I’ve been stewing on this post for a while now – writing it multiple times just to scratch every copy in an attempt to keep this from turning into an autobiography. My life has not been deemed worthy of a hollywood blockbuster yet, so why bother? Recently my heart has been communicating to my brain for the first time in a while and I find myself here.
Like I said, I don’t want this to be a huge blog about how I got here – but we need backstory. I’ll keep it brief.
I just about butchered my reputation throughout my adolescence. If you were to ask anyone who knew me growing up, they would tell you I was the loud outspoken kid who couldn’t sit still and did just about anything for attention. I fed off it. I tried way too hard to find myself inside of what others thought of me.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started running with the right people – people who accepted me for who I was. I found my Faith, which helped me to develop characteristics that I value greatly today. The day I picked up a camera my life changed drastically. I had finally found something that came kind of natural. It was something I felt inside of myself that I really didn’t have to try too hard to understand. And that’s not to say I was a natural at all. I’ve had an immense amount of help getting to where I am today by a large amount of people who I could never repay in a thousand years. And then one day I went from 0 to 100.
I had been given my dream Job/Paid-Internship making films full-time with a respected studio company out of Minnesota. We’ll save the cool/long story of how it all came about for a rainy day but for now all you need to know is I had showed up to Minnesota with two suitcases of everything I had owned not knowing what to expect. Next thing I know I get thrown into the mix with a top-notch team working on projects for big name clients. I had just come from working on small projects for no name clients, so I couldn’t help feeling like I had made it somewhere. In the wake of all of the coolness that had just rocked my life I started getting good at sharing everything that was happening on social media. My world was getting rocked and I needed someone to know, but I felt I had nobody else to share it with.
In the course of traveling all across the country, working with really amazing people, and doing these really cool things I had developed an internet following. People who once thought I was a complete tool growing up now looked at my Instagram profile and thought I was doing something worthy and hip with my life. I felt like I had finally found who I was, and redeemed my adolescent idiocy by living what appeared to be a cool life on the internet.
So much attention came so fast that I got lost in all the hype. I started sharing things to get people to notice what I was doing. I wasn’t going to appreciate a photo unless someone else liked it. That was my motivation. It got to the point where it felt as though that was all I had. I slowly but surely become so conflicted by how consuming it had become that I had to take a step back and re-evaluate my thought process.
Then, my time in Minnesota had come to an end. It turned out the sweet Job/Paid-intership I was hoping to turn into something long term, wasn’t ideal for the company. I was devastated. I got a shortcut to the top of an industry, then a year later had to pack up my bags and go home to start over. It was a big lesson in humility.
I thought that if I was the best there was, there’d be no way they wouldn’t want me to be a part of the team. It fueled me. Up until just recently my entire motivation for producing great work was to show the guys back in Minnesota that I was capable of being the best in hopes they’d realize they needed me. That one day my phone would ring, and I’d be offered a spot on their team again…
Why couldn’t I be content with the opportunities that I was given on my own? Why have I constantly felt like I have to prove something to somebody?
These questions kept reoccurring on long flights and drives to photo shoots – so much that I couldn’t ignore them. I felt like all the questions morphed into one.
What do I have to offer?
I see this a lot with people. Their identities get so wrapped up in what they do, that when they are no longer able to do whatever it is they do best they are lost without a clue of who they are. I’ve heard of professional soccer players who after breaking their legs are never able to play the sport again, and have mental breakdowns. Could it be because they no longer know what they had to offer besides their talents? I thought about this a lot and wondered, “what if I was not able do what I do forever?” Who would I be?
Ever since I can remember, people have always opened up to me about their deepest and darkest secrets. Somehow they didn’t feel comfortable sharing with anyone else but me. I have no idea why, but people have always shared things that were really personal to them in hopes I would know what to say. I started asking people why they felt led to divulge certain information with me? And the answer I’ve received from everyone is that I make them feel safe. They felt safe enough to confide in me which is a huge deal. It started when brides would write me after their wedding thanking me not only for my hard work and beautiful photos, but how I made them feel on their special day. “You made me feel secure enough, that I knew you had control. I was actually able to just enjoy the moments that were happening.”
Just recently I started walking in more confidence that if I were to lose the ability to create or unable share my visual talents with the world, I would now know what I embody. Something I can’t explain that I carry. A presence that shows up when I show up. I make people feel safe and comfortable. That to me is worth more than anything creative I do, and it will lasts as long as I last.
I hope that others can find what it is inside of them apart from what they can physically do. To know that I am a brother, a son, friend, and hopefully a husband someday. Helps me know that my identity lies outside of what I can deliver. What I have to offer is me.