I'm going to take a second and bring us back to simpler times: It's 2009, I'm a sophomore in high school, and the only witty caption I have to think of is the one for my Facebook album for that year (spoiler: it ended up being "the nun school year 2" - some of my finer work). Sophomore year of high school I had my first boyfriend, my first heart break, my first AP course. Lots of important life milestones and rights of passage.
Fast forward some and we're at 2013 and I'm a sophomore in college. This is when the word "sophomore" began to take on a whole new meaning. Some BFA programs call it "the sophomore slaughter", some "the sophomore slump", but essentially times were tough. There was a lot of music theory involved, the highest highs, the lowest lows, and a change of majors. Lots of crying. Lots of EasyMac.
Now we're at sophomore year in the school of life. Unlike my "freshman" year where things were uncomfortable and scary, but still shiny and new, now I'm settled in and familiar with my surroundings. I'm still in love with New York, but not in the blissfully ignorant way you are before you really know someone and have a picture perfect idea of who they are in your mind, but more so in the way you love someone after being best friends with them for several years and witnessing each other's highest and lowest points. It's hard to see something as this perfect entity after you've seen literal shit in the subways. Not gonna lie though - times have been tough. I think they call it "growing up". It's been a rollercoaster ride both personally and work-wise. I've been blessed and overwhelmed by a full work schedule lately and I'm trying to balance my side job with my freelance photo work. I've been getting photo work that I'm so so passionate about and some work that I'm not the most inspired by. I've been chasing down late payments, surviving on lots of coffee and packaged ramen, and spending more time on e-mail than any creative wants to. It feels like I'm constantly playing catch up and that every time I tick one thing off my to-do list, three things pop up in it's place.
I try to think consciously about what I share online. There's so much negativity, that I don't really see the benefit of me bitching and whining about this, that, and the other thing. What I do think is important to do is be transparent, though, so here's some real talk 2k17 for you.
My first year in the city was pretty phenomenal. This year has been above and beyond that at times, but also a hell of a lot more difficult. I think I had the expectation that since I was so happy last year that I would consistently be 100% content with my life and I think that's a completely unrealistic expectation to have. Progress is hard. Going from where you are to where you want to be isn't easy - if it was, you'd already be there. The thing that's getting me through these tough times, the 3:30 AM wakeup calls, the one "yes" followed by thirty "no"'s, the paycheck stretching, is that I know this uncomfortable state I'm in is not for naught. That while I don't have to sabotage myself or make things unnecessarily difficult, that facing challenges and getting out of my comfort zone will only help me in the long run.
I guess that's somewhat of an explanation as to why I haven't been as active on this platform lately. Hell, I even went an entire week without posting on Instagram which is very out of character. What I've realized lately though with my schedule being what it is, is that I have so little time and energy to devote to my passions and creative pursuits outside of "work" work and photo work that unless I feel this undying desire to work on a project, I will prioritize something else on the endless to-do list over it. I've been delving into music photography which I've fallen completely in love with, working on my creative writing chops, and trying to grow my business so I can be doing photography full-time. This has always been an outlet for me to go to when I feel the need to discuss something or when I feel inspired or when I want to share my experiences or the experiences of others. My priorities have shifted though, and while this is still something I love, it's not something I feel the intrinsic need to do the way I feel the need to create in other ways. This blog was born out of a need to be creating something when I didn't know what I wanted to do and had no outlet. I've done a total 180 since then and while I'm still figuring out wtf I'm doing, my vision of what I want to be doing has more direction, thought, and focus behind it.
Besides figuring out where my priorities lie and what my passions are, I've realized the importance of the statement, "If you stay ready, you don't have to get ready". While this sounds like a Tom Haverford life motto, it speaks to the significance of creating work and opportunities for yourself that are in line with what you want to be doing with your life and where you want to be going with your career. If you're putting in the work and paying your dues and your work is good, you will get opportunities in line with that. You have to set yourself up to be in the best position possible so that when you reach out to people and ask for what you want, be it a photo pass to a gig or a meeting with an agent, the work you've been putting in for the past couple months or years speaks for itself. This goes for developing parts of yourself outside of your chosen career as well. I'm not a musician, I'm not a writer, but there are instances where my passion for, knowledge of, or experience with those things have helped me be a better candidate for jobs I want within my field. Being educated in fields outside your own can only enhance your work in your chosen profession. Seriously, learning is the best. 10/10 would recommend exploring your other interests, listening to podcasts, reading books, seeing new films, or listening to music outside of your typical genres. All that concentrated effort in improving yourself pays off. We hold so much power in becoming the kind of person we want to become. We are in control of making ourselves the most capable candidate for our dream job. We just have to put in the work.
Besides career-related revelations, there have been many a personal revelation as well. I've fought with friends I never used to fight with, I'm more willing than ever to cut people out of my life that are not enhancing it, and I'm much more picky about who I spend my time with. In college, it was harder to cut people out of your life because you had to see them, and often times work with them closely, all the time. You aren't obligated to do that anymore. While my group of friends is definitely predominantly friends from college, I'm not being forced by circumstance into any of those friendships. Friends grow apart, and that's okay. People change - you would hope so, wouldn't you? You can't expect your friendships to be what they were your sophomore year of high school or your sophomore year of college because you're just different people now. Also, the way in which you know someone after knowing them for 5 or 6 years is drastically different from how you know them after a couple months or even a couple years. I have friends who have been through hell and back with me, who have seen the ugliest parts of me and still choose to love me unconditionally. There's such a stark contrast now between my acquaintances and my friends, because in many ways my friends have become my family. I don't want to get all dramatic and say living in New York *changes* you, but in a lot of ways it does. It's probably the hardest and most exhausting thing I've ever done and there's a camaraderie that comes from knowing you're all in the same boat. My circle of friends may have grown smaller, but it's more essential to my livelihood than ever. I could not do it without them.
Probably the hardest pill to swallow with the trying times of this "sophomore year" was admitting to myself what my shortcomings are and where I want to improve. When I started taking photos, it was just for fun and I knew nothing about color theory or composition or editing. Now I look at things with a much more critical eye and cringe at some of the work I used to (and still do) create. There are shots that are so close to being there, and I'm sure back a couple months ago I would have been thrilled with them, but now I can't see past the 5% flaw that ruins the image. I've also realized the ways in which I get in my own way of achieving what I want. Being an introverted person, I love hiding behind my camera and using that as a barrier between me and the artist. If I want to be competitive in this field, though, that's not going to cut it. I'm realizing the need for me to be more social, especially at gigs, and get to know the bands and the management and booking agent because that's part of the job, too. That's definitely not my comfort zone, but I need to find a way to be comfortable doing that so that I can ultimately do what I love to do. I know we can be our own worst critics, but I also think we can be our own best friends by giving ourselves the dose of reality we need to get our shit together and improve our weaknesses.
I'm still figuring wtf I'm doing. I by no means have all the answers. I'm not abandoning this blog, just on that great little journey of self-discovery we call life and figuring out how to manage it all. I hope it's helpful to know that things can be going amazingly well and also be really tough at the same time, that my room usually is not as put together as it looks on instagram, and that while the work is incredibly rewarding, that doesn't mean the time in between is a cake walk. If you're struggling right now, I'm right there with you. If you're thriving, keep on keeping on girl, me too. We don't have to be exclusively one thing or the other. We're in another year of high highs and low lows and I'm down for the ride.