We all face milestone birthdays in different ways. Maybe you throw yourself a big bash or take a trip with someone special. Well, Southie resident Pat Bubul faced his 30th birthday with an incredible social experiment – taking 1000 photos of himself before he turned 30. Before you jump to conclusions about how full of himself this guy must be, take this into consideration: Pat challenged himself not by taking a solo photo every day, but by getting in a picture with someone else 1000 times over. Sometimes it was easy – friends, family or neighbors agreed to pose with Pat. Most days, he had to go up to a stranger and ask them to pose with him. Yes, exactly! Pat forced himself to engage with strangers. To most people, just the thought of it gets the stomach turning, but Pat embraced the challenge head on. “Taking the time to smile and shake hands and chat and meet eyes with another human being––regardless of the reason for doing so––is a meaningful and fundamental activity that I think we’re mistakenly starting to neglect,” says Pat. This is one of the main themes behind his photo journal/social experiment.
The next component of Pat’s 1000til30 project is about being consistent and not allowing life to interfere with goals as they do daily. (Think about how hard it is to get to the gym every day!) Lastly, Pat wanted to create a warm hometown feel in the city. “I’m from a small town in Pennsylvania, and I enjoyed the say-hello culture of the Scranton suburb I was raised in. I thought adding a little more of that to the city would be refreshing.”
His journey began back in 2014, when Pat was living in Somerville. Nearly two years into his project, Pat moved to South Boston, where hundreds of his photos took place. “The vast majority of strangers I approached in Southie, many of whom were locals, were really friendly and totally up for joining my project.”
This defied Pat’s expectations. “My hypothesis going into this was that I would fail. I thought people would overwhelmingly decline. I did get rejected a number of times, but surprisingly and encouragingly, most people were willing to take a moment to stop what they were doing, step outside of their comfort zone, and have an interaction with a stranger. And all this goodwill in a city that I prejudged to be a bit cold and distant.”
About a year into 1000til30, Pat added a textual component along the lines of Humans of New York. “I’ve been posting the pictures on Instagram along with reflections on topical matters that came up organically in conversation or some thoughts or a story a participant was willing to share. In most cases the quotes you’ll see were responses to specific questions I’d ask.” Here are the questions Pat would most commonly ask:
What’s something you think people should pay more attention to?
Do you have a funny story about anything at all to share?
If you were on a billboard and could include some text what would it say?
What’s one happy memory that sticks out?
What’s your favorite quote?
Is there a certain phrase or words that you try to live by?
Have any general life wisdom to impart?
Has anything really crazy ever happened to you that you’d like to share?
What inspires you?
What motivates you?
What are you grateful for?
Here are Pat’s Top 5 Southie photos
#825 – Shannon and Jess
“The other day I saw an older couple walking together hand in hand and as I was looking at them I noticed that every other person passing them was on a phone or had earbuds in their head or just looked preoccupied and in a hurry and I couldn’t help but think that that couple really got it right.” – Shannon
“I’m from Montana and I’m really grateful to have grown up in a place that was very green and where everyone knew each other.” – Jess
#851 – Jackie (and Pat’s dog Edie)
“I think people should be more genuine and say what they’re really thinking. Everyone posts on social media just to be associated with people who think similarly, but I think all of that is a level removed from genuine concern for anything. We spend too much time and energy posturing.”
#944 – Bill (and Edie)
Bill and I met at the Arts Around the Corner gallery at 317 E. Street where Bill volunteers and sells some of his art. I was pretty much enthralled as Bill ended up telling me his life story. Here’s Bill’s story:
Bill served in the Air Force for eight years then flew as a pilot with TWA for the next three decades. While he was stationed in Kansas City for international flight training, something horrible happened to him. Bill was walking over a bridge with a woman he knew. He remembered thinking how beautiful the swaying willow trees looked. Some young men were several meters behind him, but he didn’t pay them any heed. A few minutes later he heard gun shots. A bullet hit him in the back, just missing his spinal cord, and he dodged a few more. His friend was able to run to safety. Amazingly, Bill fully recuperated in two months. The man who shot Bill was 21 at the time. Bill was 30. Hours after the incident while Bill was in the hospital, police received a tip from the parents of the suspect, who noticed how nervous he was when they caught him trying to hide a weapon in his bedroom. The shooter confessed in court: “I don’t know why I shot him. I just wanted to shoot somebody.” He was sentenced to three years in prison but was released after six months. The parents of the assailant contacted Bill shortly after their son was sentenced to tell him that they were selling their house and wanted to give him the profits to pay for his medical expenses. Bill said that he’d be fine—he’d be flying again soon and that money was not a problem. Bill’s friends asked him if he planned on getting even with the man who shot him. Bill told them that that would be nonsense: you can’t get even with a crazy person. I asked Bill how this event affected the way he looks at the world. “I just blocked it out. It was a random incident. It was unlucky. I didn’t want it to be a part of my life any longer than it had to. There are going to be many troubles in your life, but it’s never as dark as it seems. You’ll make it through.” Check out Bill’s art here!
#977 – Brenda
Q: Have any crazy stories to share?
A: “When I was studying abroad in Bulgaria my friend and I decided it’d be fun to take a trip to Romania to check out the Vlad Dracula castle. The night before our trip we stayed in a hostel close to the bus station we’d depart from in the morning. To our delight when we woke up the hostel was serving free breakfast. Of course we had to take advantage of that. We ended up getting to the bus station later than expected, and a guy there––he wasn’t an employee––told us the later trains weren’t running that day and there’d be no way to get to Romania until the next day. We spent another night at the hostel and woke up extra early the next morning to find the same guy at the train station giving us the same news that the trains were down. He didn’t speak much English, but it was clear that he wanted to help us by driving us the two hours to Bucharest. My friend and I were feeling adventurous so we went with it. When we got to the border of Bulgaria and Romania, we handed him our passports to hand to the guards. At that point we were in another country where we didn’t speak the language in a van with a man we didn’t know whom we had just handed our passports to. Totally safe. Anyway, we got to the castle, our driver helped us buy tickets, and… that was it! He didn’t ask for money or anything, just told us to enjoy ourselves and be careful! Our parents teach us from a young age never to talk to strangers, but stranger danger has been debunked––people who know the child are far more likely to be the abductor. Of course it’s always a good idea to be careful, but as an adult if you never step out of your comfort zone you’re likely to miss out on a lot of amazing experiences. That day was one of the most fun days of my semester abroad. The castle was awesome, and afterward we stumbled on a beautiful parade celebrating a local custom that involved walking goats down a mountain.”
Pat completed his project in January on his 30th birthday. Overall the experience was an amazing one for him. “I had some really awesome, deep conversations and heard many unique, thoughtful answers. One clear-as-day takeaway is that there are so many amazing people in the Boston area, and I’m glad that I got to meet some of them.”
You can follow 1000til30 on Instagram and Tumblr, where Pat will gradually be posting all 1,000 photos and their accompanying stories chronologically. If you see Pat around Southie be sure to say hello––he loves strangers––and if you got in a picture with him as part of his project, drop us a line in the comments section below!