How often do you make something that surprises you?
As the great photographer Jerry Uelsmann once said, and I paraphrase – if he has any goal, it is to surprise himself.
I think that is one of the most profound statements an artist can adopt. It is so difficult to surprise ourselves. After all, we are ourselves. To do something so out of our usual comfort zone that even we are surprised by what we do or the outcome of what we do is my mission.
I found that recently I wasn’t very surprised by myself. And by recently, I mean the past handful of years. I took risks, but they were calculated. I took risks that weren’t really all that dangerous. So, were they risks at all if I have to categorize them as baby risks? Probably not.
When I started photography I would have done anything – misshapen bodies, weird contortions, grotesque imagery. I think that as my taste for imagery grew, so did my images. But, they became more normal.
I’m beginning to shed that. I’m beginning to stand out.
I’m doing it in small steps. I’m working my way back to the macabre. But I’m going there, little by little, day by day.
In today’s video, we’re looking at a step back to those ideals. Some philosophy, some shooting, some editing…and of course, my spine.
(Well, not my spine. My elk spine.)
Essentially, it comes down to this. I want to be willing to look into a strangers eyes and not break eye contact. I want to be able to stand proudly with my art, as dark as it may be or become, and be willing to stand by it. I want to represent my art by not backing down, but presenting my vision and not caring if it is weird or makes me an outsider.
I’m working on it.
How often do you create something that surprises you?
Read to the end for today’s free giveaway + to read my practical tips for an art business!
This is a long one but it sure is juicy!
Folks, I need to admit something to you. I’m not terribly organized.
However, after I started sharing about my work days (on Instagram Stories) and how much I get done, I started getting messages (like, a lot of them) about how I stay organized enough to get all of those tasks crossed off my list. It became too overwhelming to write to each DM I got, so I told everyone I’d make a blog post about it. Here we go!
I say that I’m not organized because in many ways, I’m not. I’m sort of like a confused type A personality. I like things in a specific way, I like to know that my life is in order, but ask me to keep my life in order, and well…I just can’t. Or, rather, I haven’t learned how…YET.
I will be the first to admit that I spend about 20 unnecessary minutes everyday doing something that I should have had organized long ago.
And I work on this, slowly, and not fast enough to make my family believe I’m working on it. I am also highly productive. I always have been and don’t have ambitions to slow down in my productivity. Shifting focus, yes, but not becoming complacent.
All of that to say, the two words – organization and motivation – are not the same thing. They come from different universes and sometimes they commingle. Let’s take a look at some simple practices we can all apply to become more proficient in the art of getting stuff done.
PRIORITIES. My decisive nature and enormous passion collide to make it easy for me to choose priorities and let them shine. Be honest with yourself about what you want, how you will get it, and then learn to follow through (yes, I realize that is the whole point of this post – FOLLOW THROUGH – so read on, comrades!). More on this topic in an earlier post.
Write your to-do list THE DAY BEFORE. This changed the game for me. Productivity increased, I was more goal-focused, and I felt better every time I crossed something off my list.
The 30-MINUTE swap. Take a moment to look at your normal day schedule. Can you find 30 minutes of time that you spend doing something that doesn’t serve your goals? It could be TV, Internet, meals that could be prepared more efficiently, naps, etc. Once you’ve located those 30 minutes, swap them out for extreme productivity time. Spend 30 minutes daily that you have actively traded to hunker down on your goals and GIT THEM DONE.My personal kryptonite is the Internet (whose isn’t though, really). In order to combat the time I spend, I put a website blocker on my browser so that I can only spend 15 minutes a day on Facebook. That means I speed up the time I spend working on social media, and when I do open Facebook, it isn’t to chat with friends. I go straight to my business page, I post, I reply to comments, and I get the heck out of there.I use the browser add-on StayFocused.
