SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 61: “Consider Living In The Real World.”

A stranger walks into my house this day and a friend departs. The story starts with Elizabeth (not pictured), a past intern, turned friend, turned New York emerging photographer. She is in town this week and has stopped by to chat and borrow some equipment.

By her side is her studio manager, Gina, the lady of today’s entry. Normally I would have dismissed an introduction, telling myself, “Your cheating in finding a 365 friend.” But Gina’s energy is too lovely to pass, and accepting this as the first time either of us have met, and knowing nothing about each other, she absolutely qualifies as a stranger.

Gina enters my home with the ease and comfort of a long time friend as we all walk through my living room in route to my office. We pass through its double doors when, without invitation, she immediately flops herself down to completely recline across my couch. It’s as if she is in her own territory and makes the house rules. Normally, this type of casual behavior at first meeting would put me off, especially in my own home. But not with Gina. There is something about her that is electric and peaceful at the same time. Even though she is quite bold at first meeting, there is no ego struggle and it is easy to see she is a people person and means no contempt.

Midway into my conversation with Elizabeth and Gina, my daughter walks in, and the fireworks start. Now, my girl is a great judge of character. At eight, she possesses an amazing gift for the discernment of people. Every time she has withdrawn from a person, there has been a proven reason for her withdrawal. Yet the second she and Gina hit marks, it’s all fun and games. There off all over the place. It’s like having two teen girls on the loose.

From there on, Gina is part of the family, I am smitten by her spirit and resolute that she is today’s story. “What give her this ability to connect so easily and rapidly?” I must know.

After letting the girls run down their energy for a while, and equipment review with Elizabeth complete, I grab Gina for an interview.

She quickly opens up, “Never trust anyone,” followed by a huge laugh. She is kidding, but there is an air of truth in her statement. “Why would someone with her ability to connect with people, have a statement like this?” Obviously she is joking, but after chatting for a bit, I think I get it. “Gina is a free spirit.” I see it in the way she plays with my daughter and my ease in speaking with her. She sucks you in with her charm, vitality and humor.

Gina tells me of her fathers push for perfection, “you have to always get A’s.” she laughingly tells me, and further submits, “I don’t love myself, we can go there if you really want to get deep.” It is a moment that moves us to pause and ponder. I bounce back, “If you’re talking about self-esteem, many of us feel that way.” With smiles on our faces, and realizing my daughter is crunched up to Gina’s side, so we decide not to go to delve fully into this topic. I’m impressed with Gina’s self awareness and get her message loud and clear. Sound like she has had a lot of pressure put on her throughout life to succeed. Maybe a contributor to her earlier guarded answer, “Never trust anyone.”

What I find out about Gina as we continue to talk is this, “Gina is trusting and well grounded.” It’s evident in the level of detail and excitement she puts forth in articulating her thoughts. “I love life, open space, air and everyone. I’ve learned to compartmentalize anger and to open my mind to go outside of my comfort zone. I’m always looking for a new things, experiences or people.” A lot of depth in one short answer.

It seems Gina has found balance in life. Manhattan is an extremely fast and sometimes hard city. Gina talks to me about pace and how she copes with the energy of this metropolis. “Life moves too fast, you have to slow down and look around.” She has learned this perspective from living on both sides of the coin. Admittedly she has experienced New York’s clubbing scene, but that is in her past “I don’t drink or party anymore, there is nothing in it.” It is just trying to escape a mundane life, and that is tragic. Plus, the people you at clubs are not that cool.” Gina offers this council for us to ponder, “before emerging into this artificial world, consider living in the real world.” Gina’s conclusion to this life change, “I’m happier than ever, living in the real world.”

I ask her, where do you want to be in ten years?

She responds with a first, “That is a stupid and annoying question. Let me explain why” Her explanation is simple and profound, “Plans don’t always turn out the exact way you plan. You have to be open to change and here is the best part. THINGS TURN OUT BETTER.” Like I said, “Gina is a free spirit, but the best kind of free spirit, one who looks towards the future with hope and applies effort to moving forward.”

Gina is not the kind of person to sit back and let life happen, she is part of it. An observer of sorts that has the uncanny ability to blend in to partake of its good. What is exceptional about her, not only is she in touch with the world around her, she is a participant, taking no side paths in driving forward with her works. How do I know this, having only met her for a short time. I can just tell.

She gives us this summation, “Open your mind, break the cage to structure, explore and be you.

Gina, “Even though you don’t trust me, you are welcome in my home anytime, and please, Keep exploring!

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