On taking a leap

“Leap, and the net will appear”

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I decided to go freelance back in January of 2014. Two weeks later, I got in a ski accident–a traumatic brain injury and recovery months in Ohio ensued. When I returned to New York after that wild ride, the dominoes continued to fall. I was diverging from the path I wanted to be on.

The ski accident may have derailed me, but in August of this year, I sharply turned the wheel (i.e. made some difficult professional/life choices) to steer back to that path.

I became a freelance video journalist.

KQshootingwithcamI couldn’t write about this publicly for the first couple months after I’d made the decision, because I was too nervous about the what ifs // what if I fail? what if i disappoint? what if i burn bridges? // So I kept my head down and started hustling. An every day, Monday through Sunday, hustle.

Now, I’m just beginning to see it pay off with appearances on the TODAY show and The Meredith Vieira show, a partnership with Tastemade, and having strangers reach out to tell me how much they enjoy what I’m doing, I feel confident posting:

I took the professional leap. I said no to a stable, fantastic staff job at a media corporation because I believe in myself and in the kind of content I’m passionate about making. And I believe other people will enjoy it, too.

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 9.14.30 PMThis drive has taken the form of my YouTube channel. It’s been a long time since I’ve been as creatively fulfilled and challenged. It let’s me combine all my skills into one, comprehensive end product–a video–that I can feel proud of.

…I also do a variety of shooting, producing, editing, and hosting gigs — for example, a constipation supplement commercial. Hey, gotta pay the bills.

Falling for Oregon, from my bike

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My nuclear family–and my and Brian’s handsome plus ones–decided to spend time together on the other side of the country (we live in New York City, Chicago, and Ohio). Our destination: Oregon.

Oh, did I mention it was a bike trip? We biked from town to town in the Willamette Valley for four days. It was an awesome vacation.

It was the end of August, so we were there when the Oregon weather was warm and sunny–not the constant drizzle that first comes to mind when you think of the Pacific Northwest. Experiencing the landscape on a bike was the best way to visit a state like Oregon: by the end of the trip, I felt like I intimately knew the texture and vibe or Oregon.

Then there was Portland–the city that’s parodied in Portlandia and much talked about among millennials as one of the up-and-coming cities in America. We really enjoyed our handful of days there (it’s where we flew in and out). What we loved most about the city–I’m speaking for Connor and myself here–was the accessibility to nature.

Wanna go hiking? Cool, it’s an easy drive. Wanna go kayaking? SUPing? Right on, walk 10 minutes to the river. Biking? Do it! There’s nothing preventing you from just that. Luxuriously wide bike lanes everywhere.

Six years in New York City has made me appreciate just how accessible nature can be in other places.

Oh! And the food scene in Portland is off the hook. That seals the deal…I’d live there.

Peru’s food & the concept of time

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I was in Peru a couple weeks ago. It’s the second time in 3 years that I’ve been. I went from the coast (Lima), to the jungle (Puerto Malonado), to the mountains (Cusco & Pisaq) to explore all three geo-climate regions because each has its own distinct food culture.

Click here to watch my food-tastic video on my YouTube channel.

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So much delicious food in a week. And beyond the bites, there were so many new experiences in that one week.

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It’s wild to think about what one week at home in New York City is like compared to that week in Peru. Same unit of time, yet the two seem incomparable in terms of life experience.

The Quechua culture in Peru doesn’t have the same measurements of time that we do. If you said “one o’clock” to them, or “in a month,” it would be meaningless. That blew my mind. Learning more about their life perspective made me reconsider how I value “time” in my life.

Each day so easily blends into the next without much to distinguish it…unless I push myself to do something new, to learn something, or do anything to extend myself beyond my norm and comfort zone.

My big takeaway from this trip: I want to live a life full of experience, regardless of time. Not a life dictated by days, months, years. I don’t just want to check off the boxes of a calendar year. I want to live them to the fullest.

Since I’ve been back from Peru, I heard a quote from Abraham Lincoln that hits on this same concept:

In the end it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.

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Ramen nights

tottoramenintI’m not a fan of being cramped or of being in crowds. Having lived in New York City for six years, I know my way around well enough to strategically avoid most of the claustrophobic, frenetic environments.

There is one occasion in which a tight space and crowd does not deter me. In fact, I accept it as a part of the experience, and still seek it out.

The occasion is a hot bowl of ramen. (Yes, even in the middle of summer).

