24 Hours: Do I Dare?

What is it with me and challenges? I can’t resist them. Cannot. I never used to think of myself as a competitive person, but I so am. And that’s part of the driver behind my saying yes to challenges. I’m competing: against the ridiculousness of the challenge, against myself.

I think it throws me back to taking a dare as a kid. Someone would thrown down some petty or foolish gauntlet, and I would immediately feel the pull to dive in and prove … who knows what, but prove it all the same. Clearly, I’ve never outgrown the inability to resist that pull.

All this to say I can’t resist. Generally speaking, the challenges I take on are fairly mild. They come in the form of, say, doing NaNoWriMo. Or the 30/30 poetry month challenge … and sweetening the pot by choosing a poetry form and writing that form all month long. Not easy for me, but pretty harmless.

The 24 Hour Project is one of the challenges that keeps captivating me year after year. It tests me on different levels:

  1. Can I stay awake and mostly functional for 24 hours?
  2. Can I find something or someone to photograph every hour of the day?
  3. Will I be able to imagine a story to write for each photo I post each hour (this is the “sweetener” I’ve added to the basic rules of the 24HrPrj)?
  4. Will I be able to get all the photos of people that I want without being spotted (I fail this every year, always get busted at least once)?
  5. Will I venture into neighborhoods I haven’t visited on previous 24HrPrj days?
  6. Will I post all my “leftovers” after the day — all the pics that didn’t go up on the challenge day but which I still want to make stories for (I haven’t succeeded with this one this year … yet)?
  7. If I’m going out alone, will I settle into the fun of the challenge and not let the worry and discomfort of being alone on the street in the middle of the night sour my good mood and make it hard for me to take pictures (this one is really a crap shoot and has as much to do with me as it does with who else is out on the street in the middle of the night)?

Is it any wonder that I love this challenge when it has so many challenges baked in?

I had a lot of fun this year … after I managed to succeed at Number 7, calming down about being by myself. Both of the friends who’ve gone out with me in the past weren’t able to do the Project this year. I did wind up running into my friend S, the person who introduced me to the challenge. I spotted him in Times Square around 4 am and hung out with him and a few other 24 Hour Photogs for a couple of hours then met up with him for another couple of hours in the evening.

I was rusty with the story-making. Not only was the Project Covid-canceled last year, being in quarantine for the last forever has meant not being out and about that much, not taking pictures, not having the catalysts/inspiration to make up stories.

So yes, quite rusty. But after a couple of hours it began to feel easier. There’s a picture from the two o’clock hour that was the turning point. I had found an all-night diner (key establishments for making it through the Project, to be sure) and took a picture of a police officer who was having dinner and a very involved conversation with his partner. In the picture, he is studying the menu. The combination of his serious face and the fact that he reminded me of a friend’s son and echoed her older brother who had been a police officer all clicked for me and the story just fell into my head. From that point forward, the stories came more quickly and smoothly.

*

I miss my city. Eighteen months in my room is a long time to be separated from people watching, grabbing a coffee at a favorite café, chatting with store employees, having random and excellent encounters with strangers.

That last one is one of the things that struck me hardest during the 24 Hour Project. I miss talking to strangers, something I’ve always done quite a lot of … but not since Covid came to town. Around 7:30 Saturday morning, having seen my way through the long midnight-to-dawn of the challenge, I was headed home to charge my devices and recharge myself. I stopped in my grocery story because I still needed a photo for the hour. I saw an elderly woman I wanted to take a picture of. I did take a picture, but she surprised me by starting to talk to me.

Not only did she talk to me, but she was funny and sweet. At two moments in our conversation, she reached over and put her hand on my arm. You know, the way you reach for a friend’s arm when you’re talking and you want to emphasize your shared feeling at that instant. And she did it twice.

I am a toucher. I like affectionate physical contact. Not with everyone, of course, but yes, I like it. Having this woman touch me in this conversationally intimate way — after a forever of almost no physical contact, when we were strangers, when she was a tiny elderly white woman and I a big, Black woman — it was absolutely beautiful. It made my heart smile.

I have missed this type of sweetness my city has always given me. Yes, the city has given me some ugly moments, too, for sure. But I get much more of the random kindness and connection of that exchange in the chips and cookies aisle.

* * *

(My 24-Hour experience this year was a warm welcome back to my city. But what a difference a couple of weeks can make. I was out taking my pictures on July 24th … and now, Delta is threatening new lockdowns. I’m glad we got the Project in before the tide started to turn, and I really hope we can stay on the safer side of this variant wave.)

Do I dare? Well, I certainly always do when it comes to the 24 Hour Project. It’s such a great idea and a fun event, and I love following people from around the world, getting to see a day in their cities. This year I followed two Italians, a Pole, two Mexicans, one Turk, a couple of Australians, and a handful of people around this country. In a sense, I guess it’s a virtual way to have a random conversation with a stranger.

I need to get back to posting my leftovers … and some of the shots I’ve captured since the event. I’m already looking forward to next year!


It’s Tuesday, which means it’s Slice of Life day!
Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the other slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

10 thoughts on “24 Hours: Do I Dare?

    1. Thanks, Lisa! It would be so fun to do this with your kids. And really, the “rules” aren’t really too serious. A lot of people only do part of the 24 hours. I’d love to see the pictures (and maybe stories?) that you and your kids come up with! 🙂

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  1. Oh, I do wish my aching knees had been able to join you this year! I just could not and I have missed it and you sorely. You have such a good eye for mood, your photos are lovely, the stories interesting and as always I covet the hell out of your people capturing skills.

    Keep daring mi amiga and keep sharing.

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    1. I missed you hard, my friend! You’re such a good companion for this silliness. I’m glad you liked my work! I was so afraid I wouldn’t be able to get good people pics this year because I’m so rusty, but it turns out the 24HrPrj is kind of like riding a bike! 🙂

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  2. Wow! Let me say that I know I could not pull an all nighter…much too old for that. I can see how this would be such an interesting thing to do. I often wonder during 2 AM nature call when I hear traffic going by where are these people headed to or returning from. To meet up with someone at that hour and get their story would be fascinating.

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    1. Doing the full 24 hours is kind of grueling, even with the little breaks I give myself (staying in one place for a couple of hours a couple of times during the day so I can let my body rest)! Meeting people in the middle of the night is always interesting. Sometimes weird, sometimes fun, sometimes worrying … always interesting!

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  3. Jessica

    I’ve been impressed that you added the extra challenge of the stories – just thinking up names alone would stall me for hours! I love that you and “S” ran into each other and hung out for awhile – that makes me so happy. And I wanted to say that your diner photo TOTALLY made me think of our “friend’s son” the moment I saw it – in fact, I did a double take. I hadn’t thought of her brother, too, though. 😦 Anyway, it’s always great to follow you, Stacie, through all that you choose to share about what you’re doing/thinking! 🙂 Thanks!

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  4. This. Sounds. Awesome.

    While I’m not sure it would work in rural Iowa, this sounds so cool. The lack of sleep wouldn’t bother me as much as the lack of subjects around here (unless you count farm animals!).

    Fun pictures and a great project! Thank you for sharing with us! 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Darin! I think it would be cool to do the 24 Hour Project in rural Iowa … I’m curious to know what middle-of-the-night pictures you’d find! (And yes, I definitely count farm animals! 🙂 )

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