After attending a few outings this month, I’ve been experiencing some nostalgia for the Lancaster County Photography Meetup. This past week I participated in a group photowalk in Columbia which also happened to be one of the first photowalks I went on with other actual human beings way back in 2009. My new friends at the time, and fellow meetup members, John and Stacey invited me to walk around the Susquehanna-adjacent town on a humid evening in mid-July. John even took a now cliché picture of me disregarding my own personal safety standing in the middle of a street to get a shot. Six years later in 2015, the Lancaster Photo Meetup group had an officially-sanctioned photowalk in Columbia and after yet another six-year interval, the group returned this past Saturday. I arrived a little too late to walk with other group members, but I did get to catch up with some familiar faces at lunch afterward.
As I walked around Columbia by myself, I had some time to reflect on my history with the group. Back in 2008, very soon after I had returned to Lancaster County from 7 years living in Connecticut, I helped kickstart the meetup. In its nascent years, there were many people in leadership roles that were essential to the group, but I don’t think it’s ungenerous to say that I had a central role in leading the group through its early growth and was one of the most invested in its continued success for more than 8 years.
At the group’s peak, we had multiple events a month where we could pull in 50, 60, or even 70 attendees if a meeting was particularly enticing. Being part of a new and growing venture was fun and rewarding, but also time consuming. Even though the events were for the most part free, my personal standards of what constituted a “good” event were high. Eventually, the level of effort needed to meet those standards, the pull of family life with three busy kids, and a lack of new ideas on my part, took their respective toll and I stepped away from a leadership role in the group.
Early on, after being away, I tried attending a few of the meetings but there was a self-inflicted awkwardness that I couldn’t shake. It was hard for me to sit on the sidelines and just be a participant. I couldn’t tamp down my impulse to step in, and that wasn’t fair to the people who were still running the group. I couldn’t have it both ways, so I stopped showing up all together.
Leading the meetup group during that time was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I met amazing people, took a lot of photos, and learned a great deal about organizing. It was nice to revisit those feelings over the past few days. With my prolonged absence, some of the awkwardness I felt after leaving the group has dissipated, but in the deep recesses of my brain I still feel the gears turning while I’m at an event. Thinking about how I could help the group when I should be in the moment enjoying the company and appreciating the time and space doing something I love instead.
I’m not yet convinced if I will be a more frequent participant in the newly minted LNC Photo Group in the near future, but I’m sure it will always be a treasured part of my past