A bowl of beautifully flavorful broth (heeey, umami!) and long, perfectly cooked noodles–swimming alongside a hard boiled egg, seaweed, green onions and pork–washed down with a swig of Sapporo is the very definition of satisfying.

The most sought-after bowls of ramen are inevitably in small, narrow restaurants. Seating is limited to stools along the bar, where you can watch your meal getting made, and a handful of two-tops along the opposite wall. Because of the shortage of seating plus the extreme deliciousness of the food, there’s typically a line out the door.

It’s a dining experience that’s perfectly acceptable to have alone, but if you want a dining companion, it’s best shared with a dear friend: there is no time for small talk here, so acquaintances aren’t your best option. These dinners tend to be light on conversation and heavy on slurping.

(For instructions on the art of slurping, check out this video guide I did with NowThis News last year).

Last Friday, Connor and I met after work for ramen. It’s an awesome way to wrap up the work week and start the weekend. Then we went to Central Park to see Shakespeare in the Park’s outdoor rendition of King Lear, starring John Lithgow. Lithgow was fantastic, the weather was beautiful, and we had good seats. Yet at the end of the night, Connor and I both agreed that the best part of the evening was that ramen. It sticks with you.

Ramen makes me happy I live in this city. Of course I could find it in Tokyo or other cities–I know, it’s not exclusive to New York City. But I’m not sure where else in this country I could live and be as surrounded by so many authentic, wonderful options just a quick subway ride away.

I consider ramen a perk of living here. And of living, period.

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Sometimes analog is just better

My Diana F+ camera is proof that getting experimental with film is a blast, and fully worth the wait for the film to develop.

The instant gratification of digital makes the patience that’s necessary to develop film all the more alluring.

It’s mid-July and there’s absolutely more summer fun to be had…but the first bit has sped by so quickly and has already been so memorable! So I’d like to take a quick pause to appreciate the beauty of this summer so far. Summer through a Lomo lens:

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Photograph by Connor Boals of yours truly. The rest of the photos taken are KQ originals.

0001440_0001440-R1-E014 0001440_0001440-R1-E012 0001440_0001440-R1-E011 0001440_0001440-R1-E010 0001440_0001440-R1-E009 0002092_0002092-R1-E014    0002092_0002092-R1-E010 0002092_0002092-R1-E007 0002092_0002092-R1-E005 0002092_0002092-R1-E002 0002092_0002092-R1-E003(The first 6 photos were taken at Cape Cod, the latter 6 were taken in Kewadin, Michigan).

Back in NYC, back in action

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Photo taken by Connor Boals, when we hiked Breakneck Ridge just north of Cold Spring, NY.

I’ve been back in New York City just shy of 3 months and I feel like I have my life back. I have my friends around, I get to see my boyfriend every day, and I get up and go to work every morning. Even the most mundane things of life feel SO AMAZING to have again.

After the ski accident, I couldn’t walk on my own because my vestibular system was so effed. After three months of recovery, I’d come so far that I could go for a run. I had regained my capabilities enough so that I could be a fully functioning adult again…

…But my confidence was shaken. In my impending return to the city, I wondered: could I handle my normal NYC activities? The jam-packed subway cars during rush hour? The happy hour drinks where music shakes the whole establishment? Concentrating in front of a computer for work all day?

To explain these concerns: while I was recovering, over-stimulation made my brain swirl into exhaustion. After a coffee date with a friend, for instance, I had to go home and collapse into a deep nap.

And yet, there I was returning to the nation’s capital of over-stimulation! I was nervous and slightly unsure; so I returned to NYC a tamer version of myself. A tentative Katie.

These 3 months back in NYC have been a similar evolution to the 3 months of recovery — though not nearly as dramatic, at face value.

Over the course of the past several months here in the city, I’ve shed my wariness. I’ve finally found my equilibrium after the accident. (It’s been half a year in the making, but I found it!)

Since my first step back on East Coast soil, I’ve had the best support (I’m looking at you, Connor B). The transition was also eased by landing a multimedia gig with my former team at the TODAY show; it’s done wonders for giving me the framework to return to normalcy.

New York feels like it had before: it’s invigorating, it’s home. And I feel like I did before…but I’m experiencing life through a slightly different lens.

There’s no way a camera lens can reflect my shifted perspective and appreciation. But for the fun of it, I put together a compilation of some photos I’ve snapped since my return to a full life.

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Let’s chat with Jake

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Jake on the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. 2014. Taken by Katie Quinn with her super hipstery lomo camera.

Jake and I grew up next door to each other in Athens, Ohio.