Figure out YOUR productivity hours. My husband is a night owl. Like, up until 5am coding his heart out. My best hours are from 6am-11am. I know this about myself, so I utilize those hours. Of course, your schedule might require you to be flexible with this, but first, identify YOUR hours. When do you most easily enter a state of flow? When do you feel your best? When are you more productive? And then the opposite – at what hours are you good for nothing (well, that’s a bit harsh – when is your energy low)?Once you know those hours, intend to get your to-do list mostly finished inside of those hours each day. If I didn’t prioritize my goals/time in this way, I wouldn’t be able to get half of the things finished that I do each day.
My schedule is this:
05:45 Wake up
06:30 Social Media
07:30 Misc Business/Computer tasks
09:30 Creative Work
11:00 Reading Break
06:30 Family timeIt may surprise you to see that my work day is generally only 8 hours. When I travel, this schedule and my work hours are out the window. But when I’m home, I’ve got an awesome routine.I work fast, efficiently, with a clear mind and I really get things done. Find your opening and try to take advantage of it!
Surround yourself with what UPLIFTS you. Sometimes changing our surroundings takes time. Let me share some of my choices with you for context. I grew up in Pennsylvania, went to college in Philly, moved to Los Angeles…all knowing that I hate cities. I thought there would be opportunity there, that it was necessary…some of this is practical, and some of it is sheep-talk (in other words, listening to what other people said because it seemed easier than forging my own path). I made the choice the move away to a tiny town in the mountains and I’ve never looked back. I left behind what I knew for a place where we knew no one and I LOVE IT. Why did I do it?
– I know I hate cities, so why stay in one?
– I wanted to be in a place where no one knew me at all so that there was no expectation.
– I wanted sunshine. A lot of sunshine. I moved to a very sunny place.
– I wanted nature all around me. I’ve got mountains, creeks, forests, desert. Everything.
– I wanted a health conscious place where I could find yummy vegan treats. Check!
– Mostly, though, I wanted a place that I felt joyous to wake up to every day. And I do. So much.
I know what at least half of you are thinking. But, I can’t do that, because I have ________ (insert family, job, responsibility, etc.). I get it, I truly do. And some would say I made the selfish choice, moving away from everyone I know and love. But you know what? Selfish choices aren’t always as selfish as they seem.We punish people so harshly for desiring a better life. For creating a better life. It is, I believe, those people who create the life they want to live that set an example for others who believe they could do the same (and especially for those who never considered it). Let the life you create be an example to your family, to your children, to your friends that you can choose the life you want to live.That puts practicality aside, of course. This might not be an option for you right now, or not even in a couple of years, but you can work toward it.And if that isn’t an option right now, let’s talk about smaller pieces of joy you can put into your life. Surround yourself with plants, or art on your walls that you love, or frequent outings to your favorite places.The more joy I feel when I wake up, the more productive I am. Simple as that.
TREATS! What kind of productivity list would this be without mentioning treats? I am obsessive about rewarding myself. I seek a pat on the back any chance I get. In fact, my husband likes to say that I pat myself on the back because I don’t count on anyone else to do it for me. Fist bump! How do I reward myself? In three simple ways:
– The SMALL reward: I cross something off of my to-do list. I equate that to-do list with my worth for the day. That sounds massively wrong, I know. And I don’t mean it in a major way, but listen…I work for myself. I have no boss, no one telling me if I’m doing this right, if I’m doing a good job, etc. So, when I finish a task (whether it was done right or not), that gets tallied into my worth for the day. I wish I could find a better word, but it’s not coming. Suggestions below, please!
– The MEDIUM reward: FOOD. Let’s face it, I love food. I love it SO, so much. My rewards are usually health based because I try not to eat added sugars or processed foods. But they are still so good! Here are my big food rewards: Avocado toast on THIS BREAD (I make a batch every 2 weeks or so), chocolate nice cream (or a chocolate smoothie – same recipe, more cashew milk), or applesauce.
– The LARGE reward: TV. Some days I’m just over it. Over productivity, over my routine. So, I plop down on the couch and I watch Merlin or Doctor Who, or some other silly sci-fi show, or even a travel show.
