excited about my portrait. He was the perfect first post for Humans of Salt Lake City. When I went home, I saw there was already a Humans of SLC blog. For a good ten minutes, I was so bummed that it had already been started. However, I saw that the blog only had 7-8 posts. The posts on their FB page were current and had a hella amount of followers (holla at Nor Cal for the *hella*), but the website seemed outdated. There was a lot of back story with each photo, and I liked the early HoNY because you got a quote and you had the freedom to make what you wanted of it, a bite of that mysterious apple and no more. Plus, there are plenty of vibrant people in Salt Lake City, I told myself. What’s another HoSLC blog, Where Is Jade style? It could be a good idea...right?
Last night I took a walk to mull things over. If it had already been done before, should I not do it? But I did want to make it different, make it—not necessarily better (I mean, kind of though)—but my way. Plus, asking the 85-year-old man for a picture wasn’t as spontaneous as it seemed. I had been thinking about it in the back of my mind for a while. I have loved humans of New York ever since I learned of it a few years ago. I love that connection to people. In San Francisco, well, we never got to it (we). Now, it was just me. I had my own apartment and was a big girl now.
Starting WIJ Humans of SLC would force me to get out into the city more often than not (even with two jobs) and it would encourage me to go out and talk to people and make friends. I plan on being in SLC for a while. Over my travels, I have learned the value of human interaction, of conversation, of making friends. This would be a great challenge that was very much out of my comfort zone. It appealed to me because it was both scary and exciting. It fed the traveler inside of me. I could be social, I could be the extrovert, but this gave me a reason to be.
Plus, with the limited time I had, I could still have something to add to my blog. Sometimes writing the long personal essays that I do (and love to do) takes hours. A picture and a quote wouldn’t take too long. I could still offer my readers content and connection on Where Is Jade despite a tighter schedule. I liked that very much.
But could I just approach a stranger? Could I handle the rejection? Could I handle the stranger? Honestly, I have a hard time approaching attractive men. I had sadly already accepted that Humans of SLC would be void of any attractive men my age… But no! This was my time! New City, new start, new approach, new people!
By this time, a man approached me while I was treading through downtown Salt Lake City on a Friday night.
“I really don’t mean to bother you, but if I could even just BUY a cigarette off of you…”
Luckily a man nearby was able to offer him one free of charge since I, of course, had none on me. The man who had approached me stopped right then and there to light his cigarette. Suddenly I thought, “JADE! THIS IS IT! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! TAKE A PHOTO!” He was a little twitchy, he didn’t stay in one place for too long, and I was quite afraid. Was this the right guy to ask? Did I really want to stick around to take a photo of him? Would I be asking for a photo or asking for trouble?
“Excuse me, Sir?” my voice squeaked through into the dark.
“Would you mind if I took a photo of you? I’m a writer and trying to intervi—“
“Writer? Sure. Sure. Go ahead.”
“If you could tell me something about yourself—anything at all—“
And he did. He told me exactly what was on the surface of his thoughts, maybe even the surface of his skin. No filter. No sense. No fear. Just raw primal emotions and thought.
I walked back home laughing about how the first two people for Where Is Jade - Humans of SLC had actually approached me. How about that?
Once I got home, I skipped the red-eye job searching on the internet for a night. I had been so worried about being too busy for Where Is Jade, but suddenly I was excited about WIJ Humans of SLC. I wanted to go straight to sleep so I could write about it in the morning. What will my readers think? Will they like it? What kind of people will I meet? Will I, one day, be able to approach the prince charmings for photos as well despite how much I blush when I see a cute guy?
I fell asleep soundly, listening to the bustling noises of downtown made by the Humans of Salt Lake City.