There aren’t enough good things I could say about arguably the best episode of The Twilight Zone, “Time Enough At Last”. (In fact, I’ve already written about it, whatdyaknow?) The prospect of having all the time in the world at last, only to lose it to a minor hiccup is both devastating and heartbreaking.
In the same light, one of the things I remembered hearing most during my teenage years was: “Enjoy it now, because it’s not gonna last.” That sentiment, like a lot of others, made me tell myself, “Okay, but like who cares? It’ll happen. No big deal.” It was one of those inevitable life lessons no one truly waits on happening. Because, honestly, why should you spend your time worrying about something that’ll happen eventually?
Would you believe it if I told you that came back to bite me in the ass pretty hard? Shocking, I know. I don’t really care about the bite so much as I do how my mentality used to be with about anything I didn’t like thinking about. I was callous towards myself, and that’s something I still find myself having to correct from time to time.
It’s no secret I really like abandoned buildings. ‘Like’ is putting it lightly. I love abandoned buildings. There are so many positives for me that I’d have a hard time giving you a list of my top five favorite things about them. So, I won’t. Instead, I’ll just say the energy and creative outlet that I get from looking in empty buildings is like nothing else. It’s captivating as it is bizarre, and it’s absolutely the last place I ever expected to gain any sort of escape from.
I’m not sure when it started, but I’ve been looking back at certain months of certain parts of any year and being able to specifically recall my emotions, major life events, and other nonsensical things I’d otherwise forget.
When I look back at July of 2012, I remember that being my introduction to urban exploration, but also the summer I gained my first job in news.
When I look back at the spring of 2014, I think to a very, very low point where I used urban exploration to get away from everything that was depressing me.
When I look back to the summer and winter of 2014, I’m brought back to arguably the strangest part of my life where I was in between pretty much everything I currently have. Most importantly, it was also the beginning of a time I feared would come for over two years: the sad end to my time with urban exploration.
St. Louis has spoiled with me many things, but the most important being the abundance of abandoned buildings. There are so many all over the city and county that I’m more than sure the number of abandoned buildings (non-houses) has got to be at least 200, easily. When I moved back to Amarillo in 2014 for several months, I was back in a city where we had a whopping number of two abandoned buildings of notoriety. During those months where I was back home, I only attempted going in both of those places two times each, which for where I was just months prior in St. Louis, was more depressing than it should have been.
By the time I got back here last spring, urban exploration was less of a hobby, and more of a taste in my mouth from something sweet. But even then, I can count on my hand the times I explored anything last year. However, this time it wasn’t so much about not being interested, it was because work became priority, and I valued my job over a couple of hours in a derelict building.
That same mentality has spread to this year. I have done so little of exploring empty buildings that I’ll tell you exactly what I’ve done all of this year: an old hospital in January, an old school in February (on my birthday), and another old school just one week after the other one. That’s it. Sometimes I have a hard time accepting that something that used to be my life is now more of a distant memory than the broken heart I suffered last year.
Urban exploration has taken the backseat in a car called responsibility.
Funnily enough though, urban exploration crossed paths into my professional career this summer. Crestwood Court, the place I probably never shut up about, met its demise just five months ago when city officials announced they had struck a deal with everyone involved to demolish the former shopping mall. It should go without saying I was crushed and devastated, but it gave me two chances to get back inside one last time. The only difference, though, was that this time around I was doing it as a writer, and not as someone looking to sneak in.
I got access, I got an interview and I got incredible photos of the mall just weeks before the inside began to get gutted.
To this day, I still find it so entertaining that my stupid interest in empty buildings landed me my most proud piece to date. I find it hilarious that, somehow, someway, everything came together to create the perfect storm all because I have some of the strangest interests of anyone I know, but with solid results.
I took a chance with something that could have easily failed or been ignored, but instead, it became the highlight of my time in urban exploration. I can’t lie and say I don’t understand how things somehow come together so fluidly sometimes, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’m not downplaying the impact it has on me.
There’s always going to be a part of me that is forever attached the scene of people who get to spend their everyday exploring these empty places, creating wonderful stories and memories, and risking injury, arrest, etc. just for some beautiful shots, because deep down, that’s who I wanted to be in some ways.
But I’ve hit the point in life where I know myself too well. I’ve hit a period where my career is more important than finding the time to surround myself in a less-than-friendly environment. Part of me still cringes at that, but I knew the day was coming eventually. It’s rare you see anyone do this for decades at a time – and all the power to them – but that’s just not me. I can look from afar, I can go in legally, and I can remember what helped me when I needed it the most. But as for now, that’s all it is – a memory.