Check On Your Friends: Meet Friend and Photographer, David Hartz

This is a really f*cking weird time.

Some days, having the luxury of quarantining inside a warm, cozy and safe space feels like exactly that—a luxury. 

Other days, it tests our mental health. Feeling disconnected from our loved ones, communities, and every day lives as we knew them feels so unnatural. Some days, the whole situation is so unnerving it leaves us feeling anxious, depressed, without hope, and frustrated at the fact that we cannot control the situation or its outcomes.

Different emotions are surfacing daily, and this is a time where our emotions are demanding the attention they deserve. We are distraction-less! We can’t fill our days with to-do lists, side hustles, or social obligations—instead, we’re left to sit with these feelings as they come, and let them go when they must.

Remember in the pre-quar world when a friend would send you a text out of the blue just to check in? We’d think to ourselves, ‘Wow! All of us are going a million miles a minute, but my friend thought of me in between those minutes, and decided to shoot me a text just to check in. How nice of them, and how fortunate I am to have them!’. 

Well, those texts carry even more weight these days. Every day we’re dealing with a range of emotions, but it’s important to pause and remember that our friends and loved ones are too, and it might be nice to check in on them for two reasons—first, so that they know we’re thinking of them, and second, to actually see how they’re doing.

In honor of May being Mental Health Awareness month, we’re piloting a series here at RB called Check On Your Friends, where we do exactly what it sounds like—check on our friends! We’ll be chatting with some of our friends across the cannabis, wellness, hospitality, art, and fashion industries to see how they’re doing during this time, and see if they have any advice to share with us on how they’re getting by.

This month, we’re kicking things off with our good friend, David Hartz. David is an extremely talented photographer based out of Jersey City, and we jumped on a call with him to check in and see how he’s doing.

So where are you quarantined at the moment? Paint us a picture of where you’re staying.

D: I’m quarantined in my apartment, with my roommate, and I love my apartment—so that’s fantastic! Also, my studio is literally half a block away from my apartment, so life isn’t too different for me in terms of quarantine.

Are there any feelings that have been surfacing for you during this time?

D: I had a rough couple weeks—I had a long term relationship that ended. So I think I’ve just been feeling everything, which has been really beautiful. A few days ago, I finally processed it, and grappled with it. 

So, I think I’ve just been focusing on processing my feelings, and I’ve felt everything from fear, depression, and sadness to enlightenment, and happiness—pretty much the whole fluxe of emotions. 

I’m somebody who likes to see the light in everything, so even when I’m in the darkness, I think that’s the time to look—even if it doesn’t feel great, you know?

When those feelings do come up, how are you navigating through them?

D: I think it’s through meditating, and sitting with how I’m feeling, instead of avoiding and distracting myself from it. I think so much of my life has been built around doing a lot, achieving a lot, and making a lot—but I think this has made me feel like I need to sit with how I feel, and understand it.

Truthfully, I’ve been trying to pick up really good habits like meditating, eating really healthy, doing yoga for an hour a day (@ yoga with adriene). I’ve also been avoiding too much pleasure, or over indulgence, in an effort to avoid distracting myself. 

Essentially, I’ve been seeing what I’ve done in the past that made me forget about my problems, and then avoid doing that. I’m using my energy and time right now to re-navigate how I cope with things.

What has the hardest day of quarantine looked like for you? 

D: Basically, at one point, I felt like I had no purpose, I didn’t want to be here, I didn’t want to continue. I didn’t take any action on those feelings, nor did I intend to, but the hardest part of it was the question of why—the hardest part was grappling with existence.

Are there any books you’re reading, or shows you’re watching to get a healthy dose of escapism when you need it?

D: Sure, sure! I don’t watch TV or movies, but I do read a lot, and listen to podcasts. I’ve been reading 3 books: Walden by Henry David Thoreau, This is It by Alan Watts, and A Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

A Man’s Search for Meaning is interesting because we’re taught in modern day society that happiness is something we should strive for, and that it’s something that comes from the best moments of our lives—but the book is written by a man who lived through the holocaust, he was actually a therapist so he analyzed the human condition during that time, and he decided that happiness actually comes from you’re darkest moments. 