Now, he and his husband Tom move all around the globe with the foreign service. They met in Guangzhou, China, have lived in Pretoria, South Africa for the past two years, and are headed to Beijing, China in several months.

I caught up with Jake in our hometown, where he stopped through between Pretoria and Beijing. At this juncture in his life, I thought it’d be a great time to have a Foggy Air chat with him. We had this informal chat in February of 2014…

KQ: What brings you to Ohio?

JM: I’m on home leave currently; in the foreign service you’re obligated to spend 30 consecutive work days in the U.S. before starting your new post. Home leave is intended to re-Americanize us.

photo(1)If you don’t have anywhere specific to travel to in the States, then you basically just go where  you have a home. For Tom and I, we spend time in our parents’ homes, which can be quite stressful (as a byproduct of our age. We’re adults living with our parents again!–although briefly). I wanted to stay in South Africa longer.

KQ: Did you ever see yourself staying in South Africa?

JM: No. I really enjoyed it, but I never thought of it as home. My favorite aspect was the natural beauty of it. But it just felt so far away geographically. I could feel that distance.

I spent a year in Beijing in college and loved it enough to want to go back–even though I slept in a 2 bedroom apartment with18 other people! So my desire to return was actually to do it as an adult, which I’m doing! That’s where Tom and I are moving in August. It’s an overwhelming city because it’s such a sprawling metropolis. It’s easy to feel like a number or a blip.

KQ: What’s on your mind right now in terms of moving to Beijing?

JM: At the moment I’m dealing with some Visa issues. China doesn’t recognize same-sex couples so I want to go there on a work Visa. [He pulls out a long list of jobs he can apply for at the Beijing consulate/embassy]. I’m optimistic about how it’ll all work out.

We’ll be in Beijing for 4 years. We want to get a dog, and are excited about what’s to come. The pollution is the biggest downfall, but we can overlook that for a few years.

…These next 4 years will be telling. Last time I was in Beijing, there was so much going on with the Olympics. It’s a hard city to live in; I could see myself living in other Chinese cities more longterm.

(Note: Jake’s opinions on Beijing do not represent those of the government.)

KQ: What is your biggest culture shock coming back to the United State from South Africa?

JM: The weather! It’s been freezing in the States everywhere I’ve gone since I got back: New York City, Ohio, D.C. I didn’t even have a winter coat! It was sunny and warm in Pretoria, SA.

KQ: Do you have a favorite quote?

Yes, it’s something President Obama said at Nelson Mandela’s funeral:

“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.”

Here’s to best friends who do interesting, courageous things with their lives. Further, Jake proved to be outstandingly compassionate and supportive when I was recovering from my ski accident (hence why I was in Ohio at this time, too).

Jake visited New York City and he and Katie ate Pommes Frites on the train. Delish.

Jake visited New York City and he and Katie ate Pommes Frites on the train. Delish.

A Video Project

While I was in the final steps of recovery after my ski accident, I’ve worked on a little video project.

Yes, I know that videos are what I do for a living. But this one is a little different.

Starring the members of “Team Katie” (the nickname given for those closest to me while I was going through this wild experience), I asked them questions about life and love. It’s a tribute to them, though what they said had a big impact on me.

Making the video made me appreciate my loved ones even more. It also reminded me why I do what I do: sharing stories of amazing people is completely inspirational. I lose track of time when I’m working on projects like this; it’s a journalist’s high.

A screenshot of the video project. Scroll down to click on the link and watch it!

A screenshot from the video project.

 

Picking Up

During post-ski accident recovery time, it’s good to pick up some hobbies:

I picked up lomography photography (thanks to Connor).

Picked up crocheting (thanks to Grandma’s visits).

Oh yeah, and I’ve been picking myself up, too.

Emmett hangs in the driveway.

I can’t think of a better place to pick myself up than home, surrounded by love, snow, and Emmett the dog, captured here through a lomographic lens.

More on picking myself up in a minute.

Some other things I’ve picked up aren’t new, per se, but they’re new to me as of late:

Recently I picked up a knife for cooking! Cooking is one of my favorite things, yet I hadn’t cooked since the accident because my challenges with left hand coordination didn’t bode well for cutting things with a sharp knife (as you can imagine).

This past week I picked up car keys to start driving again. I no longer feel like a middle schooler stuck at home–hurray!

…I’m trying to avoid having to pick myself up from the ground during balancing exercises at physical therapy:

My fantastic physical therapist, Ashley, supports me while she conducts an exercise.