NOTHING is better put off until later. In our deepest of hearts, we know this to be true. That is why I don’t procrastinate. That was a lie. I do procrastinate sometimes, but rarely, and I never enjoy myself when I do. I’ve become much better at doing things right when I see they need to be done. From emails every morning to categorizing receipts for taxes, dishes when I finish eating (sidenote: I hate dishwashers) and cleaning when I finish a shoot.
Make your life a LIFE OF NOW. When you see something amiss, do something about it. I feel good when I do this because I feel proud and productive, and it keeps me physically organized as well as mentally organized. If I know that my possessions and tasks are taken care of, I have more space for creativity.
Depression, Anxiety, and downright sadness. This is not a funny point or one that I enjoy pointing out, but I must. I wake up some days and I am not okay. I wake up some days and I feel like my life is a mess, like it’s not worth working for, like everything I do is crap, like no one cares, etc. I’m willing to bet that everyone reading this has had some semblance of those feelings. It is serious and I do not suggest you SOLDIER THROUGH IT. I do NOT suggest that. There are times and places where you must – I just taught a 2-day workshop immediately after getting off a plane from Greece with the flu. Trust me, a large part of me wanted to call it and stay in bed all day, but that was not the time for self-care.
(It turned out to be a time for losing my voice while piling into a bed with 40 people. And it was awesome…No explanation necessary. If you were there in Maine, you know.)
Instead, consider some softness toward yourself. When I wake up in those moods, I sometimes try to push through it and get things done. And you know what? I don’t do good work. I just don’t. Listen to your heart, mind and body. When it is upset, tend to it. A day spent caring for yourself is preparation for a much better week ahead.
Try the BUDDY SYSTEM. It is much easier, in my opinion, to stay productive when you are held accountable. If you are not a naturally self-starting individual, set up a little team. If you don’t know anyone who fits the role, COMMENT BELOW AND MAKE FRIENDS! Do you have any idea how amazing this community is?! Gosh golly. It seriously is.What I suggest is this: Set a time to meet twice a month on video chat. Talk about these 4 points:
1. What did you accomplish?
2. What are you proud of?
3. What do you think you could have done better?
4. What are your new goals for the next 2 weeks?I suggest making your group anywhere from 2-5 people so that the calls don’t last too long.
Figure out what motivates YOU. I said in the first topic that we would talk about FOLLOW THROUGH. All I can do is tell you what motivates me, what keeps me moving forward. I can also tell you what stops me from moving forward: Fear of wasting money, fear of wasting time, fear of something being difficult. Let me tell you something that on bad days I have a hard time believe, but I know to be true: Time spent getting closer to your dreams and goals is never wasted. Live within your means, yes, but mean to live beyond that. Work for it.I told you about my motivations – finishing a to do list, food, hiking…but those are superficial. What truly motivates me is knowing that I am paving myself a glorious road to my dreams.It boils down to growing your confidence. Anyone, ANYONE..can you hear me…ANYONE can do this. Anyone can decide, at any time in their life, that they are worthy of pursuing goals to get to dreams. ANYONE can change the course of humanity, can make a dent in society, can weave together a better life. Let that ANYONE be YOU. Let yourself sink into your dreams.
Well my friends, here we are – the ending. And I want to host another giveaway. This time I’ll be giving away 5 spaces for a group chat. THE BUDDY SYSTEM, hey! Comment below your thoughts on this topic and tell me if you’re interested in being chosen to participate in a Motivation/Accountability Call.
The call will be: 1 hour, 5 participants + me, and we’ll continue the discussion about productivity, business, creativity, and I’ll be there to help each of you move forward with your big goals.
What motivates you?
What percentage of the time do you feel productive?
When are your most productive hours?
P.S. This is my new desk setup. I had two desks from when I had an assistant and it never really got used. It just sat there gathering dust. So, I made a step toward my dreams and I moved the desk into my bedroom, which is too big and empty, so that I have a designated writing space. It feels so good to make this change, not only symbolically of my continued commitment to my writing craft, but physically.