It’s just about hope, and it basically says that suffering is where meaning is found, so the avoidance is suffering is avoidance of meaning. 

Have you picked up any new interests or hobbies during this time?

D: Oh hell yeah. I’ve picked up acoustic guitar, and I’m growing a ton of plants on my patio. I’m growing snow peas, beans, kale, and spinach, which has been a real treat—to watch the plants come up, and see the process, and just let them do their magic.

Are there any routines that you have been sticking to during this time?

D: Totally! I’ve been going to bed like a grandpa at 9 o’clock. I’ve also been getting up at 6 am to watch the sunrise, and I’ve been trying to live more in accordance with nature.

I’ve been doing an hour of yoga right when I wake up, and then I do 30 minutes of meditation—and I try not to drink 3 coffees in one hour. 

What’s funny is that I really haven’t been working, I’ve really taken a step away from everything. This is the only job I’ve ever had, since I was 15 years old, and I’d been so focused, and put so much energy in, and I needed to take a step back to process what I’ve done, where I’m going, how I feel, and where I want to go. So in that way, I’ve been avoiding my normal routine. 

I think it’s been great—it’s been hard to grapple with, especially in the beginning, but it’s helping me see what really matters to me. 

Have you been cooking up any projects that you’d like to kick off during this time, or launch the moment this is over?

D: I was doing advertising mostly, which comes with a lot of good and a lot of bad. I’m really interested in psychology and the concept of grappling with the human mind, and feeling peace in life. So I think with all of my projects moving forward, I want to inject that vibe into it, almost like Buddhist Parable style of art. 

I had an idea today inspired by the idea of attachment leading to human suffering—how can you depict that? An idea I had was having caution tape with a cement block hanging from it, and you can watch it stretch, creating a visual way to depict that concept. 

But that was a recent idea, up until then, I didn’t have motivation if I’m being honest.

What’s one thing you’re feeling extremely grateful for during this time?

D: I think I feel grateful for just the human brain, what we’re aware of and able to experience. 

There’s so much out there, and the world is so big—you and I can sit here, and have this conversation, and talk about abstract concepts. I’m grateful for everything, like the way life is, and all of the ways that we can experience it, I’m amazed by it.

When you strip away the distractions, or “pull up the curtain”, it’s so clear what matters and what doesn’t, and how simple everything is. What I’m really grateful for is that for the first time where civilization is an audience of the truth—we’re all in the seat, watching the curtain being pulled up, together.

Q: Have you found that you’re more plugged into social media during this time, or are you finding it helpful to unplug?

D: I’m really trying to step away from social media—if you ask my friends, they’d laugh, because I said I’d quit social media a hundred times. But it’s good, I notice that I have less anxiety, I’m definitely happier with myself, and I have less distraction from my own thoughts.

But I’m not perfect, I still go on social media!

Q: Lastly, what’s one thing, practice, ritual or remedy that’s helped you stay grounded during this time?

D: Definitely meditation. Without meditation, I could never sit down and appreciate all of the things I have—and don’t have!

That’s something that’s helped me, and I think it could help everybody. I suggest transcendental meditation, you basically have a mantra made of three words, and you just repeat it over and over and over again. While you do it, you see other thoughts come up, you acknowledge when they come up, and why.

When your only goal is to just say that mantra in your head, it helps you focus and quiet your thoughts. 

Sheltering in place has presented a unique set of challenges for everyone. Now more than ever is the time to check in on those close to us, and practice kindness with one another. 

Organizations like The American Psychological Association, Mental Health America and NYC Well are sharing resources designed to help individuals suffering from anxiety, depression, stress, or feelings of overwhelm. 

Now more than ever is the time for us to lean on one another. To anyone struggling with feelings of anxiety, depression, stress, or any other emotions that feel difficult to navigate during this time—we see you, we’re here for you, and we’re right there with you. 

Kat Frey is a Brooklyn based writer, who originally hails from The Wing. Kat has historically worked with women-lead brands, and her writing spans from culture and cannabis, to overall health and wellness. When she’s not busy writing for Rosebud CBD, she spends her time thumbing through The Cut, Man Repeller, and T Magazine, or listening to Las Culturistas. Her favorite form of self care is adding our 350mg tincture to homemade face and hair masks!

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