My fantastic physical therapist, Ashley, supports me while she conducts an exercise. Photo taken by my Dad.

At this point, I’m seeing and feeling big improvements week to week. It’s wild(ly awesome).

Physical therapy has been a big help, and it’s taught me to take things one step at a time. Any goals that seem too large or too difficult just need to be broken up into many smaller, more do-able goals. For instance, even two weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined jogging. Now, guess what I’ve started doing? Yep, you guessed it. Jogging.

Granted, I take it easy. I do a fair amount of stopping and starting. But still, it’s jogging! MomKQsoakedselfieJust earlier today my mom and I were on the bike path jogging when it started raining (soaking wet selfie to the left). Mom and I kept right on jogging because, holy crap, I can jog now!!!

But before I could jog, I mastered a variety of other coordination exercises. So truly, one thing at a time.

I feel like this is a lesson that applies to all of life’s lofty goals (I have a lot of them). Note to self, Katie.

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My big bro Brian (sans glasses)

I’m still picking up my glasses every morning, though. The blow of the ski accident affected the vision of my left eye, and it’s unclear whether that will be temporary or permanent. I’ve never had to wear prescription glasses before this, and my brother has never needed glasses…ironic, since both of our parents are optometrists.

I’m telling friends that I’m nearly back to normal. Yet I think it’s funny that “back to normal” is how I’m describing my goal. The concept that “normal” would be something I’m aspiring for makes me chuckle because, honestly, I wouldn’t trade where I am now for pre-accident Katie.

I’ve never had to struggle like this before. But as I’ve gone through it, I’ve had to dig deep. I’ve learned to trust myself and listen to myself. Two things that, if I tune in to them, give me deep comfort and make me–in a word–happy.

Thanks for reading and caring. Lastly, here are some lomography shots courtesy of the newfound hobby I’ve picked up:

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The day before

The day before my ski accident was an awesome day.

The day before, I felt like life was exactly where it should be.

I didn’t know the next day I would be knocked unconscious, strapped onto a spinal board and rushed to the intensive care unit of the hospital.

How could I possibly know? So I didn’t dread what was to come. No, I just lived life.

In Park City, Utah for a video shoot with the Sundance Channel

In Park City, Utah for a video shoot with the Sundance Channel

And enjoyed a gangbusters day.

The day before my accident I hosted a series for the Sundance Channel, interviewing Sundance Film Festival goers about films and food.

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With my fantastic producer (and soul sister), Jamie.

I was doing what I love doing.

Video clip of my Sundance Channel spot

That evening was relaxing, fun, and delicious. Connor and I played cards in our condo, then hit Main Street for dinner, and listened to a live band at a local bar.

 

The day, from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep, was a day for the record books.

Then the unexpected happened.

A crash on a ski slope, limply falling into a ravine, followed by days that I have no memory of.

Flash forward.

The day before yesterday I was at one of my biweekly physical therapy photo (22)appointments. They have me do exercises that hone in on my vestibular system (to work on my balance and coordination), which was most affected by the crash.

I’m making huge strides each week. From where I stand now, I can’t believe that just a few weeks ago I had trouble walking unassisted.

My current reality is the greatest lesson in patience I’ve ever had, because I want to be back to normal immediately…but the estimated time for my kind of injury is three months.

Three months feels like forever. Three months seems like a long time to press pause on my life’s goals and dreams. But as one of the experts I’ve talked to recently told me, “Three months is nothing in brain time.” And really, what’s three months in the scheme of things?

The thing I’m most grateful for is that I can still have the same dreams I had the day before the accident. And I do–they’re as strong as ever.

photo (23)The day before today was different than any other day, because each and every day during my recovery is different. As well as I’m improving,  I’ve learned that each day is unpredictable; this is not a linear process. One day I feel great, and the next day is a frustration, a struggle.

If I weren’t going through this myself, I would have no idea what this kind of recovery entails. It’s not as simple nor as consistent as watching a wound heal.

When I feel like I’m the only one who’s ever gone through something like this, I remember the people who have come out of the woodwork to tell me about their experiences. One friend in particular told me about how his injury gave him a deep appreciation for the brain: what a weird, yet incredible organ it is. And wow, how I appreciate my brain now.

The day before my accident I thought I’d be in Brazil right now.

I’m not in Brazil, but I’m in a good place.

I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, so I just appreciate today. 

The day of my accident, I kissed tragedy, then turned away from it. I’ve still got more living to do.