P.P.S. Here is a list of ways that I organize my business. I hope this is helpful to any other artists out there!
I use an Excel spreadsheet in Google Drive to keep track of prints that I create. I add it to the list no matter if I’m keeping it at my house, sending to a gallery, a charity event, or sending to a client. I keep the following information in that spreadsheet: title, size, edition number, paper type, sold or unsold, who has it, and any additional notes I may want to take.
I do the same thing for licensed images! Except for licensing, I write the following information: title, type of project (book, album, etc.), who licensed it, exclusivity, price they paid (this varies based on many variables unlike print sales), date/contract length.
Yet another Excel spreadsheet! I do my taxes on a monthly basis, exporting my PayPal, credit card and debit card statements. I then record the following on each line: receipt type (physical vs online), type of cost (based on US tax categories), and what specifically that cost was for (photo shoot, print sale, etc.).
I keep a filing cabinet for all of my paper statements and contracts.
I keep a folder on my computer called “Stock” where I have every type of stock image separated into their own folders, like “birds”, “water”, “textures”, “smoke”, etc.
I have contracttemplates for licensed image contracts, gallery contracts, model contracts, certificates of authenticity, invoices, and more. This means I can always use a pre-written document so I’m not starting from scratch.
I use information packets to send to anyone inquiring about prints, events, etc. They are 1-2 page PDF documents that explain my rates, my topics – anything relevant that they might want to know presented in a beautiful way that they can easily reference anytime.
Email templates! I get asked a lot of the same questions, and while it pains me not to answer every email with a long heartfelt reply, there are some emails that I can shorthand. A good example is that I get asked for interviews by students a couple of times daily and I couldn’t possibly do them all, so I have a template that I can send that gives them links to previous interviews I’ve done publicly.
This one is obvious by now, but I structure my day very carefully! My magical to do lists! I use the “Tasks” feature in Google Mail to make to do lists in my email browser, but I tend to prefer physical lists. I make them as I finish my work day for the follow day. Like I said, GAME CHANGER.
I photograph things that are of importance to me. For example, if I’m fortunate enough to be featured in a magazine, I photograph it. Chances are I don’t have space to keep all that content physically, so I keep digital records.
I color code my costumes. Sounds silly? Let me convince you. I have about 50 costumes hanging in my garage. We built a rack just for them! I ABHOR hanging them up. I think I might be allergic. However, when I see my dresses hanging in a rainbow looking so fluffy, it makes me feel a little more accomplished. (I color-code my personal wardrobe as well).
I charge my camera batteries immediately when I finish a photo shoot so I’m never low on battery power.
I use a password scheme. I use the same root word for all of the websites I access for my business and just change the last few letters or numbers based on the website itself. Here is an example (that doesn’t follow my scheme at all, so let’s not try that…): Root word – Waterm3l0n | Ending – Fac This would be a great one for Facebook, as the password would be your root word, Waterm3l0n + your ending Fac (the first 3 letters of the website you’re on) = Waterm3l0nFac. Keep your root word, change the last 3 letters per website when you sign up. You can make up your own scheme! You’ll never forget a password again. You’re welcome.
(Read through to the bottom to enter a giveaway for a free portfolio review!)
I have tried and failed to put this idea into words for years. YEARS. But I finally feel like I understand it well enough to talk about. So, let’s talk. Please. Talk this out with me.
I am a Creative Professional. I say it this way because, depending on the day, I fall into different roles: Photographer, Writer, Speaker, Educator, Philanthropist.
Depending on the day I might spend my hours writing emails and proposals, out in the forest taking pictures, writing blog posts (such as this very one!) and more.
It may surprise some people to learn that photography was not my first professional creative outlet; first, I was a filmmaker. Not a successful one, and not one who produced anything, but nonetheless, that was my goal. I worked for a couple of production companies and I have a degree from college that says “Filmmaking” on it.
