Last month, on an early morning somewhere in the fog between dreams and dawn, I headed out with my camera to capture a place from past memories. But it was gone. Forever. What had happened?

Uitdam is a small fishing village on the banks of the Markermeer in North Holland. Residents have always taken pride in the green dike that rises from their backyards to protect them against the water. For photographers, its piers used to offer fantastic opportunities to capture the rising sun.

But the stability of the dike can no longer be guaranteed. Under extreme conditions such as long-lasting high water levels, villages like Uitdam face an increasing risk of flooding.

That’s why the dike is currently being strengthened – as part of a massive construction project all the way from Amsterdam to Hoorn – to keep the people of North Holland protected from the water for the next 50 years.

I wasn’t aware of any of this when I headed to Uitdam last month at 5 am.

It was a clear and tranquil morning. I had previsualized a scene that I had captured earlier this year in grey and misty conditions. This time, I was hoping to photograph the same pier basking in the warm glow of the rising sun.

But that was not to be. There was no pier to photograph anymore. Everything looked different. And so I returned home, with only the memory of what once was. It filled with me a sense of sadness, knowing I will never be able to capture the image I had in mind.

Life is like that as well. We make plans. We set career goals. We fall in love with someone we think we will spend the rest of our lives with. We come to hold on to mental pictures of what our lives should look like. But then life comes along, upending our plans. The world changes, and we change with it.

As the pandemic lingers on, we all find ourselves in a place where it’s even harder to plan ahead, or to foresee what the world will look like a month or a year from now. We simply don’t know. And this can fill us with dread. With a desire to go back to how things were. To regain some sense of control over an uncertain future.

But there is no past returning back to. Change is constant, and much of it we cannot control. All we have is now. A moment forever in flux. Always moving. Always evolving. How we live, how we work – what we are learning today will help shape the choices we make for tomorrow. A tomorrow that may look very different from yesterday in ways we cannot even imagine yet.

Letting go of preconceived notions of life and work can be scary. But it can also open opportunities if we expand our views beyond the familiar.

I hope to go back to Uitdam one day, when the construction work on the dike is done. If I’m being really honest, I wish it would look the same as it used to, matching the image I had in mind. But it won’t. It will look different. How exactly, I don’t know. Yet one thing I do know: the sun will still rise over the water, every morning, long after my memories of what once was have faded.

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