When I began photography, I remember feeling a SENSE OF GUILT all the time. Every time I blew off hours that I could have spent furthering my career in film, I was instead gallivanting around taking pictures. It wasn’t until I started earning money from photography that I changed how I thought about it. The guilt went away because a photo shoot could equal a paycheck.
This is not to say that I was motivated by money – quite the opposite. Nothing stopped me from creating no matter if I was going to do it for free my whole life. What did change, however, was significant. I started to equate photography with money, and therefore I didn’t feel guilty about spending my time doing it.
Fast forward to now, 9 years after I started photography, and I’m pursuing writing. I had a book published years ago called Inspiration in Photography, and because it was published widely (and it was about photography), I didn’t feel guilty about writing it. It felt like proper work.
This piece of writing is different. It is an entire career shift. [not leaving photography behind at all though!]
I’m writing a novel, and it takes hundreds upon hundreds of hours. I need to commit to the process, surrender to it. But, every time I started writing, or researching, or spending any significant amount of time on it, an old voice came back to haunt me:
it would say, “you could be spending your time creating an image, or writing emails, or sending proposals. This book stuff is ridiculous. You’re wasting time.“
The real heart of what my alter ego was telling me is this: If you choose to spend your time doing something else, you’ll see a faster return on your investment. If you focus on what you already know works, you’ll gain more business, more money, more relationships, and more prestige.
I have always known what an absurd notion that is, but NONETHELESS, it doesn’t stop me from thinking it.
I’m just being honest here, because if I’m not, you might have a vision in your head of me pleasurably writing a novel
(obviously in which I’m wearing a sundress and wide-brimmed hat scribbling away in an old notebook in the French Riviera…)
(P.S. That’s not reality. I live in Arizona and it’s awesome but not French Riviera awesome. And I can’t write a novel with a pen because my brain moves too fast. And also, my hands would ache. Plus, I get cold easily. Back to the point…)
in an idealistic setting when that is not the case.
Everyday is a struggle to sit down and write. This is partially because writing is not just “sitting down and writing”. It is months of research, of brainstorming by staring at white walls, of saying ideas out loud and realizing they don’t make sense, of self-doubt and fear and anxiety. And sometimes, I write words down that make sense. About one in every thousand. And then I feel okay again.
The biggest obstacle I face in writing this book is the simple idea that I might be wasting my time.
How do we know?
For me it is simple and yet entirely difficult: Are you doing something you love? If the answer is yes, it is not a waste of time.
But let’s think beyond passion and focus on probability.
Does this endeavor have a high, medium, or low probability of being sustainable. Sometimes, thinking about big picture ways that we use our time, we need to be practical. If I thought there was an extremely low chance of writing ever being a sustainable way of me spending my time, I wouldn’t dedicate massive amounts of time to it, like I am. However, I am imbued with the most absurd sense of confidence I’ve ever known. So, I believe it will pay off. Therefore, I invest a lot of time into it because I truly believe that one day I will be a writer.
(And, in spending a lot of time on it, I increase the chances of it being a success.)
All of this to ask – do you get it?
Have you ever had this problem?
I’ve been suffering from Wasted Time Syndrome for 9 years. Have you?
Sometimes being a creative professional can feel like being pulled in too many directions. I have so many passions that I can’t possibly dedicate all my time to a single one of them. So, I shift my time between them, trying to remind myself that what is a passion now might be my career later, so it is worth pursuing.
Here is how you can enter the free giveaway!
Leave a comment on here about this topic,
and I’m going to pick a winner at random
to receive a free written portfolio review!
I suddenly went from almost never reading to reading 45 books in a year. This blog post is about how to achieve that kind of result…I think.
I went from doing a job that I hated to a job that I loved. I went from letting emails pile for months to answering on a 24 hour cycle. I went from never keeping receipts to doing taxes monthly. I went from being judgmental and difficult to easy going.
A week ago my husband said something to me that surprised me. He told me that one of the things he loves most about me is my willingness to change. I had never seen myself that way before, but since he saw it, I thought it was time to try. I asked for examples, and what I listed above is some of what he said.
Sometimes we are stubborn, difficult animals. We cling to who we are because that’s all we know. We don’t want to be surprised by the one thing we can control: ourselves.
I’ve always had a misplaced and singular view that I am right. About what, you might ask? Anything? Everything?
Anyone else ever feel that way?
…I felt certain about how we should feel, how we should act, what kind of life is the best life, what kind of life is the worst.
I didn’t listen to opinions very easily. I was not going to let myself be molded by someone else.
At some point in the last half a decade, I became savvy to the idea that there is always more to learn. I became obsessed with curiosity. I wanted to be better than the person I was. And I realized something important: In order to be a better person, I had to see myself from another vantage point.
I started to look at my life from a bird’s perspective…and since I’m a visual person, I mean that very literally. I pretended I was looking down at my life from above and I noted what I saw. What did my routines look like? How was I treating the people around me? Where did I spend most of my time, and for how long? Did I look good or unhealthy? What areas of my life were causing stress, and alternately, joy?
I am a big fan of the idea that having fewer amazing parts of your life is better than having many mediocre ones. I don’t keep a lot of close friends, I don’t have a lot of hobbies. Simply put, I don’t make time for what doesn’t serve me.
How, then, do I know what serves me?
Give yourself an honesty pep-talk. Being honest with yourself is extremely difficult. It means that you have to acknowledge years of expectations (your own and others) and be willing to throw them away. It means you have to be willing to take chances where before you would never. Honesty is a difficult thing. It is much easier to keep living a lie than to shift into a space of truth. The moment you admit the truth, it becomes real.
Write a list of ONLY 3 priorities. Hint: It is okay for money to be one of them. How much money, however, is up for debate. Your lifestyle and what you’re used to may not factor in anymore. If you had to limit yourself to only 3 priorities in your life – the ones that give you the most joy – what are they? Mine are: Creativity, Conversation, Home.
Imagine yourself on your deathbed. Really – imagine that you are an old man or woman and you’ve made it to the other side of this life, the finish line. You’re happy and relatively healthy and you’re looking back at what you’ve done. What does it look like? What did your life shape up to be? What events defined it? What choices moved it forward? When you examine your best life (note, not said in the offhanded way that I’ve been seeing a lot of) can you map out the decisions that need to take place to get you there?
Once you’ve figured out what serves you, it’s time to change. I mean really change.
I’m very fortunate because commitment has always been high on my short strengths list. When my husband and I decided at 16 that we wanted to get married, we were dead serious (we’ve been together 15 years this year). When I decided I wanted to quit my job and become a photographer, I did it fast and I did it wholeheartedly (that was 8 years ago). When I switched from an entirely meat-eating diet to vegan overnight, it was not so much a choice as a compulsion (that was 6 years ago). I can commit.
But when I break down why I’m able to commit, it has less to do with natural abilities and more to do with vision. I can commit to something because I can see the future.
Not like a psychic. More like an old soul.
It is very easy for me to see a choice and then see how the consequences of each choice will impact my life. If this doesn’t come easy for you, I recommend getting trained up in the ways of visionary know-how. This is not to say I always get it right (who does?) but that I work at it a lot.
How do we become more proficient in seeing our future?
We dream. We dream often, we dream big, we dream small, we manifest.
That might sound crazy but it is the truth. If we take time to think about the questions I asked above, about our priorities and our wishes and our lives, we start to understand exactly the type of life we want to live. That knowledge becomes available to us in ways that it wasn’t before. It becomes a part of who we are and will be. Dreaming shapes our future so that when we get there, we’re ready.
Here is something predictable about humans: the more we sit with something, the more comfortable we become. Unless it’s clowns.
If we let an idea settle in our minds, it becomes less and less intimidating to carry out. If we keep the same friends for a long time, we become comfortable. If we do the same job for years, we find ourselves in a routine.
The natural conclusion, then, is this: If you let yourself dream of your perfect life often enough, then taking the steps to actually achieve it are more likely to happen. It has already happened in your mind plenty of times like practice runs.
I set out about 1.5 hours ago to write a blog about how to read more books in a year. After I started digging to figure out how one does that, I realized that this isn’t a post about how to read more books in a year. That is a side effect, yes, but it is so much deeper. The person who can make a change like that, which indicates a true commitment and reversal of bad habits, is not JUST someone who begins reading a lot of books. It is someone who takes a huge tug on the reigns of their life.
How did I start reading 45 books a year?
I forced myself to look honestly at what I wanted in my life.
I wrote down my priorities.
I shaped my life.
All to make time for reading.
(The background of this is that I want to be a writer, and I believed I needed to be a reader to be a good writer, so I made a change that would lead to my successful future).
So you see, it was never about reading. It was about what I value in my life, where I want my life to go, and how I want to get there.
All three of those priorities point me in the direction I need to go. For every idea I have, I ask myself this simple question: Does this idea serve one or more of my three priorities? If yes, I move forward. If not, I let it go.
What serves you?
I’d really like to hear your feelings on this topic.
“Learn from me, if not by my precepts, at least by my example, how dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge, and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to become greater than his nature will allow.”
– Mary Shelly, Frankenstein
As I drink in Frankenstein, a true classic and purveyor of great human truths such as Mary Shelly reminds me that there are mysteries of our nature that even hundreds of years ago people were grappling with. What changes with us, at the most fundamental and basic level, is universal. Time passes and science moves forward, but what we feel, what makes our essence (which is to say, in part, the curiosities which give us momentum), is the same as it always was.
The quote above gave me pause and took up a great deal of time on my flight from New Jersey to Zurich. I found myself continually going back to reread it, and to wonder what my life would have been in the event that I had listened to that advice.
I remember, growing up, that I was never a person who desired to leave her hometown. I never fancied myself a world traveler, never considered I would have a profession that dealt in intangibles and conceptual follies. I was always grounded, stable, safe. So, so safe.
My sister, ever the dreamer, couldn’t wait to get out of our town. But I wanted to stay. I didn’t want to upset my parents, didn’t want to venture into the unknown. I wanted a safe life.
What changed in me? What made me dream? What made me want more? And if I had listened to Victor Frankenstein, would I have stayed?
Once you discover that the place you’ve always known is not all there is, you cannot un-know that. It is a pervasive knowledge that seeps into your understanding of all things.
But this knowledge goes beyond place or thing. It is inside us.
I am not all that I can be. I can be more. I will be more.
That is the true knowledge that drives us forward to discovery. Perpetual discovery is the forward motion of humanity. Continued curiosity is the growth of an individual.
Now on the other side of the knowledge that there is always, always more out there, I wonder: How many people will never discover this? Like Victor says, are they happier?
I have witnessed the turmoil that some people experience at being awakened to the vastness of life. It is the weight that crushes us if our position does not match our desired rank. I have watched people cower in fear at the idea that they might have greatness in them. I have watched people deny their gifts in favor of avoiding disappointment. If you do not believe you are special, you do not have to live up to that standard.
I was sixteen when I was awakened to my potential, when I started to become aware that there was more in the world than what I knew or saw or felt.
Two things happened then.
One, I took a filmmaking class. I started to consider where films were made, the history of film, what my imagination might possess, and where that might take me. I made films about death, films that were unknowingly noir and filled with montages of darkness and turmoil. I unleashed an imagination that I was only peripherally familiar with, and I loved it. I loved my imagination like it was my greatest gift (and, I believe, it is).
Two, I met my husband. I don’t know if any one particular thing happened, if any singular event awoken me to the world, except this: I knew that I was beginning a love so great that it didn’t fit in between the cracks. It was explosive.
“…the history books forgot about us, and the bible didn’t mention us, not even once…” – Samson by Regina Spektor
What awakens us might be something small and seemingly insignificant. We might not be remembered for what fuels us. But if you find a semblance of your place in the world, and if that place exceeds what you have been taught to live within, break free.
Have you had a moment where you realized
you wanted to do or be something more?